Rodeo fever back in black
United States President Barack Obama may be the world's most powerful man but it was his namesake which held sway at the weekend's Huntly Rodeo.
Obama, a jet-black Brahman cross bull, was one of the main attractions at this year's rodeo as more than 1000 spectators watched a line-up of eager cowboys test their mettle on the bucking 800kg-plus beast.
Huntly Rodeo Club president Fraser Graham said numbers were "back to their best" after an average crowd last year and the 2012 fixture was washed out.
Yesterday's day-long event attracted more than 200 competitors and featured rodeo favourites such as steer wrestling, saddle bronc and bareback bronc riding and rope and tie.
But it was the bull riding that got spectators to their feet, 83-year-old Graham said.
"Injuries are rare but it's still highly dangerous."
Obama the bull was a particular crowd favourite along with fellow heavyweight Gun Smoke, so-named after a round speckled birth mark.
Graham said the number of young cowboys and cowgirls entering events was encouraging.
About $1000 of prize money was up for grabs in each event.
"Each year we seem to get more and more young ones entering which is great because they are the cowboys of the future. You'll typically find their fathers and grandfathers were riders and they've decided to carry on the tradition," Graham said.
"There's also a section of the community that love action sports and you can't get a more full-on action sport than rodeo."
Graham only used horses on his 1214-hectare sheep and beef farm in Huntly, saying they were more practical and economical than farm bikes. A knee replacement kept him out of the saddle but he said riding was in his blood.
"We call ourselves a rodeo club but it's a family affair. My son Craig runs the rodeo arena and I try and sort out any problems behind the scenes."
Te Kauwhata woman Kathy Dias, 62, attending her first rodeo, said the event was a fun day out and she enjoyed watching the horses in action.
"I love the horses, especially the grey ones, because I used to ride one."