It was a day filled with thrills and spills at the annual Upper Mohaka Rodeo yesterday.

About 100 competitors, including some from as far afield as Australia, entered the rodeo which has become one of the highlights on the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association 2nd Division circuit.

A crowd of 1500 turned out for the event. Families brought picnics and relaxed in the picturesque setting on the Napier-Taupo Highway.

Scorching sun beamed on the crowd as they queued for Mr Whippy to escape the heat.


The competition was just as hot with some of the country's top cowboys showcasing their skills in horse and calf riding, bull riding and barrel racing.

Damien Rata of Whangarei has been riding for just under a year and competed in the junior steer ride yesterday.

Despite not placing in the event, the 14-year-old was thrilled he managed to hold on for the 6 seconds.

"I think I went pretty good."

He said the only downside to riding was occasionally getting trodden on.

"It really hurts when they stand on you," he said.

The Northland cowboy said he had grown up around animals and had a deep love and respect for them.

"If you are nice to animals, they will be nice to you."

Sporting a badly bruised bum, Palmerston North's Jarrod Murray said he took one of the harder falls of his career yesterday.

"The bull was really going for it and once I went airborne, I knew I was in for a rough landing."

There were no serious injuries to any competitors on the day although there were some spectacular tumbles.

Animal advocacy groups Safe, SPCA and Farmwatch launched a petition in July calling for a nationwide rodeo ban. Whangarei rodeo attracted protesters earlier this month. There was not a protester in sight at the Upper Mohaka event.