Two Gunnedah-bred horses became household names across Australia as they claimed Olympic glory at the Barcelona (1992) and Sydney (2000) Olympic Games.

Kibah Tic Toc became the hero of Barcelona when he carried equestrian Matt Ryan to gold medals in the three-day teams and individual event at the 1992 Games. Eight years later, Matt Ryan joined forces with Tic Toc’s half-brother, Kibah Sandstone, to win the individual event at the Sydney Games. The two horses were bred by the Hyem family on the Gunnedah district property Kibah, near Carroll.

Bridget (Bud) Hyem had made history in 1964 when she became the first woman to represent Australia in an Olympic equestrian event, at the Tokyo Games. At that time she was Bridget Macintyre, a member of a well-known Hunter Valley (Muswellbrook) equestrian family. In Tokyo she joined John Fahey, Kevin Bacon and Barry Roycroft in the showjumping team which finished a creditable seventh.

She married Bill Hyem, of Gunnedah, in the Australian-New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo just a few days after competing on her husband’s horse, Coronation, at the Games. The couple came home after the Games to the Hyem family property, Kibah, near Carroll, where they remained prominent in showjumping circles. Bill Hyem died in 1977.

Matt Ryan linked up with Kibah Tic Toc in the late 1980s, competing on the UK and European equestrian circuit for three years prior to the Barcelona Olympics.

Mrs Hyem and her daughter Lisa Hyem-Ridley, who was schooled in pony club and eventing on Kibah Tic Toc, were in the stands as Ryan and Tic Toc completed a faultless showjumping round to claim the individual three-day gold medal, as well as the teams gold medal. The fate of the teams medal rested on Tic Toc’s showjumping round and watching in the stands, with their hearts in their mouths, were the Hyems.

Kibah Tic Toc was retired from competition in 1995, after tripping and damaging a leg, and came home to Kibah in 1999 to spend the rest of his days in contented retirement in the paddocks where he grew up, although there was a fleeting return to the spotlight in the year 2000 when Tic Toc, ridden by Bridget Hyem, led the Gunnedah parade as the Olympic torch relay came to town.

Eight years after Barcelona, it was the turn of Ryan and Kibah Sandstone, as the Australian equestrian team of Andrew Hoy, Matt Ryan, Stuart Tinney and Phil Dutton swept to the gold medal in the teams event at the Sydney Olympics.

Bridget Hyem died at Tamworth Hospital on March 4, 2014, at the age of 80, and her horse Tic Toc died two months later at Kibah, at the age of 36.

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