Rodeo strengthens bonds

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There is a special bond between a mother and son.

For Rhondine and Elih Long, their bond has been unbreakable from the start, and after the Lawrence Rodeo last weekend they now share even more – winning a rodeo together.

Long took out the open barrel race in 16.612sec, while 15-year-old Elih won the novice steer ride.

“One kid and one horse – we go everywhere together,” Long said.

“[Last] weekend was the best weekend – Elih and I have never won a rodeo together before.”

Long moved to Oamaru from Wanaka six months ago and, it would seem, the move has paid off.

This has been one of her most successful rodeo seasons to date, as she leads the national open barrel racing standings.

“This year, I made sure that child, me and horse were all in a good head space, because your mental game has a lot to do with it – your pony can only do so much,” she said.

After a successful Christmas rodeo circuit, she was back at work at AsureQuality on Monday, but remained focused on the national finals with her horse Roc on March 9.

“I’m hoping by the time we head to the finals, we’re untouchable,” she said.

“Normally that’d sound quite arrogant, but [Roc] has done it before.

“Realistically, my goal is for [Roc] to just run good, honest patterns and for me to ride properly.”

Long grew up at the rodeo.

Her father was a rider, as was her mother – that was where they met.

“My mum and dad did it – my dad rodeoed in New Zealand and over in Australia for years,” she said.

“We moved over to New Zealand when I was about 10 and bought a couple of horses and away we went again.”

Long’s father passed away when she was 16 and she stopped riding for a while after that when she had her son Elih.

About six years ago, a friend offered her a horse to train, with the option to buy. She ended up in the national finals with him and has never looked back.

All the horses she had ridden over the years were special, but Roc was one of a kind.

“Anything that you’re going to try to gallop around drums and turn on a dime has got to be a friend of yours,” she said.

“I’ve just never had anything with the honesty that [Roc] has.

“He’s my wee superstar.”

She was also “well proud”of her son Elih’s success in the novice steer ride.

He is part of the New Zealand high school rodeo team and will compete in a transtasman competition in Invercargill next week.

Every rodeo was different, but Omarama was always a favourite, she said.

“It’s a fast track, and this year I did my very first 15-second run there. I was pretty stoked.”

As a former national champion, Long had felt a lot of pressure over the years, but had grown from that.

“I just learnt how to dig deep, play by the rules – and the good guy always wins, that’s what happens in the movies,” she said.

“It’s all about your mindset.”

Long’s love of barrel racing came from the adrenaline.

“It’s the fact that we can have so much control and trust in such a big animal – and go so fast,” she said.

Of course, she had always come across people who did not like rodeos.

“I remember being 10 and taking posters off cars in a car park at the Methven Rodeo – that was 30 years ago,” she said.

Protesters had their beliefs, and she respected that.

“It’s just the misinformation that comes out,” she said.

“We look after our animals . I don’t know one person in rodeo that would mistreat an animal and I know if there was somebody who ever did, it would be very much frowned upon.”