Local riders stood out when the Far North leg of the 2012/13 national rodeo circuit hit Kaitaia on Wednesday.
Notable performances in the open divisions included: Kaitaia's Kary Robertson and Kim Coulter were second and third respectively in the barrel racing from a strong, quality field of 23 riders; Broadwood's Daniel McCready was second in steer wrestling and third - in a field of three - in the saddle bronc; and Mat Lanigan from Mangamuka was third in the steer wrestling, son Klay won the second division saddle bronc while Klay's younger brother, Bradley, won the junior steer ride. The payouts ranged from $376 for Kary to $40 for Bradley.
One local rider particularly conspicuous by his absence at Kaitaia was Ramoan Neho of Te Kao who suffered what could well be a season-ending injury when his index finger was crushed by a bull at the Warkworth rodeo on Tuesday.
The injury came when Neho, the NZRCA Saddle Bronc Champion for the 2011/12 season, was helping free a rider in the bullpen. The popular and talented cowboy was reportedly undergoing surgery at Middlemore Hospital during the Kaitaia rodeo where it was obvious the injury had cast pall over proceedings for many.
Other events in Kaitaia included the bareback, rope and tie, team roping and the main event, the bull ride, which was won by Darren Walton on Silver Dollar.
The Masterton man was the sole survivor from a field of 11, the only one to complete a winning ride on the notorious bucking brahman bulls of Umawera farmer and rodeo exponent, Chris McGarry. Walton was clearly stoked with his victory, and delivered a crushing handshake to anyone who cared to congratulate him. So, did it hurt? Was it fun?
"It's always hurts ... It's always good fun. But you don't get money for falling off," he noted in true, laconic cowboy fashion.
The field was notably smaller at Kaitaia than previous years (not including last year which was rained off), partly due to the sheer number of events faced by contestants during the busy summer season circuit, and rodeo's notorious reputation as a brutal sport of high attrition.
Many riders in Kaitaia were carrying injury of some sort or another, with ice bags and strapping abundant and on all sorts of places on the body.
Aye, but the show must go on. For a good number, Kaitaia was the sixth rodeo in as many days. Like the Lanigan whanau where patriarch Mat noted he and his two sons had "picked up" at all six events, meaning they had won money by placing in the top three of whatever event they were contesting.
The road was surely not getting any shorter any time soon for the family as they packed up from Kaitaia and headed for the Oruru Valley and Umawera rodeos being held yesterday and today before heading further afield in coming weeks in a well prepared campaign to maintain their respective standing on the national rankings.
As the circus left town, organisers of the Kaitaia rodeo were last seen asking whether anyone had seen a runaway bull which broke through a fence and apparently trotted out of the venue and down the main road.
"Last seen heading towards McDonald's," one wiseacre suggested.