Competition ropes in top riders for rodeo
Eighty kilograms versus 800kg for eight seconds. That is the raw equation at the heart of rodeo as cowboys and cowgirls from across New Zealand bring their Western skills to the Richmond A&P Showgrounds tomorrow.
About 170 competitors, the most ever, have entered the open and second division events in the Richmond Rodeo, which in addition to the marquee eight-second bullride includes such skills as bareback riding, roping and tying, and barrel racing.
The steer wrestling event will feature last year's national champion, Chris Hood, said Richmond Rodeo Club secretary Tina Angus-Phyn.
"Steer wrestling comes from years ago when cowboys had to get the steers down on the ground to brand them or tend to them.
"If the cowboys couldn't rope them, they had to jump on them from their horses and wrestle them to the ground. It's basically 800kg against 80kg and it's an amazing sport when it's done correctly."
Rodeo preserves the cowboy skills that flourished on the Western frontiers of America, where horse handling and stock tending were the way of life.
Over the season from November to March, competitors accumulate points at 25 events, leading up to the nationals in March, and the coveted end-of-season champion buckles.
Riders graduate from the second division into the open division and the chance to ride the big bulls once they have won $2000 in prize money. The open division bulls can be between 800 and 1000kg and are specially bred by Duncan McIntosh in Rangiora.
The circuit means long hours on the road for the riders, especially if they are transporting horses with them.
Most of the competitors are coming from Canterbury or beyond, and to help the club members run the event, volunteers from clubs such as Reefton and Canterbury will be joining them.
Local kids can get a taste of rodeo by entering the sheep or calf ride competitions.
Entries are accepted on the day between 11.30am and 12.30pm, and children must be under 20kg for the sheep ride and under 40kg for the calf ride. The slots go to the first 15 eligible entries.
Each year the club donates a portion of the gate takings to a local charity and this year the proceeds are going to the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust.
Ms Angus-Phyn said that from 11.30am, the action would be non-stop.
"It will be four hours of just action and dust and adrenalin and noise. Cowboys and cowgirls competing against themselves and against the clock."