Sad milestone for cavalcade veteran

TAYLER STRONG IN DUNEDIN
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013
Brenda Harland and her horse Toughie prepare for the Otago Goldfields Cavalcade.
BITTERSWEET: Brenda Harland and her horse Toughie prepare for the Otago Goldfields Cavalcade.

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Brenda Harland has taken part in all the Otago Goldfields cavalcades, but the 21st beginning on Saturday will not be quite the same.

Gordon McCraw, her partner of 40 years, died last August. He accompanied Ms Harland on the previous cavalcades through the high country trails of Otago.

"I will miss Gordon. He was the life of the party," Ms Harland, of Westwood, said.

"He was really ill last year but he saw the cavalcade off at the start and he was there at the end."

Ms Harland, who admits to being in her mid-70s, is a former thoroughbred racehorse trainer and accomplished rider in the show ring. She will undertake the cavalcade mainly driving a two-wheeled cart.

"I will be in the cart mostly and riding when I feel like it," she said.

The cavalcade will assemble at Romahapa on Friday. She is in the Tussock Creek light wagon trail. Others start at different points, either riding or walking, converging at Tapanui next Saturday. The trails are associated with those seeking gold in 1862.

"I like the high country. I did a lot of mustering. There are no telephones or television. It is nice to get away from it all," Ms Harland said.

She has been riding horses since she could walk.

"I went to Cattle Flat Station when I was 12 mustering and breaking in horses. My parents had to drag me back to go to school."

She built a fine record in the show ring and judged in the same field. Her riding skills were recognised when she acted as a pony rider accompanying racehorses to the barrier on a visit to Canada.

She had many thoroughbreds through her stable both as a trainer and on behalf of other trainers seeking her help in a pre-training sphere or rejuvenating horses at the beach.

She trained Point the Way, winner of the Otago Steeplechase in 1990 and 1992 and the 1991 Otago Hunt Cup.

Her stables are now used by harness racing trainers Graeme Anderson, Amber Hoffman and Jonny Cox.

Ms Harland has had her moments on the cavalcade.

"I had a heart attack and finished up in Dunstan Hospital. Another time I got tipped out of a cart and dragged. The horse I was driving put his feet in water that had been electrified from a leaking cable and he went berserk."

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