Well-known horseman of many codes, the late Sandy Bull, was a popular character within the ranks of both his large family and big circle of friends. Butvery high on his list of fans was youngest daughter and “shadow” Stephanie Bull.
“Dad was an old-time farmer who always said that farming was a disease – once it’s in your blood you can’t get rid of it. And he never did,” Stephanie said.
Morris Alexander (Sandy) Bull, who was well-known around Manilla as the town butcher for several years, was farewelled by family and friends last week after suffering a massive stroke – only 24 days shy of his 80th birthday.
“He’d suffered a slight stroke back in 2011, so it’s probably a big blessing that we got an at extra 10 years with him,” Stephanie said.
Sandy and his wife Carol – married in Gunnedah in 1967, were blessed with four children – Andrew, Stuart and Jacqueline, then after a gap of seven years, along came baby sister Stephanie.
“I was a late addition, so immediately became dad’s offsider, or shadow to be more precise. I followed him around everywhere. And he taught me a lot, especially how to be straight but fair with people, and to treat people as you would like to be treated yourself.”
Being taught to be farm animal savvy – “your animals come first” and how to look after their welfare was also high on Stephanie’s list of lessons.
“Dad was a real worker, but even during harvest or sowing, he’d always make sure he had time for us kids of an evening when he’d finished, though sometimes when it was full on, we wouldn’t see him until the next morning.”
Sandy Bull wore a lot of different equine caps, though probably his biggest love was belting out a few chukkas on the polocrosse paddock – a sport that helped him rub shoulders with some big names in the sport, particularly while competing in the National Polocrosse Championships at Singleton back in 1961.
He also participated in campdrafting, bred Australian Stock Horses, and nurtured his kids through the ranks of pony club while living around Binnaway.
Sandy’s big gig though was his involvement in thoroughbred racing circles. And one particular galloper that could easily spring to mind when Sandy Bull’s name is mentioned is the family’s pint-sized little chestnut bombshell – dubbed the Mighty Manilla Midget – And Who’s That. He won 12 races and was placed on 46 occasions from 150 starts and a prize purse of over $50,000 – a fair earning for over 20 years ago.
Though And Who’s That (stablenamed Huey), came to the Bull family farm quite by accident.
“Mum helped Stu pick up sticks in a paddock ready for sowing on the condition that he didn’t go into Tamworth Yearling Sale the next day. But when mum went off to a family birthday gathering, Stu went to Tamworth and purchased a young Huey. I’d lunge him for dad if he was busy.”
Race preparation for And Who’s That included being worked around a paddock by either Sandy or Stuart in a stock saddle. He was used to do cattle work, and ran with the cattle when spelled.
“He was small, but temperamental. Mum would strap for dad at the races. Sometimes Huey would play the rogue by either stepping on mum’s foot or nipping her on the butt. If he did that, mum reckoned he’d race well, so she’d put a little bit of money on him. If Huey raced badly though, he’d come off the track like a sulky little kid. Dad had a lot of racehorses over the years, but Huey was a favourite – mum’s too. She has a photo of Max her little dog and Huey on her office desk – none of us kids,” Steph joked.
Steph has some very fond memories of her younger days spent with dad, like grooming Huey for a race and putting baby oil into his mane to remove tangles – “he was pipped at the post, and the jockey blamed me and the slippery reins for his loss”, and “when I was about four, instead of reading me a bedtime story, dad taught me to read the formguide in the paper”.
“Spike was dad’s last old ASH stud horse. The last time the old horse was ridden, dad took him down the bottom paddock to be put down, and ironically, that was dad’s last ride too.”