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Signature Property: Woodside Stables and Centennial Vineyards Part 1

This article is from the January 2020 Horse Deals magazine.

This is a teaser for next month. A view of Mark’s home across the lake.

This is a teaser for next month. A view of Mark’s home across the lake.

I love a challenge” says scientist, FEI dressage rider, coach, judge, breeder, vigneron and visionary gardener, Mark Dowling. Mark is more than up to the challenge, as the 320 acre property at Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands is certainly one of the most beautiful and extraordinary properties we have visited in the conduct of this feature. The acreage is divided into Woodside Stables that we will look at this month and Centennial Vineyards that we will cover next month.

“I bought this property, the biggest rural holding close to the Bowral town boundary in 1997” explains former medical researcher, Mark. “I planted the vines (75 acres) in 1998 and at that stage I had no intention of having anything to do with horses. A couple of years later, I bought a little Paint to ride around the vineyard. Someone suggested I get a bigger horse and that’s how it all started. International dressage rider, and coach, Glennis Barrey found me my next three horses and coached me for some time and then Rio Olympian, Sue Hearn took over as my coach and by that stage, I was going enthusiastically down the dressage path. There had been horses on the property before, but there was no infrastructure as such for horses and as I progressed with my riding, I started building and it has all grown from there over the past twenty years. At the Brisbane CDI in the middle of last year, I won the Medium Tour Freestyle which was a huge thrill and now I am about to debut in Grand Prix in 2020.

“I came up with the name Woodside Stables because I took a break during my university studies and travelled to the US and stayed in a town called Woodside in California, just south of San Francisco. I worked with Quarter Horses there for a year. I have always been interested in horses and as kids we used to visit my grandfather who had a property here in Bowral and I always wanted to come back here and when I could afford it, I bought this farm.
“I am a passionate horse breeder as well.”

In fact Mark bred Remmington (by River Dance out of the Thoroughbred, Miss Tense) that Sue Hearn rode at the Rio Olympic Games. “I actually delivered him and Sue bought him as a foal and It just goes to show that a home-grown horse can make it to the Olympics. I am a breeder, rider, judge and coach; I have thrown myself in at the deep end and have come a long way in the years I have been competing and training, but I have been working very hard at it.

“I have 17 horses here, from unbroken to Grand Prix. We have six in work. I ride two a day and David and Robbie McKinnon, who have a barn here ride the others. The rest Is made up of mares, foals and retirees that are all treated with the same care. There are 14 separate boxes in three different areas and 14 post and rail paddocks with electric offsets. We work the horses in the indoor, on the outdoor arena and at least once a week we hack them around the vineyard or in the 600 acre reserve next door. We work hard to keep our horses happy and healthy and they enjoy the environment here at Woodside Stables.”

This old wooden barn is not quite as old as it looks. It was built by a former owner from Canada who built it as a trial for a bigger log cabin project. It is none the less a charming building as was Mark’s first barn. It now houses the backpackers who work in the vineyard and also contains two 5m x 5m guest, quarantine or hospital boxes.

This old wooden barn is not quite as old as it looks. It was built by a former owner from Canada who built it as a trial for a bigger log cabin project. It is none the less a charming building as was Mark’s first barn. It now houses the backpackers who work in the vineyard and also contains two 5m x 5m guest, quarantine or hospital boxes.

This is a teaser for next month. A view of Mark’s home across the lake.

This is a teaser for next month. A view of Mark’s home across the lake.

Woodside Stables.

Woodside Stables.

David and Robbie McKinnon operate out of this barn at Woodside Stables.

David and Robbie McKinnon operate out of this barn at Woodside Stables.

A back view of the old barn showing the two large boxes it contains.

A back view of the old barn showing the two large boxes it contains.

Everything in its place.

Everything in its place.

One of the huge 5m x 5m boxes in the old barn with rubber on the floor and up the wall.

One of the huge 5m x 5m boxes in the old barn with rubber on the floor and up the wall.

The rubber lined wash bay with cross ties and corner shelves.

The rubber lined wash bay with cross ties and corner shelves.

The rubber lined wash bay and solarium. “Sometimes we put them in the solarium before we ride them to warm up their backs and they love going in there to dry off after work.”

The rubber lined wash bay and solarium. “Sometimes we put them in the solarium before we ride them to warm up their backs and they love going in there to dry off after work.”

Even though the floor is rubber, Mark still likes a generous covering of bedding to make the horses comfortable and encourage them to lie down. All the boxes are wood lined, as it is more forgiving if kicked etc. Interestingly, both in the stables and out in the paddocks, there is no sign of chewing or kicking the walls or fences. These horses are happy to be here.

Even though the floor is rubber, Mark still likes a generous covering of bedding to make the horses comfortable and encourage them to lie down. All the boxes are wood lined, as it is more forgiving if kicked etc. Interestingly, both in the stables and out in the paddocks, there is no sign of chewing or kicking the walls or fences. These horses are happy to be here.

This 150 year old wagon wheel has been transformed into a chandelier in Mark’s barn that is incorporated within the indoor school building.

This 150 year old wagon wheel has been transformed into a chandelier in Mark’s barn that is incorporated within the indoor school building.

Mark has four 4.5m x 4.5m boxes under the roofline of the huge indoor arena. The surfaces are poured rubber (much like pouring concrete) that is then troweled. The rubber, also in the boxes is non slip, soft and quiet.

Mark has four 4.5m x 4.5m boxes under the roofline of the huge indoor arena. The surfaces are poured rubber (much like pouring concrete) that is then troweled. The rubber, also in the boxes is non slip, soft and quiet.

Each box in Mark’s barn has its own light which is turned on separately. If you want to check one horse at night, you need only turn on its light. It is less disturbing for the others.

Each box in Mark’s barn has its own light which is turned on separately. If you want to check one horse at night, you need only turn on its light. It is less disturbing for the others.

All the boxes have fans.

All the boxes have fans.

The ornate chandelier in the tack room.

The ornate chandelier in the tack room.

Mark’s tack room. “My Stable Manager, Cassie Harrison does a fabulous job,” says Mark. “She is the wonder-groom and has been with me for eight years. <br>
She keeps everything neat and in order.”

Mark’s tack room. “My Stable Manager, Cassie Harrison does a fabulous job,” says Mark. “She is the wonder-groom and has been with me for eight years.
She keeps everything neat and in order.”

The laundry and store room within the indoor building is home to a Miele industrial washer and dryer. This room has bifold doors separating the machines from the surrounding area.

The laundry and store room within the indoor building is home to a Miele industrial washer and dryer. This room has bifold doors separating the machines from the surrounding area.

Everything at Woodside Stables is kept in order and beautifully maintained.

Everything at Woodside Stables is kept in order and beautifully maintained.

This looks more like a high-end tack shop than a tack room.

This looks more like a high-end tack shop than a tack room.

A view inside Mark’s barn with antique farm tools arranged on the walls.

A view inside Mark’s barn with antique farm tools arranged on the walls.

A corner of the very neat and tidy feed room.

A corner of the very neat and tidy feed room.


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