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More than three decades is a long time for any rodeo cowboy and the glory they chase is over in seconds but Bert Elstob would not have it any other way.
The Otautau man was confident of a place after competing alongside daughter Brooke Elstob, of Lake Hawea, in the team roping event at the 57th Millers Flat Rodeo on Boxing Day.
It was not to be but for Mr Elstob the roar of the 1200 strong crowd at Saturday’s event was enough.
Competing with his daughter was an added bonus, he said.
"It’s the best buzz ever."
That buzz is what has kept him coming back for 35 years.
A two-time national title holder, he described rodeo as a family and he had instilled that vibe in his three children and his granddaughter, who was "going to be starting soon".
Inter-generational rodeo ties were strong and rodeo almost became a rite of passage.
"There’s a lot of family ties in rodeo.
"Everyone looks after everyone’s kids — everyone looks after each other."
Looking out for one another extended to the horses.
"If, for whatever reason, you need a different horse, one of the fellas will give you theirs.
"That’s what we call the law of cowboy justice."
New Zealand Rodeo Cowboys Association president Lyal Cocks agreed and said the rodeo circuit meant family connections ran deep and those bonds were forged on the road.
"It’s very much a family sport — it’s a lifestyle thing.
"They move around, whole families and groups of friends that move from one rodeo to another."
Rodeo was a sport open to anyone with the ability, he said.
"There’s no bias on age or gender — for example team roping.
"There’s not many sports events in New Zealand where you get that flexibility."
An example was Amanda Batt, of Cave, who took on an all-male line-up of competitors in the novice steer ride. She was one of about 190 competitors at this year’s event, which marked the restart of the season.
Back-to-back rodeos were scheduled throughout the country, Mr Cocks said.
"It’s pretty intense from here on in."
A common misconception was the livestock were fresh to rodeo but the calves, steers, broncs, and bulls were experienced.
Handled by contractors they travelled the rodeo circuit just like the competitors, Mr Cocks said.
Yesterday, competitors — and the livestock — were to take part in the Maniototo Rodeo at Waipiata, but the event was postponed due to a muddy arena.