50 years since the first Mansfield Rideathon, that raised much needed funds for Mansfield Autism, and it’s back for November 2021. Every kilometre you ride in the month of November will count toward our total distance and you will be raising much needed funds to enable us to provide services for more families.

We’re aiming to ride around the world – 40,075 kms.

Mansfield Rideathon

Ride with one of the awesome trail ride operators in Mansfield’s High Country, who are all supporting us, or on your own steed, with your club or wherever you find yourself in a saddle. Best of all, you can do this from anywhere around the world. And if riding is just not your gig, you can donate anyway, sponsor someone else, attend one of our rideathon events such as the bush dance or buy a cap. All funds raised will go toward our expansion on our new farm – dubbed Operation Gamechanger. We are targeting $450,000 which is enough for one of our 6 person, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom cabins as part of our family camp Project Retreat.

Learn more about Mansfield Autism and the way we make positive change in the lives and futures of young people and their families living with autism by visiting our website

The following article appeared in ‘HOOFS and HORNS’ of May 1972 after the second annual Mansfield Rideathon.

Mansfield Ride-athon


Even more successful than the initial event held last year was the Second Annual Ride-athon, held at Mansfield on Sunday, March 19 to aid autistic children.

The 67 riders who took part began leaving the Mansfield Showgrounds at 10am, travelling along stock routes and made roads.  A break for a picnic lunch in the vicinity of Hearn’s Crossing was enjoyed.

As darkness was falling and the last riders were returning to the Showgrounds after their ride of 26 miles, a total of $1,274 had been received from their sponsors with a promise of further donations to come.

Autism, first discovered in America in 1943, is a baffling condition of childhood which is manifested by a gross problem in communication, and in forming relationships.

The money raised was for the Mansfield Autistic Play School, which was formed in December 1968 – the first and still the only project of its kind in Victoria.

The Play School’s director and secretary is Dr Joan Curtis, who was its instigator.  She is a practising obstetrician who conducts a Medical practice at Mansfield with her husband, Dr Humphrey Esser.

When Dr Curtis discovered that her younger son Jonathon, now aged six was suffering from autism she became increasingly interested in it, since when, from her observation and study, she has made an invaluable contribution to research into the condition and the treatment of it.

Now, each year at Mansfield under her directorship, a Play School of ten days’ duration is held during January, which is attended by autistic children and their parents from all over Australia.

Additionally, a travelling teacher is employed throughout the year who spends varying periods of time with Victorian families where there is a child afflicted with autism.  The travelling teacher is Miss Liz Freeman of Kerang, who was down from Corowa to take part in the ride.

Watering their horses

ABOVE: Watering their horses at Lankey’s Creek, Mr Frank Forrest on Father McCrory’s nomination, and Mr Tom Trewin, MLA, on Miss Anne Nolan’s Septimus. BELOW: At the end of the ride, Mr Trewin and Septimus, who rode the full distance, with Mansfield Shire President, Cr. R. W. Bostock, who presented the trophies.

A group of riders

A group of riders.

Dr Curtis’ pony Sox, who travelled the full distance ridden by four children sponsored for more than $600, was the horse to raise the most money.  Soz was ridden for part of the way by Jonathon Esser and Bruce McDougall of Eildon, the two autistic children who took part in the ride, and the remainder by Jonathon’s elder brother David, and 4 year old Kathryn Forrest of Mansfield.

Kathryn’s father, Mr Frank Forrest rode the nomintaiton of Mansfield’s horse-loving priest, Father MCrory, who was unable to participate.

Again among the riders was Mr Tom Trewin, MLA of Devenish, riding Septimus, owned by Miss Anne Nolan of Barwite.  On the day Septimus could have boasted one of the Ride-athon’s most glamorous strappers as Anne, who followed the ride by car, was the winner of the 1971 Upper Goulburn Sun Show Girl title.

Riders from Yarrawonga were Miss Kath Connell and Mrs Mary Stielow; from January 1st to January 8th they were members of a party of 19 on one of Mr Jack Lovick’s safari trips, camping out for the week and riding from Merrijig to the historic old homestead at Wonnangatta.

Brother and sister mounted on Thoroughbreds were Mr Jim Adams of Mansfield, who rode the ex-racehorse Despatch Wood, and his sister Mrs Mavis Bowser, riding an un-named filly by Galway who had been broken to saddle only three weeks earlier.

Miss Glenda Purcell of Merton added an American touch riding her part-bred Quarter horse, bedecked with western saddlery.

By far the most eye-catching nomination in the Ride-athon were Jack and Mick, who were driven the full distance in a sulky by Mr Frank Leighton of Booroolite.

The Mansfield Pony Club was well represented by its President, Mr Bert Clarke, who was joined by over 20 members.

The trophies to the successful riders were presented by the Mansfield Shire President, Cr R.W. Bostock.  He was introduced by Mr Graeme Stoney, as the President of the Play School Committee, Mr James Tehan of Maindample, who was still on the road with his six-year-old son, James jnr, who on arrival at the Showgrounds later became the youngest rider to cover the distance.

The trophy winners were: Riders to Raise Most Money – 1st Jonathon Esser $300, 2nd David Esser $114, 3rd Kathryn Forrest $107, 4th Margaret Hulse $103: Riders from Furthest Distance – Shared by Miss Kath Connell and Mrs Mary Stielow of Yarrawonga; Youngest Rider – Two year old David Lovick of Merrijig, who rode one mile; Sorest Rider – Katherine Lovick of Merrijig, who was badly bruised when thrown during the ride, and admitted to the Mansfield District Hospital; Lucky Spot – Shared by Margaret Gibb and Diane Eagling of Mansfield, and Fiona Lovick of Merrijig; Lucky Number – Mr Frank Leighton of Booroolite, the only driver of a horse-drawn vehicle.

At the conclusion of the presentation of the trophies, the mounted Parliamentarian, Mr Tom Trewin congratulated the committee on the success of the day and the invaluable work they are doing for autistic children.

(Lauris Collins)

Jack and Mick pass the poplars

Jack and Mick, driven by Mr Frank Leighton, pass the oplars on the Delatite Road.

HOOFS and HORNS, May 1972