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An Unstable Riding School

People had been talking about this place for awhile now. A long stretch of horse stables nestled between clusters of houses and sheds, provoking a nostalgic hint of the Pioneer Village I remembered seeing as a child. Strong winds whipping pastures of unmowed grass and native flowers, growing in abundance from fertile soils and the heavy rains of late.

Colourful graffiti pieces as big as the wall they're painted on, contrasting with the limited colours of the structures. Most are of words: symbolising expressions, nicknames or local crews. Few characters and artwork pieces can be found here, which is surprising, compared to almost every other urbexing location I've been to. Of course, there are the usual comments added to graffiti, a number of male genitalia and an abundance of amateurish tags that are hard to differentiate between testing a spray can or an attempt to write a crew name.

The floor of one room is littered with strewn paperwork and photos. Aside from typical riding school-related documents, most are personal and most belong to the one man, presumably aged in his early 50's. It was like his entire life since 2006 was left behind to rot with the remains of the site, including valuable and irreplaceable photos of children, presumably his own.

The site was apparently abandoned from 2009, some 11 years ago. Perhaps this man was a squatter for some time. Aside from a complaints letter to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's Complaint Handling Section, dated 20 July 2004 (a month before he would have served five years in Acacia Prison), detailing abusive and corrupt conduct from the prison officers, most of the documents left behind was dated 2012.

Aside from a number of primary school documents, a letter from the Department of Child Protection and a Centrelink statement for his pension, we didn't look any further into the piles of paper.

Despite the confidentiality normally attributed to such personal documents, we just wanted to paint a picture of what kind of person could have been residing here and their potential circumstances. This brief perusal into this man's life raised many questions such as: What led to him squatting here? Where was he now? Why did he suddenly leave and do so, leaving everything behind?

Throughout the remaining time we spent at this site, a number of piles of dumped possessions, men's clothing and children's toys were visible. A long time had now passed since 2012. Had the man suicided or did he die from natural causes? Alone? Was he now serving a lengthy jail term for a serious crime like armed robbery or murder? Why didn't he come back to salvage his documents, in particularly photos of what appear to be his children?

The sadness I felt from this little snapshot into his life and experiences, in addition to observing the remains of the horse stables and riding school which was once full of life as a result of one man's dream, heightened my experiences of this place in more ways than one. Sometimes when you try to do your best in life, circumstances and especially people, derail your best intentions with adverse and problematic experiences. If we don't find a way to overcome obstacles thrown our way or muster the energy to fight, we go down.

Perhaps the man had given up his life or his freedom.

Perhaps the original owner of the stables had grown tired of giving his time and energy to running the site. Maybe things were tough, or visitors and riders were dwindling and the easiest option was to sell, rather than to come up with new creative solutions. Or maybe the owner had died and no one was interested in continuing his dream, when they all had their own to chase.

Built in the 1950s by Vic Ferreira as a horse stable, the riding school and showgrounds was established in 1973, with the help of his family. Particularly due to two years of high insurance premiums, Mr Ferreira sold up to an investment company in 2008. Months before he died.

Someday in the near future, the site could be turned into a housing estate. In the meantime for the next few years, or maybe in a shorter time period if a fire razes or all part of the site, it may become demolished. Especially with all the dangers it poses with an abundance of asbestos, falling trees and the instability of structures that have been severely and physically damaged by vandals.

Perhaps if demolition did occur, this would follow with a lengthy period of time where nature takes back the site and blends it in with the sounding bushland environment.

Regardless, it was an interesting site to urbex, despite not being one of my top favourites. It certainly was one of the most thought-provoking place I've been fortunate to visit so far.

UPDATE: The man who appeared to be squatting at this location, died in June 2012. The location of his death is Wellard, the same suburb as this horse stables. Was it suicide or did natural causes lead to his death? Did he die alone and if not, how long did it take for someone to find him?

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