Monday, January 10, 2011

Wanaka Rodeo

Last night I stayed at Matterhorn south, which had a nice vibe. The TV room was full of Israelis and French speaking their respective languages in little clusters, but the kitchen had a big group of odd-looking Canadian college kids playing cards. The girls all had half-shaved heads etc. Things drifted into a game of slap-nose, but the girl who lost was so scared they all just gave her little love-taps with her deck of cards.

In the morning I went to the rodeo. It was awesome. Things started out with perfect weather and the 2nd division- entertaining due to the number of falls and mishaps. I was hoping to see a woman in the bull- or broncho-riding events, or even in steer wrestling, but they were only in course-races. And there were quite a lot of female contestants in those. The first one out was a little thing in a bright green shirt. She spurred her mount hard and bounced around so much I was amazed she stayed on and figured that must have been what I looked like on the Dart Stables horse. Second class had steer-riding, steer roping, steer wrestling (fun to watch), 2-person steer roping (featuring several husband-and-wife teams and one father and son team with a 14 yr old, broncho riding, and the barrel course. Some really little kids did the barrel race- the youngest looked about six and fell off at the end. He was carried off crying into daddy’s shoulder. NZ is awesome, have I mentioned that? Around the time the second division ended, it started to pour rain. Of course the hardy kiwis just stayed for the most part, many of them just sitting out getting soaked in sweatshirts and shorts. There were a lot of romantic old-timey-looking types in dusters and cowboy hats. One woman I sat near was telling stories about breaking her back and being medevaced by the Flying Doctors. First Division was quite exciting. I went down off the hill and took up a position right next to the ring to watch the riders’ technique. The broncho riders really got tossed around- made me want to try it! Most of them leaned way back, almost laying on the horses’ back. Most, but not all, made the requisite eight seconds, and were awarded points based on skill and style. Some of the horses made a lot of noise kicking at their pens, and a couple burst forth on two hind legs, rearing high as soon as they had room. More than one rider was stepped on, but none spent more than a couple minutes doubled over in pain afterwards… The highlight of the rodeo came last- the bull riders. The bulls were big and looked like they were made of pure muscle. They averaged 1500 lbs. A couple guys ended up getting stepped on here too, but didn’t seem to suffer any permanent injury. They had only a rope wound round the bull’s middle to hold on to. After they fell most bulls would continue bucking until the rope came off too, giving the rider some time to move away. When a bull went for the rider, the young, nimble bull fighters (dressed in rugby uniforms, what else?) would deftly distract him, working in teams to allow each other to escape if the bull came to close. Everyone was wary of these animals, leaping up onto the fence if one came to close. One bull went into a rage and rolled a barrel all around the ring, which was hilarious. They were all worked up and great strings of snot hung from their noses. A lot of the games seemed cruel to the livestock, but then again I suppose they’re all destined for the meat market soon anyway. At times throughout the day the bull fighters would have a hard time getting one back into the pens, and the announcer and his friend would clown around and entertain the audience with unflagging energy. Of course this included a few oaths, dirty jokes, kissing of random ladies, and buttock-baring, in spite of the family venue! I’m very excited to start riding now. My first lesson is the day after tomorrow, and I’ll be telling her I’m interested in riding fast and jumping.

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