Saddled up at Aohanga

By CHRISTINE MCKAY


The Aohanga Horse Sports and Rodeo has an impressive 73-year history and is a special slice of country life its supporters want to retain.

Held every year at Owahanga Station (Aohanga is the original name) on Wellington Anniversary weekend, the event is an important part of the social and sporting history of Pongaroa, Doris Peeti told the Dannevirke News.

Doris has been living on Owahanga Station for more than 33 years and the horse sports are a special part of rural life she hopes will always endure.

"The event originally began as a rodeo event, steer riding was the attraction. Now this awesome event has become a fantastic day out for families," she said. "As I walked around the paddock this year I heard the most wonderful comments, such as 'beaut day', 'had a good time and can't wait for next year'. With more and more children involved in the various classes, we're hoping the event will be around forever."

Though the horse sports are highly organised, with a hardworking committee putting in long hours, Doris said the most important element of the day was fun.

"It's a wonderful tradition, with whanau horse trekkers making the ride out from Dannevirke to join in. It's great to see everyone having such a great day. Our focus now is on the children and to see them enjoying the events, each other's company and meeting friends and family, it's marvellous," she said. "They'll be the ones who will have to take up the reins of the event in the future."

The horse sports and rodeo is held in one big paddock at Owahanga Station and Doris said the families gather around their horse trucks tucking into picnics or the famous sports-day hangi. "Yes, a lot of people come for our hangi and up until this year, I was more involved with that so didn't get out and see all that was going on. With hundreds of people laughing, cheering and having fun, the atmosphere is unbelievable," she said.

However, Doris said she didn't ride, and preferred helping with the hangi, until this year when her duties as secretary have kept her busy.

"Along with my husband Paul, who is a general hand at Owahanga Station, the history of the station and the sports, are part of my life," Doris explained. "I went out to Owahanga when my son was 18-months-old. He's now 36 and my husband was here before me. We've seen three managers here. Tom and Kath Fleming left last year after 22 years and now we have young Scott (Somerville)."

Pongaroa residents and station staff put a lot of energy and enthusiasm into the horse sports and rodeo and Doris said they couldn't run the event without the support of sponsors.

And while they wind down from the 73rd sports day and prepare for next year, the committee is also working on restoring an important part of the heritage of the event - adding all the missing names to the numerous cups and trophies.

"It's a passion all of us on the committee have - getting all the winners names engraved on the cups so they won't be forgotten," she said.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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