Forward planning has given Whanganui hobby farmer Wayne Keenan an edge when the Big Dry comes knocking.

The concrete contractor designed his beloved O'Ceirn Farm at Upokongaro with thoroughbred horses firmly in mind, a passion he has had for decades.

While the design was not deliberately painstakingly brought to life with the vagaries of weather at the forefront of his mind, it is none-the-less effective.

As others struggled to cope with the dry spell in the region that included a record 41 days without rain in the Whanganui district pre-Christmas, Mr Keenan had the luxury of moving stock from one lush, green paddock to the next.


While he only has 45 effective acres on which to grow his homebred thoroughbreds, the well thought out design has maximised his options.

From the outset using his own contracting company diggers and earthmoving machines, he carved out a farmlet fenced and irrigated specifically to raise horse flesh. Harnessing natural springs to feed his man-made dams, Mr Keenan installed portable alkathene pipes that could be moved to suit which paddock needed watering at any given time.

"The springs popped up from old oil wells drilled years ago and were never capped. They didn't find any oil," Mr Keenan said.

"I built my own dams fed by these springs and then fenced off my wetlands and planted them and the farm boundaries in natives. The Upokongaro Stream runs through the property, but I don't touch a drop of that. In fact, I add to it. When the dams overflow it goes straight into the stream.

"None of my stock get anywhere near the waterways."

Even during the pre-Christmas dry, a record for Whanganui since weather measurements began in 1937, Mr Keenan carried 35 horses through well-fed and unharmed.

"They are a mix of foals, yearlings and broodmares and my biggest problem was which paddock to open up next," Mr Keenan said.

Up until several seasons ago Mr Keenan was content to breed from his own band of mares and either race the progeny or trade them with international buyers.


That was until the arrival of a young athletic colt that promised much.

Unfortunately, injury struck and despite healthy injections of cash and several expensive trips to specialist equine surgeons at Massey University, the young athlete never graced the race tracks.

Convinced he would have proven himself a champion, Mr Keenan banked on the colt to make his mark as a stallion.

Since naming him Dial A Prayer and standing him at Grangewilliam Stud in Waitotara, around 100 of his foals are now on the ground with the eldest two-year-olds and almost ready to be tested on raceday.

"I bred probably 45 or 50 from my own broodmares, the rest are from outside mares. The young foals are receiving great reviews with good judges describing them as correct, good natured and athletic types. There are a couple who have already won jumpouts (unofficial trials) and we'll see them on raceday very soon," Mr Keenan said.