Criticism of pony business rejected by SPCA

ROSA STUDHOLME
Last updated 05:00 01/01/2013
Waka Kernohan, of Oaklea Miniature Horses
NATASHA MARTIN/Fairfax NZ

WELL LOOKED AFTER: Waka Kernohan, of Oaklea Miniature Horses, says he takes care of his animals, despite complaints appearing on social media sites.

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The owner of a Timaru riding business is rejecting criticism on social media sites about his animals' condition.

A Facebook group has emerged called "Shut down Timaru's Oaklea Miniature Horses", referring to the business run by Waka Kernohan.

Comments on the Timaru Herald Facebook page include claims that the horses are "riddled with worms" and forced to carry children who are too heavy, and refer to ponies being "frail-boned" and in "terrible condition".

Another complained the horses were being tied up too close to the barbecue area at Caroline Bay, making it dangerous for children.

Group administrator Ami Hopkinson, who recently moved to Christchurch from Temuka, said the main issue was the "lack of care" given to the ponies.

"They're just like a money-making machine for him," she said.

Ms Hopkinson, who previously volunteered for Mr Kernohan so her young daughter could ride the ponies, felt they were not being adequately fed.

She also claimed he was allowing children as old as 10 to ride the horses where the normal "rule of riding minis" was to allow only under-5s.

She had contacted the SPCA several times.

"He needs to know that if he's going to use them he's actually got to look after them."

Mr Kernohan denied the ponies were mistreated, saying the criticism was "misguided".

"The animals are definitely in good condition. All I can say is people are either jealous of what I'm doing or they don't know what animal husbandry is."

The five ponies and two yearlings were regularly groomed and wormed, he said.

An inspection following a complaint this month found the ponies to be in good condition, he said. There were complaints "once every two or three years" to the SPCA.

He also denied that children too large for the ponies were riding them.

"My pony girls, who are [aged] 8 to 13, lift children on and lift them off and there's no children that are too heavy."

The ponies were "exceptionally popular" at the Caroline Bay Carnival, he said.

"They are so popular I can't keep up with demand.

"It's unfortunate that I've come up for criticism."

The ponies were hired out to children's parties and events around the district.

"It's possible I've become a victim of tall poppy syndrome."

He said he was complying with the rules of the Timaru District Council to operate in the Caroline Bay children's play area.

He suggested a rival was trying to push him out of business.

Ms Hopkinson said that was "quite possible", but that customers would choose their preferred company.

South Canterbury SPCA manager Barry Fairbrother said he had visited the ponies this month following a complaint and found them in good condition and "well cared for".

"I discussed with him that he is in the public eye and people are going to see different things."

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- The Timaru Herald

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