Life on the trail hooks cavalcade participants

Rain builds behind Twin Peaks Station, south of Omarama, as riders on the Lindis to Lowburn trail make progress during last year's Cavalcade. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Rain builds behind Twin Peaks Station, south of Omarama, as riders on the Lindis to Lowburn trail make progress during last year's Cavalcade. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
The four-legged beasts enjoy the Otago Goldfields Cavalcade just as much as the two-legged ones. So says veteran cavalcader Jeanette McKay (68), of Springvale, near Alexandra, who has taken part in all 20 cavalcades. She will saddle up quarter horse Josh today for her 21st.

''You can tell the horses love it - there's no trouble catching them in the morning; they're waiting at the gate for you. They'll go anywhere with you and, hell, we take them in some pretty bloody hairy places. And, after a while, the horse gets that way where they'll look after you while you're trekking along.''

Mrs McKay is one of six riders hitting the 21-year milestone on this year's ''Panning the Pomahaka'' cavalcade. It features eight trails - three riding, three walking and two wagon trails - all converging on Tapanui on March 2.

She is on the Gambler's Last Hand trail, led by trail boss Stu Moore, which begins at Rocklands Station in the Clarks Junction area. She says camaraderie comes to the fore on the cavalcade, but there is a fair bit of rivalry between the different trails.

 Jeanette McKay, of Springvale (right), with Josh, is one of six riders who will set off today for their 21st Otago Goldfields Cavalcade, having taken part in all the previous events. Among those joining her are Fred McElrea, of Auckland, on his third cavalcade, and Susan St Clair-Newman, of Omakau, with Wilson, on her second cavalcade. Mr McElrea is borrowing a horse, Emma, from Shirley Dignan, of Alexandra (left). Photo by Lynda van Kempen.
Jeanette McKay, of Springvale (right), with Josh, is one of six riders who will set off today for their 21st Otago Goldfields Cavalcade, having taken part in all the previous events. Among those joining her are Fred McElrea, of Auckland, on his third cavalcade, and Susan St Clair-Newman, of Omakau, with Wilson, on her second cavalcade. Mr McElrea is borrowing a horse, Emma, from Shirley Dignan, of Alexandra (left). Photo by Lynda van Kempen.
''Most of the regulars stick with one trail boss - I like Stu and the people who travel with him. There is a fair bit of cheek thrown about, but you learn that early on.''

One of the attractions of the event is showing the countryside to new cavalcaders, she says.

''Old hands like me like seeing the new people come along - they help keep you young ... and sometimes they'll even open the gates for you and catch your horse in the morning.''

One of the ''new'' people on the same trail as Mrs McKay this time around is Susan St Clair-Newman, (38), of Omakau.

''I'd wanted to do the cavalcade for 20 years and then moved up here from Dunedin two years ago, found out the cavalcade destination [last year] was Cromwell, so thought: It's meant to be.''

The event more than lived up to her expectations, she said.

''It was the most exhilarating, awesome experience of my life. I'm well and truly hooked now.''

Mrs McKay said: ''There's not many who do the cavalcade and don't come back for the next one. You drive into camp at the start ... the place is just buzzing; people want to give you a hug or shake your hand, they're so pleased to see you again.''

- lynda.van.kempen@odt.co.nz