Ride 'em cowgirl

Last updated 13:00 20/01/2014
Nelson Summer Kite Festival
COMING IN FAST: Ashburton’s Annabelle Wiggins during the Open Barrel Race at the Richmond Rodeo at the Richmond Show Grounds on Saturday.

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"Yeah, my boy," roared a ringside cowboy as the first bucking bronco and its rider shot into the ring at the Richmond Rodeo. "You stay on."

The rodeo attracted large crowds on Saturday to see Kiwi stock handlers compete in the traditional sports of America's Western frontier. Cowboys and cowgirls raced their horses around barrels, roped and tied calves, and clung one-handed to furious broncos and three-quarter-tonne bulls to claim prize money at the end of the day.

The Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust received a donation from the club.

Tai Tapu bullrider Libby Bent, 17, stood out in the testosterone-charged atmosphere. Sporting immaculate makeup, diamante earrings and hot-pink polish on her fingers, Libby was undeterred by the cowboys who ribbed her about getting hurt or breaking a nail.

Currently in her third season of rodeo riding, Libby had to seek special dispensation from the New Zealand Cowboys Rodeo Association before heading into riding second-division bulls. Women are not allowed to take part in "rough stock" rodeo events such as bull riding.

Libby said she had been ranked top of the second division riders before Richmond, although a tough ride that day meant she would likely be demoted a few places. She took her first ride at the Methven rodeo three years ago.

"A friend said, ‘If you hop on a wee steer and stay on I'll give you $100'."

Not only did Libby stay on, she won the competition and found her passion. She said she intended to carry on competing at home and overseas, brushing off inquiries about any injury as irrelevant.

"I just kept doing it because I loved it, I love the challenge."

In response to a suggestion her winning might dent a few egos around the ring, she was firm.

"Yeah. That's why I do it."

Many of the bulls were bred near Lake Rotoroa by Tasman man Michael Reedy before being sold to bull suppliers Duncan and Tina Mackintosh, who run Eight Seconds Bullriding. Mr Reedy said the most feared animal, 730 kilograms "Dougal", was named in tribute to Mr Mackintosh's late brother.

"A good bull, when it comes out of the gate, spins around and then kicks up at the back."

Arena director Ray Woodley, 59, has only missed one rodeo in 46 years, and that was because he was hit by a log.

"The only thing I ever wanted to be was a cowboy, but in a town like Nelson you don't need many cowboys in orchards or on vineyards."

More photos, p4

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