Omarama shepherd Katey Hill has had a stellar rodeo season
with her young quarter-horse Boots and is leading the
national Rookie of the Year title in barrel racing.
But after such a busy season, with a lot of time spent on the
road, Miss Hill (22) made the decision, due to Boots' young
age, to ''pull him back a bit'' and finish the season on a
She said she was heading to the North Island for several
rodeos this month, but was borrowing a mount, and Boots was
staying at home on the farm.
Having just turned 6, he had done very well and had a long
career in front of him, if she looked after him, she said.
Miss Hill, who had been overwhelmed by the support she had
received this season, described rodeo as being like a
While her goal had been to win the rookie title, she did not
realise Boots would go so well this season. She had broken
into the open competition and while she hoped to one day win
an open title with him, she was in no hurry and intended
starting him slowly again next season.
Boots might be an amazing arena horse when he was on the
rodeo circuit but, when he was at home, he was ''just a stock
She spent a lot of time riding him on the farm and that work
had proven to be very beneficial, particularly as he was a
horse that required continuous work.
''That just makes him,'' she said.
There was a lot of satisfaction involved with producing her
own young horse - although Boots had not always been the most
On her first ride, he bucked her off but she was undeterred -
in fact, she was impressed.
''I was like, 'yes, I'll take this horse . . . this horse had
got potential, he's pretty elevated','' she said, laughing.
In those early years, he was a ''nasty wee thing''.
''He just about snapped my femur, broke my foot ... he used
to want to back up and try and kick you. He wasn't a nice
horse but he's beautiful now,'' she said.
Miss Hill also has a young roping horse and expected she
might also end up doing some team roping next season, and
possibly some calf roping.
She was looking forward to a trip to Taupo to spend some time
with well-known rodeo competitor Bruce Coleman.
Despite coming from a dairy farming background in Canterbury,
Miss Hill has always been passionate about sheep and beef
She spent her first 10 years in Culverden and then moved to
Oxford, where her parents have a dairy farm.
After leaving school, she studied by correspondence for a
diploma in finance and business before heading to the
Northern Territory in Australia to work.
She spent two and a-half years there and that was where she
first started rodeo, having been taken under the wing of a
top rodeo competitor who identified she had both the
potential and the passion to do well.
Working in the outback on a 728,442ha property was tough -
but also amazing.
''It sorted you out from the boys pretty quick,'' she said.
''It breaks you before it makes you. A lot leave when it
breaks you. If you can stick it out for any more than five
months, you're doing bloody well,'' she said.
Very few females lasted on camp - where there were no such
female frivolities as hair brushes or even moisturiser
allowed - ''the only thing you were allowed to take was
sunblock'' - but she was fortunate the property owner treated
her like a daughter.
She was also very clear what she wanted at the end of her
Australian experience - to be able to compete in rodeo, train
her own young horses and also shoe them herself.
''I just wanted to be self-sufficient,'' she said.
She did well in rodeo there and was grateful she got a ''head
start'' from really good people. Miss Hill also did some
steer riding while in Australia and she believed if there was
a women's second division steer riding event at New Zealand
rodeos, it would be surprising how many women would do it,
take it seriously and train for it.
Brought up with motocross bikes and rugby, Miss Hill said her
parents were not particularly supportive when she first
started rodeo - and they hoped it was ''going to be a
phase''. They now realised she was serious about it.
Eighteen months ago, she decided to return to New Zealand and
start her young horse, Boots. She and her partner Sam Forsyth
live in Omarama, where Mr Forsyth manages a property.
Miss Hill was now doing casual work around the area, which
she described as the ''coolest job ever'', accompanied by her
team of dogs.
She did a lot of mustering and yard work and the casual
nature of the work meant it fitted better into her lifestyle,
particularly slotting in rodeos, rather than having a
permanent job. She also enjoyed meeting a lot of different
Mr Forsyth shared her love of rodeo and was also a keen dog
Miss Hill always had her own dogs when she was at school and
she once did a shearing certificate, as, at that stage, she
was keen to be a shearer.
Horses, helicopters and cattle had been her main passion
since she was a child - and sheep and beef always won out
over dairy farming.
That passion was shared by her sister, who was also a
shepherd, while her three brothers were a helicopter pilot, a
contractor and a dairy farmer.
Having packed a lot into her 22 years, Miss Hill said she was
quite sick as a child, with Crohn's disease, and she had
grown up really fast. It also meant she knew her limits.
''I'm really good at putting way too much pressure on myself.
It's just been 100 miles an hour all my life but my family
are like that as well. We've always been pushed and always
been pushed out of our comfort zone,'' she said.
They had also been encouraged to do everything themselves
which she believed was ''the best way''.
''Makes you a better person, I reckon,'' she said.