Sitting with friends on the embankment at Outram, I realise that this city girl is hooked on rodeo. Just mentioning the word ‘rodeo’ sparks emotionally charged conversation. Some see it as a throwback to an Americanised Wild West; animal activists believe it is cruel and enthusiasts say it is a physically demanding sport for skilled riders.
In New Zealand, the Lawrence Rodeo Club (LRC) is hosting the 2012 National Rodeo Finals. On March 23rd and 24th, the country’s top eight riders in each discipline will compete for $5,000 prize money per event, a belt buckle and a saddle – the rodeo equivalent of an Olympic gold medal. There are thirty rodeo’s on the national circuit and riders need to compete all season to earn enough money to qualify for the finals.
Roughstock riders draw the name of an animal from a hat and take on a bull or a horse. They earn points based on how well they ride and how the animal bucks. In the barrel races, steer wrestling and roping events, competitors bring their own horses and the clock decides the winner.
Having learnt a little more about rodeo, I am still hooked on this very Western event. In March, I will be sitting on the embankment with the rest of the Lawrence community hopefully watching a local riders win the national titles!