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Teena describes herself as a‘broken-down breaker-inner’

Manilla horsewoman Teena Bridge jokingly describes herself as a “broken-down breaker-inner”. Though while she’s very modest when it comes to the subject of her impressive achievements over many decades, Teena doesn’t mind chatting about what has shaped her pathway through life – horses.

Teena, who will act as Ringmaster for the 25th year at this weekend’s Manilla Show, was born to non-horsey parents. She was born with a passion for horses, and recalls as a four-year-old being asked what she wanted to be whenshe grew up – “a good horseman” was her retort.

“Horses were the foundation of everything I’ve ever done in my life,” Teena said.

At four, Teena recalls sitting on the footpath of her South Woy Woy home watching well-known show rider Joan Nattrass heading out to work her horses in the salt water.

“I’d watch her every day, then started following her – for two kilometres and over a rail line. My poor parents often had to come and rescue me,” she joked.

Eating and sleeping horses resulted in Teena leaving school early, going to live with Joan Nattrass at Tuggerah and travelling with her to many shows. “My parents even sold up later and purchased in Tuggerah so I could live back with them.”

As a 14-year-old, Teena was one of the first females on ground-floor level to make the female apprentice jockey list, but instead of pursuing that, opted to follow her passion and set up her own horse stud, where, at 15, was standing three stallions and taking in outside mares.

Though onehorse Teena will always hold in very high esteem was Palomino entire Garson D-Or, who was her “soulmate” right up until, at 24, had to be put down due to a leg break. Garson D’Or was bred and offered to Teena when she was only 14 by Tamworth’s Jim and Carol Jordan.

“He was the love of my life and was the foundation of everything I’d ever done through my life. No other horse came close to him in any shape or form. He and I were soulmates. I remember every Saturday morning, I’d ride him five kilometers along the Pacific Highway, into town, tie him up for two hours behind my friend’s hairdressing shop, get mum’s groceries, then ride him home with all the baggage.”

And Teena boasts still having progeny of Garson D’Or at her and husband of 46 years Michael’s Manilla complex.

“To this day, Michael won’t ride anything that isn’t a descendant of his.”

“We’ve got a nice two-year-old filly here that I want to prepare for Sydney Royal in a couple of years. I’d like to compete on her down there when I turn 70 – it’ll  be my swansong. Her dam, grandmother, great grandmother and great-great grandfather all competed in Sydney – and all descendants of Garson D’Or.”

Teena has been competing at the Royal Show every year since she was eight, and three years ago was presented with the RAS Long Term Association Certificate for her 50-year involvement.

Teena and Michael – who was a Wyong boy turned fulltime farrier – married in 1976 and moved to Manilla in 1983, where they raised daughter Tammy (who went through Manilla Pony Club but now lives with her two children in Naracoorte SA). “We love Manilla, we’ve grown and developed here. Manilla’s an easy place to live, you’ve got everything here, it’s central, and you know everyone. I think if I forgot my purse, I could still do my shopping without any trouble,” she joked.

In almost seven decades, Teena has revolved her life around her beloved horses – competing, breaking in, training, conducting riding lessons, judging and breeding.She’s even written a book – Bridging The Gap back in the mid-1990s.

“A good friend kept on my back saying “You could die and all this knowledge would be gone”. So I finally yielded, I wrote it by hand, and she edited and published it for me. It’s basically my system on paper. Horses are potentially a lethal weapon so for that reason, they should be respected. They have the childlike brain of a four-year-old kid that didn’t grow up. That’s what makes them trainable. And there’s a big difference between a horseman/master and a horse lover. The difference between passion and loving is that a passionate person will learn the true facts of the subject while the lover will be blinded from the facts of the subject. A horse’s brain is probably the most simple of any animal.”

Teena Bridge is probably one of the most modest people one can converse with, but possesses a wealth of knowledge when it comes to horseflesh.

“I still feed and prepare my horses exactly the same way I have done all my life. If they’re injured, I treat them the same as I did as a kid. I’m pleased and proud of what I’ve achieved in myself and that I’ve succeeded in doing what I originally set out to do.”

By Vinnie Todd