If you spot friendly neighbours Shane Howard and Chris Ryan from afar on Killarney Beach it is difficult to tell them apart. And if you talk to the locals, there are similarities - if not in looks, then nature: they're both personable family men living in seaside homes and both of them are conversationalists by nature.
Yet Mr Howard, musician and conservationist, and Mr Ryan, full-time property valuer and part-time but passionate horse trainer, have been cast on either side of a divide. Both are born-and-bred locals and both have been let down by authorities who failed to keep disgraced horse trainer Darren Weir's stable size in check.
It would be convenient but far too simplistic to describe Warrnambool's "horses on beaches" battle as one between hippies and hard-bitten horse trainers.
Horse racing has been at the heart of the south-west for well over a century and the city's world-famous three-day jumps carnival - which starts on Tuesday - brings fans from all over the country and pours millions of dollars into the local economy.
But in many ways it was the rapid growth of Weir, a single-minded winning machine, that drove a wedge between friends and neighbours. His sudden, commercial-scale presence on local beaches was the catalyst for community action.
It was early December 2015 - the start of holiday season - so it wasn't unusual to see the families fumbling with tents around Killarney Beach, but on this morning there were racehorses. And not the usual relaxed, lone thoroughbred surging through the shallows; there were trucks bringing six horses at a time to teams of waiting trackwork riders to canter on the softer sand.
"There'd been one or two horses at times, but I went down there and there and we had never seen anything like it on that scale," Mr Howard said. "There were horse trucks and horses everywhere,and it left us asking 'where did this come from? What happened?'."
The beaches don't belong to an individual, or the racing club, they belong to all of us. Perhaps we should be asking: 'How could we do it better this time?' It's an opportunity.BCRAG's Theresa O'Brien
What had happened was Weir's move from Warrnambool's Levy's Beach for the summer months - as per a council edict - his numbers having slowly grown in line with his success over the preceding months.
"It was an immediate flashpoint, horses just hadn't been trained on that scale there previously," Mr Howard said. "It amplified very quickly."
Less than a month earlier Weir had won his first Melbourne Cup with Prince Of Penzance. Weir's main base was at Ballarat but he had credited the "magic sands" of Warrnambool for the horse's success.
During Weir's rise he had noticed that horses returning to his main stables at Miners Rest after pre-training on the beaches around Warrnambool were supremely fit. The soft sand had less impact on joints, the salt-filled air and water was keeping the horses fresh.
"You can get the horses very fit, very happy and very sound," Mr Ryan said. "If I was a racehorse this is where I would want to live."
Weir's numbers grew and with the Melbourne Cup win, so did the media and public focus.
Fellow trainers in Warrnambool, many of them second-generation trainers and long-term residents, had asked Weir to "scale it back", fearing conflict. Once it was clear there was no holding back, Mr Howard - former front man of the band Goanna and an avowed activist when it comes to environmental and Indigenous issues - joined with other community members to notify authorities.
"The community needed to be engaged," said Theresa O'Brien, Mr Howard's wife and fellow member of the Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group (BCRAG). "The beaches don't belong to an individual, or the racing club, they belong to all of us."
Mr O'Brien's family is also local - and many of them live and breath racing.
"I have to laugh at the fact that I go down to the shops on a Saturday to pick up the form guide for my mum while I am wearing my 'save the beaches' T-shirt."
BCRAG brought attention to the plight of the hooded plover, its population critically low and its nesting sites near the soft sand Weir favoured for fitness work, and the Indigenous rights around Levy's Beach point, the area used for uphill gallops by the top trainer.
Racehorses have been trained on the beaches around Warrnambool for more than 100 years - without the need for regulation - and even if there were occasional conflicts between surfers, fisherman or birdwatchers, they were resolved on a personal level.
"Most times when I go for a ride along this beach you don't see another human being, and if you did see one, they would come up and take a photo of you with the horse, it is something they enjoy," said Mr Ryan, whose father was a long-time trainer on the same stretch of sand.
"It was unregulated, really, but we had always been told to ride at the water's edge, staying away from the hooded plovers, so we did."
Regardless, Mr Ryan trains two horses, if he is racing's equivalent of a local grocer; Weir was the Woolworths-style conglomerate opening a store in his suburb.
Weir brought jobs and built infrastructure - spending an estimated $1 million on a 43-stable facility on Warrnambool Race Club land - his total numbers in the area swelling to 100 horse or more, spread around various stables, each of them travelling to the beach each day.
Not that Weir was necessarily unpopular. He was paying rent on all of those stables after all.
"Nothing is ever black and white," Mr Ryan said. "He is a knockabout, friendly guy. There were a lot of local kids who got jobs from Darren Weir. Kids from pony clubs worked with Weir - he had his good points ... he helped people."
Trainer Symon Wilde took over from his father in 2013 and has finished in the top 10 of the Victorian premiership for the last two years.
"My father was a hobby trainer for a long time, and then we started doing it professionally," Mr Wilde says.
"There was a long history of training horses off the beach. We were managing well, but there weren't a lot of rules, We might have been gone by 10am each day and there might have been two or three complaints per year. But when the big numbers started coming, that's when we got into a bit of strife."
"It was recognised within the training group that Darren needed to pull back. There was no forethought from the authorities, they were looking at Darren Weir and dollars. The people in charge were shortsighted. They let him build a million dollar property. He was big."
Of course, as it transpired, there was more than just "magic sands" to Weir's Midas touch. In January he was arrested in dramatic stable raids by Australian Federal Police and racing stewards, banned for four years for possession of electronic devices designed for use on animals. He remains under police investigation.
His Warrnambool-based assistant Jarrod McLean, a trainer in his own right, was also found in possession of a "jigger" in the January raids, and faces a hearing next month.
The stables Weir built on Warrnambool Race Club land remain vacant; McLean was denied a request to move in by Racing Victoria, officials citing the need to protect the sport's image.
Leading Western Australian trainer Lindsey Smith - familiar with Weir's beach-training techniques - has lodged an application to move into the stables, but wants an assurance from Warrnambool Council that he will have beach access for the full 12 months of his lease.
"Somebody from Western Australia coming in and saying 'I'll only come if I get access to the beaches' is the wrong language to use," Ms O'Brien said. "The community needs to be engaged. The beaches don't belong to an individual, or the racing club, they belong to all of us. Perhaps we should be asking: 'How could we do it better this time?' It's an opportunity."
Even the local trainers seem ready "to do things differently" and Mr Wilde says a "long-term approach" is required.
"We have rules in place and we just have to look at use of the beaches as a privilege, not a right," he said. "There has to be give and take. And we have to look at longevity. I would like to think - for the sake people who work for me - that we could be there for the next 10 to 20 years."
For Mr Ryan, "the damage has been done"; he was caught in the crossfire of the regulation to limit Weir. He has lost beach access for now and when he can return it will be limited to four months per year on an "historic" training licence. Despite more than 70 years of family history, he will be the last Ryan to train horses on the beach.
"It is sad, I have two children and while I don't think they want to be horse trainers but if they ever decided they did want to, they can't," he said.
"Riding is something that I really love, everyday before I go to work I choose to ride a horse, instead of playing golf or another hobby. I love racing. For me it is a lifestyle, and I don't see how I am any different to somebody who goes running on the beach, or goes surfing or leisure riding. Because of what happened when Weir came here and the escalation of numbers, we have been stopped from doing that."
- with The Age
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