An experienced cowboy was knocked unconscious and suffered possible spinal injuries at the Outram Rodeo yesterday.
Cam Billing, of Te Awamutu, was airlifted by the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter, after his horse reared in a stall as the gate opened for his ride in the open saddle bronc competition.
"The horse reared and slammed him into the back of the chutes. It wasn't him getting bucked off that caused the injury. He was injured before he even came out," Fred Doherty, of the Outram Rodeo, said last night.
The cowboy, who was not wearing protective headgear, came off his horse just metres after the bucking horse left the chute.
The announcer could be heard calling for immediate assistance from St John ambulance staff, who was initially assisted by fellow cowboys and officials.
He was later taken from the rodeo ring by ambulance to a nearby car park, where he was picked up by helicopter and taken to Dunedin Hospital.
St John spokesman Ian Henderson said Mr Billing suffered "serious injuries, including possible spinal injuries".
He was still being assessed in the emergency department last night.
Mr Doherty said the injured cowboy was an experienced rider, who had returned this season after a break.
"It is one of those things that happen. A rodeo is inherently dangerous, I guess, and we don't like to see things like that happen, but occasionally it does."
Earlier in the open saddle bronc competition, judge Johnny Robinson, of Lawrence, sustained a minor leg injury after being hit by a horse that had just bucked off its rider.
The annual Outram Rodeo attracted several thousand spectators and "from a club's point of view we are happy with how things went, but we didn't like to see those couple of injuries".