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Riding high .. Steph White, with Doc, and Craig Robson, with Nav, involve their daughters Ruby (1) and Pippa (4) in their rodeo activities. Pippa, riding Chester, is hoping to be able to compete at Waimate. PHOTO: SALLY BROOKER

Rodeo riding is a family affair for a Kakanui couple.

Steph White and Craig Robson are itching to get to the Waimate Rodeo on Sunday with daughters Pippa (4) and Ruby (1).

Steph will contest the barrel racing on Doc, while Craig takes on team roping with Graeme Purvis, of Waianakarua.

Pippa is ready to compete, too. She has formed a formidable partnership with Chester, a pony rescued from the knacker’s yard and supposedly in his retirement.

Not only did they outstrip Craig on his stallion, Nav, while racing across a paddock, but Pippa can also ride with both arms outstretched and can stand in her riding boots behind the saddle on Chester’s back.

Steph is a strong defender of rodeo as a pastime and for what it is teaching her children.

For many years, she refused to accompany her friends to the Omarama Rodeo.

“Then in 2008 I didn’t want to be left behind so went, and was blown away by the beauty and power of all the animals, and the skill, kindness and compassion of all the cowboys and cowgirls.

“It was nothing like I had expected.”

Steph said the rodeo regulars were like a family, supporting each other and helping newcomers to take up the sport. They came from “all walks of life”.

“One of my good friends is a nurse and one is an osteopath, well educated and caring and great contributors to New Zealand society.”

Pippa was “learning so many valuable things – responsibility, kindness, good sportsmanship, resilience, patience, and respect for animals”.

“Rodeos are an extremely important part of rural life,” Steph said.

“There is so much misinformation out there about the way animals are treated at rodeos, which just isn’t the case.

“These animals aren’t abused, they are magnificent. The stock that perform in rodeos are incredibly well looked after and love their job.

“I respect that some people have a different opinion but I just wish they were better informed, and I think the problem really does come from the widening gap of rural and urban communities in New Zealand.”

The Waimate Rodeo was “such a lovely family-oriented rodeo, with trees for shade and a gorgeous grassy bank to get the best view from”, Steph said.

Waimate Rodeo Club secretary Lynne Couper is optimistic and excited about Sunday.

“It’ll be a good time.”

This year’s event was aimed at children, she said. For the first time, those under the age of 12 would get in free and a new bouncy castle had been added to the attractions.

Police would be called to remove protesters if any turned up, Mrs Couper said.

“We always run a good rodeo.” – Additional reporting Tyson Young