ABOUT MY FAMILY AND I
It was always inevitable that John O’Leary would be a Horseman. His blood dictated that he had to be. He really did not have an option. He comes from a long list of exceptional Horseman who have had a major impact on the horse world in Southern Australia.
John’s father had 8 brothers and 2 sisters'. The 8 brothers all went on to be horse breakers. They then all became racehorse trainers and all trained winners, following in the footsteps of their Father, John’s Grandfather. All eight also held jockeys licenses and they all rode winners. In addition to this, they ran the O’Leary Circus, which consisted of high jumping and trick horses, stock whip acts etc. They were all professional show jumping riders on the show circuit throughout western Victoria, riding for the rich Grazier families of the time. Ces O'Leary has broken 40 bones including his neck in Horse Riding accidents. In 2003, at the age of 90, he still cuts 5 tonne of hard wood for the widows around the town where he lives and looks after the weeding of two cemeteries. He shot the centre of his right foot completely out with a shotgun a few years ago but hasn't let that bother him.
The whole family became renowned horse breakers and worked as teamsters, digging the massive drains that empty the South East of South Australia, with heavy horse and bullock teams.
Johns Grandfather on his father’s side was a colt breaker and could lift a massive wheat carrying trolley off the ground while others greased the wheels. He had been a well-known bullock teamster as well. He enlisted for the First World War as did his eldest son Eugene. They both made it home safely.
One of the sons became a legendary Horse Vet and practiced for 50 years from Naracoorte. His name was Joe O’Leary. He never held a car license and his clients always had to pick him up and drop him home. At 81 years of age, he rode in the Naracoorte Hunt Club Cup. In a recent edition of the Adelaide Advertiser, the story was told how Uncle Joe had to attend to an elephant that was part of a circus that had come to town. During the street parade, the elephant, which was pulling the pie cart, sat down and badly burnt his rear end. Uncle Joe prescribed a massive poultice of 12 loaves of bread etc, which the staff strapped to the animal’s posterior. Uncle Joe invented the Worlds best Sand Colic preventative
One of the daughter's in the family was Olli O’Leary and she married a bloke called Alfred Grant who happened to invent Surfers Paradise in Queensland. He wouldn’t have known a horse if he fell over it but Olli had such an influence on him, that in the end, he became a student of Thoroughbred Breeding to such an extent that he would stay in bed each day studying until 1pm whilst the maids served his meals in bed. He had turned his bedroom into a library of bloodstock books. He then went out and spent $15,000,000 in 1963, buying Queen Elizabeth’s Stallion, “Charleton” and another champion stallion from America called “Beau Brummel” He then housed them at a newly built stud at Toowoomba , "Gainsborough Lodge", where in those days, (1970) $25,000 of white paint was needed to paint the fences. The other daughter, Lena , married Stan Hitchcock who was the Warder of the Mount Gambier Jail.
John’s mother also came from an interesting background. Her grandmother’s sister married Sir Henry Parks who founded the Bank of New South Wales and helped write the Australia’s Constitution. The other sister married Adam Lindsay Gordon the renowned poet and horseman, who, for a bet, jumped his horse over the fence above the blue lake in Mount Gambier and out again. There is a plaque erected at the site. Later, Lance Skewthorpe bet him he could do the same deadly jump, landing on a narrow ledge above a 400 feet drop down the cliffs. He successfully completed the feat after months of training to jump the horse and stop in an instant.
Cecil O'Leary, John's father, was also a horse breaker, racehorse trainer and jockey. During the 2nd World War, he was in the first 10 to enter the Puckerpunyal Army Camp, was the first Cook, the first Squad Drill Instructor and the first Rifle Instructor. He taught 'Bush Law' and horse riding safety to the Officers. Ces was the escort of choice when General Blamey, Officer in Charge of the AIF wanted to go riding.
Getting to the younger generation one must mention Michael O’Leary, a racehorse trainer who hails from Mt Gambier. He was the local farrier and colt breaker for years but now is the premier trainer of the South East of South Australia and Western Victoria. He features on the Australia Trainers strike rate in the top five. Michael invented a most effective and humane Wind Sucking preventative Collar
A number of the family excelled in the art of fighting. Michael and Ray O'Leary, John's cousins, fought professionally for the Jim Sharman's boxing troupe. His uncle Eugene, representing the A.I.F, fought the American champion on board an Aircraft Carrier during the 2nd World War and was beaten on points. At his next fight, his opponent became the World Champion.
John’s brother Dennis is also a colt breaker, saddler, horse dentist and racehorse trainer of repute. He runs High Country Trails-Holidays on Horseback at Normanville an hour and a half south of Adelaide.
John O’Leary founded Holidays on Horseback in South Australia and escorted some 57,000 riders on these over a 15-year period. He also founded High Country Trails, which is still operating at Normanville and has been since 1975. John also founded and built the Beachside Caravan Park at Normanville.
He has had in excess of 20,000 horses through his hands as a trainer and re-educator and has been a career horseman for 45 years.
Other interests have taken his fancy from time to time and he has designed and lectured at T.A.F.E colleges , consulted to the R.S.P.C.A., Consulted to the State Government in matters of the sale of crooked horses and has been an expert legal witness to lawyers for a number of years. He had studied law for 7 years earlier in his life.
His wife Linda (his right arm) is an Equestrian Federation Coach and has herself ridden over 6,000 individual horses. John ranks her as by far the best educator of the young horse in South Australia, possibly in Australia. She is an NCAS. E.F.A. Level One Coach and awaiting her Level 2 exam. (6 years)
Apart from being a horseman, John is a horse dentist, farrier and a Government accredited workplace trainer for the Equestrian Industry.
In 1996, John and Linda purchased the Gainsborough Equestrian Centre and named it after Uncle Alf's place as he has passed on.
John still works as a career horseman, horse assessor and expert Legal witness in Equestrian Matters.
The latest challenge has been to foster the birth of Horselaw Australia
He can break a horse in using any system you select, Monty Roberts, John Lyons, Pat Parelli, Jim Wilton, Kel Jeffrey, Ray Hunt, English or Western. Why? Hell knows..... Even his own methods. !!
Inventor of a revolutionary Horse Float Design. www.centaurhorsefloats.com.au
Specializing these days in the repair of the most complex of Veterinary or Psychological Horses.