Highs and lows of rodeo

21:36, Jan 22 2013
Simon Roughan
Simon Roughan exits the gate in a saddle bronc ride.

One minute you are on top ... literally, then you bite the dust. Reporter Lauren Hayes speaks to two cowboys on this year's southern rodeo circuit.

Equine dentist Simon Roughan is sitting on top of the national table for saddle bronc riding - whether he stays there or not is up to him and the random horse he draws on the day.

The 40-year-old, from Alexandra, has been involved in rodeo for 13 years and has had his share of bruises, but said he would rather people focus more on the sport of rodeo than broken limbs.

Working with horses in his day job helped him prepare for events, which meant, unlike other riders, he did not need venture to the United States during the off-season, Mr Roughan said.

Even though he had ranked highly for the past three years, he said prize money was not enough to live off.

Saddle bronc riders like Mr Roughan use specially-designed saddles, called rodeo association saddles, which allow them to sit further forward on bucking horses.


While the saddles, like most equestrian equipment, were expensive, they were made to last, so the one-off cost could be recouped through winnings, Mr Roughan said.

''If you do well, you sort of break even. I've made quite a bit ... I've broken even, I'd reckon.''

Other, less victorious, riders had to dig deep to travel to events on the circuit, paying thousands for the love of the sport, he said.

One of those riders is farm manager Gus Spence, who has been competing in rodeo events for just five years.

He rode horses growing up in Gisborne and used to watch his brother bull ride, but only entered the ring himself in his early 30s.

Now living near Balclutha, he competes in the rope and tie event, where he ranks 13th nationally, and steer wrestling, where he ranks 6th.

Mr Spence said he always wanted to try his hand in the rodeo and just decided to give the sport a go one day.

A big part of events was putting on a show for the crowd, although he said spectators were far from his mind when he was competing.

''I wouldn't even notice they're there. You switch off, you're concentrating on what you're doing.''

Even with a sponsor, travelling up and down New Zealand on the circuit did get expensive but was an integral element of the sport, Mr Spence said.

''It's a huge part of it, seeing a heap of the country and really great people.''

The camaraderie developed between regular faces on the circuit was one of the best parts of being involved in the scene, he said.

''We have a fair bit of fun but it is pretty serious at the same time.''

His 12-year-old daughter had not yet caught the rodeo bug but, keeping with the horse culture, did enjoy show jumping, he said.

After a Waitangi Day rodeo at Outram, the riders will hit town for the Mataura rodeo on February 9, followed by the Southland Rodeo on February 10.

The Southland Times