Thoroughbreds show the way

Alison Cooper, of Otaki, with Wade McAtamney (9), of Lauder, and Picasso and Greyway lead the...
Alison Cooper, of Otaki, with Wade McAtamney (9), of Lauder, and Picasso and Greyway lead the Tussock Creek light wagon and riding trail across the Manuherikia River yesterday morning. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
They might be equine royalty but Greyway and Picasso were just as happy crossing a river yesterday and heading into the hills.

The two Percheron-thoroughbred cross horses - New Zealand’s top carriage-driving horses - made the trip south from Otaki with owners Noel and Alison Cooper, to take part in the Otago Goldfields Cavalcade.

Well-known in carriage-driving circles, Mrs Cooper has competed internationally, including alongside Prince Philip, a devotee of the sport, and will judge hackneys at the Sydney Royal Easter Show this year.

It was the couple’s first cavalcade.

The cavalcade was similar to what the horses did in their carriage-driving competitions, just without the stop-watch — "it’s actually too slow for them", he said.

But they were having a great time, enjoying both the countryside and the camaraderie on the Tussock Creek light wagon and riding trail, and reckoned they would be back.

And Mr Cooper confided that sitting in a cart was better than being astride a horse."You don’t spill your booze."

There were several inspirational participants on the trail, including Alice Sinclair (84) and Brenda Harland, who was a bit cagey about her age but conceded she was a little bit younger than Mrs Sinclair. Both have taken part in all 28 cavalcades.

Following the death of her husband and fellow cavalcader Len in 2015, Mrs Sinclair did not think she would continue but her family encouraged her. Janette Philp returns from Australia each year to provide back-up for her mother.

Initially, Mrs Philp thought she would only do it for a couple of years but said she might need to book in for at least another five years.

Mrs Sinclair said her horse Keira was going "really good" and her daughter reckoned they were "living the dream", indicating the glorious morning near Lauder.

Mrs Harland has been involved with horses all her life and in most facets, from breeding and showing to rodeos and showjumping.

Broken bones over the years have failed to deter her from the trail and there had been some "hilarious times".

Still enjoying herself, she reckoned she would retire when she was "buggered".

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