Horese riding a gentler art for Cyril today
WHEN Cyril Ryan was a boy he rode to class every day and he jokes about how the ponies he left in the school paddock weren't nearly as "well mannered" as the ones he supervises today.
The Bush Tele caught up with the larrikin storyteller, who retired from farming "a few years back" and now gives up each Wednesday to help with Warwick Riding for the Disabled Association.
Every school had a horse paddock then; it was about two or three acres and they were all in together.
Horses have always been part of his life - he was riding unassisted by the time he was four - and believes there is something special about offering children with special needs the same opportunities.
"I leave here each Wednesday afternoon knowing that I have done something worthwhile with my day," Mr Ryan said.
"For some of these school kids, this program is the highlight of their week and you can always tell when they are having a good time."
In contrast, as a youngster, Cyril admits he wasn't a great fan of school.
"I was the youngest of three boys and none of our ponies liked going to school. My father use to say it was one thing my pony and I had in common," Mr Ryan said with a laugh.
"And if the ponies were ever going to have a bit of a buck, it would be when they were hurrying on the way home."
Growing up, he went to school at Gladfield and Maryvale. Back then there were about 40 students in the little country classrooms and 20 horses in the paddock beside the oval.
"Every school had a horse paddock then; it was about two or three acres and they were all in together," he said.
"For the first year I doubled to school on a pony with my brother and then I rode on my own.
"We rode about four miles (6km) and in those days the bell rang at 9.30am to take into consideration most students came on ponies."
If your pony needed to be kept tied up, on account of it being a little cantankerous to catch, the teacher needed a note from your parents.
For young Cyril the best part of the year was summer and the best days were those when a storm brewed over his family's farm and the teacher sent him and his brothers home early.
"On the difficult school days I spent a lot of time hoping a storm would brew up in my area," he said.
But as a really young student, leaving in the afternoons came with its own challenges. "I was pretty small when I first started, so while catching the pony wasn't the challenge, saddling it was.
"Fortunately there were always bigger kids to do up the saddle.
"Course the teacher would have had a lot to say if there'd been a saddle left under the school."
And in those days, he said, the morning talking point wasn't celebrities or TV shows. "It was who had a new pony and how much did it cost and what was its background. The ponies were pretty well screened in those days," Mr Ryan said.
"But they were no where near as well mannered as the ones we have for the RDA kids.
"Yet I loved riding as a kid and I thoroughly enjoy seeing other children riding horses like we used too."
For more on the Warwick Riding for Disabled Association program turn to Page 16.