Rodeo will always have a place in Rhondine Long's heart, even well after she retires from active competition.

However, given her recent results, that will not be happening any time soon.

Based just south of Oamaru, she won the barrel race and barrel racing horse of the year titles at the recent New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association national rodeo finals, hosted by the Canterbury Rodeo Club at the Mandeville Sports Grounds near Rangiora.

She also finished fourth in the overall standings, having competed in the team rope discipline.

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Long had already sewn up the barrel racing title, heading into the finals by virtue of her win in the penultimate round at Mataura.

However, that did not mean she took it easy.

In the end, it was another convincing win with 10-year-old horse Roc.

''In our first go round we knocked a drum, but that was rider error. I hadn't ridden him hard enough into that second drum,'' she said.

''But, the second go round we did the fastest time of the final, that was in 17.24s.''

Long was delighted with the result and said it was all down to the relationship she had forged with Roc, with whom she has competed on for about seven years and had now won four national horse of the year crowns.

''I need him to be able to move on one of my cues within an inch going at full speed. He's very well schooled and I can put him pretty much anywhere I need him to be. If we make a mistake . . . it's generally rider error. He's a superstar, I've never had a horse like him.''

Long has been involved in the sport since she was a child, following in the footsteps of her mother and father who also competed, both in New Zealand and in Australia.

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Her father died when she was 16. And she stopped riding for about two years after the birth of son Elih before the desire to jump back in the saddle became to strong to resist.

Elih (15) is also proving adept in the sport and finished third in the novice steer ride standings for the season.

At the Lawrence Rodeo, Long took the open barrel race in 16.612sec, while Elih won the novice steer ride.

''I have never been so proud. I'm very proud of my son. He's paid his dues . . . he's made it up through the ranks and rode like a little champion.''

When the time came for her to hang up the saddle, she said she would still be on hand to support him and the other young people on the rodeo scene that she treated as her own.

''If there's room in the truck, they'll be with me. It's like a big family.''