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In the dust . . . Zoe Johnston (14), of Queenstown, digs her heels in around a barrel. PHOTO: SIDELINE PHOTOGRAPHY & DESIGN

Organisers of the South Island Barrel Racing and Pole Bending Championships are glad they put their ‘‘big girl pants on’’ and got on with the job.

The competition, held in Waimate for the first time last weekend, could have easily succumbed to Covid› 19 restrictions, but organisers worked hard through the protocols and had a good bubble system to get by.

Organiser Henrietta Purvis said it was ‘‘so worthwhile’’ hosting the event, which attracted more than 80 competitors from Nelson to Invercargill.

‘‘It was just seeing the smiles on everybody’s faces,’’ Mrs Purvis said.

‘‘From the first competitor who went in the ring at 9.30am, people were cheering and supporting — it was just the happiness that was around.’’

It was the first time the two›day competition had overall winners for consistency across the competition.

Caitlyn Hey, of Oxford, won the overall adult saddle while Brooke Atkinson, of Middlemarch, won the overall junior saddle.

Refreshments . . . Scarlett Harborne (8), of Waimate, takes a break from the competition.

Southern Barrel Racing took top honours in the team competitions.

Barrel racing and pole bending was a ‘‘fast-growing sport’’ and it was great to see so many people getting involved in the weekend’s event, Mrs Purvis said.

‘‘We’re getting lots of newcomers coming on board.’’

Competitors and sponsors spoke highly of the Waimate Showgrounds and Mrs Purvis said she would love nothing more than to host the competition in the South Canterbury town again.

‘‘It’s so beautiful, so much space and it’s a great facility that North Otago or South Canterbury is so lucky to have on its doorstep.’’