Rodeo rider's success dedicated to mother

At home on the farm ... Jenny Atkinson has won a record six national barrel racing titles. PHOTO:...
At home on the farm ... Jenny Atkinson has won a record six national barrel racing titles. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
When Jenny Atkinson won her record sixth national barrel racing title this month, it was a poignant moment.

Mrs Atkinson (44) dedicated the win at the national rodeo finals to her mother, Ann, Ashford, who died in July last year.

And she was delighted to have her father, Ron, in the crowd at Wanaka to watch her ride to victory.

The Middlemarch cowgirl has been competing at rodeos since she was 12 and won her first title in 1994.

Describing herself as "pretty competitive'' by nature, she put the work in and her goal was also to win a national title, she said.

In the past rodeo season, she had travelled the length of New Zealand, from Kaitaia to Invercargill, to compete.

She was originally from the North Island and she and her steer wrestling husband, Stacey, decided to "take a trip down memory lane'' after her mother's death.

They headed north to spend time with her father and family and made a family holiday out of it, taking their children Brooke (7) and Chad (5) to the rodeos she grew up with.

She had been going to rodeos since she was a child, initially to support her brother who was competing, and her parents had always been very supportive of their children's interest.

"It would be nothing for Mum to pull me from one end of the country to the other if Dad had other work commitments,'' she said.

Her brother, Dave Ashford, held the record for the most bronc titles - ``I've still got a few to catch up on him,'' she said.

Mrs Atkinson's victory this year was particularly special as she had bred, broken-in and trained her horse, Methven.

"That was kind of cool ... to know I'd taken him right from day dot basically,'' she said.

Methven, a 9yr-old first-cross quarter-horse, was in only his third season competing and had years ahead of him.

"He's the sort of horse that gives you his all and leaves everything in the arena,'' she said.

The 2018-19 rodeo season was already under way. Mr Atkinson took Methven up to a rodeo at Raetihi at the weekend, met his wife off the plane in Wellington and they then travelled to it together.

When it came to being successful at rodeo, it was probably every bit as much about use of mind power as it was physical ability, Mrs Atkinson said.

You needed to be able to handle situations and focus on the job at hand, while also staying calm so that was transferred to the horse.

Methven was treated like a top-performance athlete, including massages and ice on his legs at rodeos.

While she loved the competitive aspect, probably the best thing about barrel racing and rodeos was the family aspect and ``amazing'' camaraderie, she said.

When she rode into the arena, it was ``game on'' and that competitive nature did not matter whether she was competing against her best friend - she was going out to win - but she was also hoping that they would do the best they could as well.

Brooke was riding her mother's back-up barrel racing horse Bear and would be competing at some jackpot rodeos this season.

Chad was keen on roping dummies and he and his mother struck a bit of a deal this year - she would teach him how to ride and he would teach her how to rope.

Methven was also named barrel race horse of the year in the NFR awards, while Bruce Thomas' horse Chopper, from Middlemarch, was rope and tie horse of the year.

Central Otago's Stu Moore was pick-up rider of the year.




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