Canterbury rodeo opens today
Cowboy Sam Greenwood brushes off a string of injuries notched up in the ring.
Broken bones and dislocated joints are nothing when you've seen a guy knocked into the dust and savaged by an angry half-tonne rodeo bull. That guy got up and walked away.
"The guys who are there for their image are the ones who give it up when they see a few guys get hurt," Greenwood said.
"In the rodeo they say, it's not if you get hurt, but how bad."
Greenwood will be one of many young bucks lining up for a shot at glory at the Canterbury Rodeo today.
A farmer's son, he got into rodeo at only 14 years old, under the wing of the Jamisons – a North Canterbury rodeo family with three champion sons and a name on the circuit.
"When I started, I was a bit nervous . . . but the more you do it, the nerves turn into excitement."
Now aged 24 and a building apprentice, he rides about 25 rodeos a year during the October-March season.
The rodeo life means more than a heroic few seconds in the ring. It's also long hours on the road and countless nights in cheap motels.
"You get to see a lot of the country."
No rodeo would be complete without groupies. "Buckle bunnies", as they're known, follow the rodeo around the country and are part and parcel of the sport.
But as Greenwood points out, everyone in New Zealand rodeo knows everyone else.
His father, Peter Greenwood, has never ridden a bull in his life (and has no intention of doing so), but has backed his cowboy son all the way.
Now president of the Canterbury Rodeo Club, he organises the annual event his son will compete in today and is well aware of the dangers.
"Anything to do with livestock is not very safe. Especially when they're 800kg and angry," he said.
For the younger Greenwood, the challenge of bull-riding wasn't quite enough. Last year he took up bull-fighting alongside one of the Jamison brothers and now spends much of the rodeo in the ring, distracting bulls from fallen riders.
"The goal is to let the guy on the ground get up," he said. "I guess you'd say it's more dangerous than riding because you're out there with every bull, not just the one."
Today he will bull-fight and make a challenge for the bull-riding title.
The Canterbury Rodeo opens to the public today at 10.30am, starting around 12.30pm at the Mandeville Sports Complex on Tram Rd. More info at canterburyrodeo.co.nz.