She’s a hard job finding the perfect Cavalcade trail.

That’s why North Otago farrier Malcolm Oakes puts in so much time before the annual trek across Central Otago’s back country.

The Goldfields Cavalcade’s 25th birthday is being celebrated this year. Nine trails — three of walkers, four of riders, one of light wagons and one of heavy wagons — are wending their way towards Omakau.

Oakes is leading the “Overland to Omakau”’ riding trail. His preparation included scoping out potential routes departing from the North Otago hill country. His “right-hand man,” Chum Chamberlain, helped him plot courses that cover 30km to 40km a day, entailing about 8 hours’ riding.

Oakes says many farmers made their land available to the Cavalcade. Such support, and that from various communities, was invaluable to the cavalcade’s ongoing success.

With permission secured, his trail of 75 to 80 riders and 55 horses met at Mount Dasher Station on March 5. On March 6, they rode across the head of the Duntroon gold-mining water races towards Ben Ledi Station. The ride took them through tussock terrain to Glenshee Station in Danseys Pass.

This is Oakes’ 12th Cavalcade. He was a wrangler many times before becoming a trail boss for the last 4 years.

Taking the right horse and looking after it was “a bit of an art,” he says. His 7-year-old horse Pete is ”No. 1 — he’s doing all the work.”

He was chuffed that local people were also riding his trail, which he regarded as a vote of confidence.

He was full of praise for his “great team,” comprising five wranglers and three gophers. And he says he “couldn’t do it” without the support of his wife, Trish.

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