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''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.
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.''