As someone who has spent many years as a track rider in the racing industry, and having family and friends who live in the Warrnambool and surrounding areas, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of both sides of the argument regarding the usage of the beach for horse training.
I know how beneficial it is for horses to use the beach, especially for recovery in the salt water after races, and it adds variety and mental stimulation to a horses every day routine. But there is literally no way to justify doing track work on a public beach. Not only does it make it extremely unpleasant for anyone wanting to use the beach, it's just down right dangerous and an accident waiting to happen. I know as a track rider how unpredictable race horses can be, and I am more than certain that Darren Weir and other trainers would know this too. The fact that they are willing to put the horses, the riders and the public in danger at the cost of doing some track work in the dunes is crazy. What if a horse throws a shoe, it can't be found, and someone steps on it in the sand? I know those nails could do some serious damage to a bare foot. As a rider I've had many falls and I know that the horse doesn't hang around to make sure I'm ok...they generally run off. I'd hate to see what would happen if a kid was bowled over by a loose horse...
I have ridden on sand tracks before, and I know the trainers level them out at least twice a week...my bet is that Weir isn't going down to the beach to level the mess left behind for the public to deal with.
I get that Darren Weir brings a lot of business to the Warrnambool area. But if he's not willing to come to some sort of agreement with the locals, and instead pack up and shoot off Ballarat, then I think that says a lot about his commitment to the area.
It makes me sad that some common ground can't be reached about this issue, as it would be a huge shame for the horses to miss out on the benefits of the salt water. But this has gone too far- having this many horses on the beach doing this sort of work is unsafe, unsustainable, unnecessary and unfair to those who loved the beaches in Warrnambool and surrounds long before Weir came along.