Jackie’s legacy in athletics, endurance riding to be remembered

Jackie Byrnes, on the right holding her jacket, at Stirlings Crossing Endurance Centre, Imbil. Jackie bred Cooroora Bold Dancer, which was owned, trained and ridden by Shannon Decker. 411764_01

Erle Levey

Australian sporting circles have lost a cherished supporter, champion coach, and passionate lover of endurance horse riding.

Jackie Byrnes has coached elite Australian athletes including Melinda Gainsford-Taylor and Jana Pittman, and was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2010 for her contributions to the sport.

Yet Jackie was also much loved in the Queensland Endurance Riding Association (QERA) through her years as horse owner, breeder and rider.

Australian Endurance Riding Association secretary and QERA management committee member Kim Moir said she was “the loveliest, bubbliest person.”

As recently as April, Jackie was at Imbil to support the Far-A-Way Easter Endurance Carnival.

For many years she competed on her grey Arabian mare Cooroora Carmen throughout Queensland including Biggenden, Cooyar, Blackbutt, Fernvale, Eidsvold, Murrumba and Widgee.

Jackie bred the Arabian stockhorse cross Cooroora Bold Dancer, owned, trained and ridden by Shannon Decker, including competing in the 2019 Tom Quilty Gold Cup at Imbil.

An advocate in the fight against melanomas and skin cancers, Jackie died following a long battle with illness.

Living on the Sunshine Coast, she was loved by the endurance riding family.

Long-time friend Jackie Richards of Cooroora Arabians at Cooran said her sport coaching background was used to help endurance riders with their fitness.

“Jackie was interested and helpful in anything at all. She was so excited by the sport of endurance.”

Jackie and Geoff Richards posted an emotional tribute.

“It is with such sadness that I post this news. Our very dear and lovely friend Jackie Byrnes OAM passed away on 16 May following health issues that she had been battling valiantly for quite some time.

“However, Jackie was not intending to give in without a good-and-proper fight.

“We had some wonderful times together over the years, many great laughs and fun at endurance events with her much loved horses.

“Her care, generosity, love of life and interest in others made her an incredible person in many, many ways.

“Geoff and I will miss our dear friend more than words can say. A bright light has gone out of our lives.”

Former Olympian and Sunshine Coast teacher Glynis Nunn posted: “We have lost such a strong woman who really wasn’t afraid to say her piece – you will be missed Jackie not only for your contribution to the sport and to the many athletes that you helped but also for your friendship.”

Champion hurdler and relay team member Jana Pittman: “Words can’t describe the impact Jackie had on so many of us. So many hearts broken … but the memories will last forever.

“Such a privilege to have been coached by her. She set up my whole career taking to my first Olympics.

“She taught me how to handle pressure and find the positive in any outcome. She was an incredible coach and wonderfully positive woman who has had a lasting impact on my life. She will be forever missed but always loved.”