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Australian equestrian pioneer dies

4 March 2014

EQUESTRIAN: Smack bang in the middle of NSW, a chance encounter with a drover over a paddock fence linked Bridget Hyem to Olympic glory.

Hyem, Australia's first female equestrian Olympian, died on Monday in Tamworth, NSW, aged 81.

Known as Bud, Hyem bred two of Australia's most successful Olympic horses - gold medallists Kibah Tic-Toc and Kibah Sandstone.

The half-brothers were both ridden by Matt Ryan, with Tic-Toc winning double gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and Sandstone claiming gold in the teams event at Sydney's 2000 Games.

Their path to glory was fortuitous.

Hyem was about nine-years-old, with her dad on the family farm at Kayuga, near Muswellbrook in central NSW, when a cattle drover passed by the back fence.

"Dad wandered over to the fence to talk to the drover and he saw this nice black mare with a few white socks," Hyem recalled in a 2001 interview.

"He was looking for a horse at the time to do stock work on ... he said to the drover `oh, I like the look of that mare, is she for sale?'

The drover sold the mare on the spot.

"(Dad) forked two pounds out of his pocket and got me to take the mare back home.

"Taking a liking to that mare was just an absolute fluke ... especially when we bred this wonderful line of horses from her."

Some 24 years later, Hyem created Australian equestrian history by competing at the Tokyo Olympics - it took two more decades for another Australian woman to make it to the Olympics.

Hyem was part of Australia's seventh-placing in the teams showjumping event and she finished 24th individual showjumping in Tokyo.

And she returned from the Games a married woman, wedding well-known showjumper Bill Hyem in Tokyo.

Equestrian Australia chairman Warwick Vale described Hyem as a pioneer of the sport.

"She will be remembered for her achievements as both a rider and a breeder," he said.

"As a rider Bud was at the forefront of the sport and ... as the breeder of Kibah Tic-Toc and Kibah Sandstone, Bud played a hand in some of Australia's greatest equestrian triumphs.

"It is a rare and remarkable accomplishment that will long be remembered."

AAP