Holiday with horses at races

Taking your family on holiday can have its stresses.

But imagine if you also had 20 horses to take with you.

That is the challenge the Williamson family, of Oamaru, contend with each summer as they follow the circuit of race meetings in the South.

On Saturday, owner and trainer Phil Williamson, his three sons, his daughter and five of his horses were a prominent presence at the Hawea Picnic Race Day.

''It's a holiday - a holiday with horses,'' Mr Williamson said as he prepared two of his trotters for the next race.

Mr Williamson likened horse racing to dairy farming as he explained to the Otago Daily Times the commitment required.

''It's like milking cows. Horses have to be worked every day, so we take them with us when we come over here, so a change is like a holiday.''

The Hawea meeting might be a small one on the racing calendar, but the family takes it just as seriously as any other event.

Prize money of about $5000 helps defray some of the expense.

When asked if the Hawea meeting had changed much over the years, Mr Williamson was clear that apart from small improvements, ''everything's the same'', and that was the way he liked it.

''It's all good.

''It's one of those things you would like to see continue and hopefully there are enough people in behind the scenes to keep it going.

''If the local community keep it going, we'll keep coming.''

Yeverley McCarthy has spent 35 years making sure the event keeps going.

Selling raffles outside the office on Saturday, she said it was not ''a struggle'' because ''we have got it down to a fine art''.

''The thing for us is to know we have got the entries.

''If we have got the entries then it runs itself, pretty much.''

Mrs McCarthy believed the meeting attracted the public because it was a family event.

''We don't get that hooney lot that go to the rodeo; we don't get the 16- to 20-year-old boys and girls who are out to get drunk.''

Mrs McCarthy believed the event would still be around 20 years from now, provided younger people got involved.

''The population of Hawea has quadrupled in the time we've been running it. So there are going to be people who have a mutual interest in running something like this.''

Treasurer Sharryn Catto said attendance on Saturday appeared to be similar to the previous year, and income was a little over $4000.

Any profits are distributed to community groups.

One of those in the prize money on Saturday was Eddie Murphy, of Waikouaiti, with his 7-year-old trotter When the Boys Light Up.

''He's had one win before. He's only had 30 starts,'' Mr Murphy said.

''He's a 7-year-old battler,'' driver Wayne Low, of Waimate, said.

Mr Murphy, who has attended Hawea for 20 years, said a win was less about the money than about the ''bragging rights''.

-mark.price@odt.co.nz