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Popular jumping owner Michael Bullman dies at 72

Michael Bullman

Michael Bullman. © Kit Houghton/FEI

Showjumping owner and supporter Michael Bullman has died at the age of 72 at his home in Hungary. 

Bullman was well known as an owner and was formerly chef d’équipe of the Great Britain and Hungary jumping teams. He lived for his passion and, in his own words, was a “lover of horses first, and a horseman second”. A former vice-president of the British Show Jumping Association, he was also chairman of selectors, chef de mission and chef d’équipe, frequently alongside his great friend Ronnie Massarella.

Bullman was a hugely successful owner and his stable produced not only unforgettable stars like Vital and Kruger but numerous brilliant horses such as Costello, Mark Two, Abbeyville, Bonneville, Stanford, Superville and Nightlife.

As mentor and great supporter of talents like Olympic Jumping rider Joe Turi, considered one of the greats of the 1980s, Bullman amassed a huge array of prizes at international level.

Turi established an enduring partnership with Bullman’s talented stallion Vital and was unlucky to miss out on the jump-off for an individual medal after a foot in the water at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988, where the British team finished sixth. Turi’s victory in the 1990 Hickstead Derby with Vital, beating the 1989 winner Nick Skelton, was one of Bullman’s most cherished memories.

There were many other wonderful moments, too, including the British team gold at the European Championships in Rotterdam 1989, when Turi rode Kruger alongside John and Michael Whitaker and Nick Skelton. After reverting to ride for his native Hungary, Turi finished sixth in the FEI World Equestrian Games 1998 in Rome (ITA), riding the eight-year-old Epona Superville, a horse he owned jointly with Bullman.

Thanks to Bullman’s support, Turi rode in more than 50 Nations Cups, 16 of them on winning teams. He qualified six times for the FEI World Cup Final, four times for Great Britain and twice for Hungary, scoring a top-10 finish in 1988.

In his later years, Michael Bullman lived mainly at the Hungarian residence he built together with Turi before Joe’s tragic death in 2003 at the age of 48 in a motorcycle accident.

British rider James Wingrave also formed a great partnership with Bullman and Hungarian businessman Gáspár Gyula. After moving to Hungary in 2002 and taking Hungarian nationality three years later, Wingrave has ridden in more than 30 Nations Cup and represented Hungary at the FEI World Equestrian Games 2006 in Aachen, Germany.

“There has not been a more fortunate person than myself to have found patrons like Michael Bullman and Gáspár Gyula, with whom I have enjoyed so much success,” Wingrave said.

FEI Jumping Director John Roche said Michael Bullman was one of the sport’s true gentlemen. “He was a real ambassador, both nationally and internationally, not just for the sport but also for the horse, his true love. He will be sadly missed.”

Michael James Bullman (1942-2014) is survived by his five brothers and one sister.

A service is being held for Bullman at 6pm on August 8 at the Catholic church in Nagykoros.

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