Her goal was to finish in the top four.

Instead, Alexandra's Sky Sanders had secured a national rodeo title before the season was complete.

The 11-year-old will receive her winning jacket and crest at an awards function in Rangiora next month.

It has been an impressive year for the Terrace School pupil who finished atop the New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association junior standings with 530 points.


She was named junior barrel race champion at the 2018-19 season's final rodeo event in Waimate last weekend.

"I was very excited,'' Sanders said.

"I've been quite consistent.''

Her mother, Shelly Sanders, said she knew a couple of weeks beforehand that it would be "near impossible'' for anyone to catch her.

"Sky didn't really know,'' she said.

"She had an idea, but we just didn't want to put that pressure on her. She rides because she loves it.''

Sanders has been enjoying a steady rise on horseback since she began competing in 2016.

She finished third in the junior barrel standings last year and also represented New Zealand at the Australian National Rodeo Association show in Queensland in May, 2018.


For her mother, the proudest moment came during the Wairoa Rodeo last month, when she put the health of her horse, Cougar, before her title ambitions.

"Cougar had stood on something at the last rodeo and was a bit sore.

"Sky decided it was not worth [Cougar] getting hurt and asked if she could ride my horse.

"That's what made us proud more than anything, her making that decision. Because she's competitive.''

At the Wairoa Rodeo on January 19, Sanders was a fraction of a second off first place on Dodge who had not done a rodeo in more than a year.

A day later, she was back on Cougar, winning the Upper Mohaka Rodeo.