Glen Innes history: Rita O'Keefe - horsewoman with a history

Setting the example: Rita O'Keefe in a role she was accustomed to - on horseback.
Setting the example: Rita O'Keefe in a role she was accustomed to - on horseback.

Rita O’Keefe was a widely known horsewoman – although not usually riding side saddle or so formally dressed as this picture shows.

Jenny Lightfoot’s article was so evocative, I am reproducing her tribute in the Examiner of Wednesday, May 2, 1990.

“The Blue Ribbons Still Roll In: 

“Mrs Rita O’Keefe of Glen Innes, has been a skilled horsewoman since the age of 11 and 70 years down the track she continues to win the top ribbons in the show ring.

If I have taught young show riders anything it is to respect their horse, to treat the judge with respect and to be good sports.

“At the 1990 Glen Innes Show, Mrs O’Keefe 80, was awarded the blue ribbon in the lady rider over-50 class.

“Mrs O’Keefe has devoted her life to riding and increasing the skills of others.

“She is a life member of the Inverell and Emmaville pony clubs and a keen supporter of the Glen Innes Club.

“In recognition of her contribution to the Glen Innes Pony Club, Mrs O’Keefe received the Lionel Short Memorial Trophy at the annual Sports Awards last month.

“This sprightly horsewoman comes from pioneering stock. She remembers as a girl of six, her grandmother Mrs Mulcahy nursing the notorious bushranger Thunderbolt back to health.

“As a teenager Mrs O’Keefe was the only woman to enter a hurdle race against a field of 30 men.

“’I used to ride seven miles to the Wellingrove School bareback each day; that was after I had milked the cow,’ she said.

“Mrs O’Keefe grew up on the family dairy farm at Wellingrove.

“After her parents died she was raised by her aunt, Mrs Delaney. ‘I used to ride an old cab horse and former trotter that more often than not would bolt.

“’I won my first hack class in the show ring at Tenterfield, but my greatest love is the Glen Innes Showground. It’s without doubt the best in the region.’

“As well as being an active member of the Inverell, Emmaville and Glen Innes pony clubs, she is also a member of the Ashford Ladies Riding Club.

“’The style of riding has changed a lot over the years. It is more complicated now.

“’If I have taught young show riders anything it is to respect their horse, to treat the judge with respect and to be good sports.’”