The day dawned clear, the crowd rolled up ready for family fun and the local favourite won the main event when the rodeo returned to Millers Flat yesterday after a year on hold.

The Millers Flat Rodeo is the third on the calendar after Winchester and Methven at Labour Weekend, and kicks off the Christmas season.

Moa Flat shepherd and Millers Flat Rodeo Club vice-president Clayton Buchanan competed in the open bareback and open bull ride yesterday.

He came third in the open bareback, matching his placing at Winchester, and won the open bull ride with a score of 74 — despite being thrown from his bulls at both the Winchester and Methven Rodeos.

Mr Buchanan said it was his fifth season, and he won the bareback rookie title at the national championships two years ago.

He always wanted to give rodeo a go, but did not have time until he spent a year in Australia working as a cowboy on a cattle station in Kimberley.

The large crowd watches the action from the grassy grandstand. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON

At Moa Flat, the sheep were rounded up using motorbikes and dogs.

He did not come from a rodeo family but there was a love of adrenaline, and his younger brother Josh was a race car driver.

As for the secret to staying on a 1000kg bull, his answer was simple.

“Grit your teeth and hang on and try as hard as you can.”

Millers Flat Rodeo Club secretary Lauren Kitto said the day had been great, as the spectator bank was full and the weather was perfect.

“Everyone is enjoying themselves, but not too much — it’s a really well-behaved crowd.”

St John treated one person in the crowd who was suffering from heat exhaustion but there were no injuries to competitors, crowd members or livestock.

Club president Tom Ward said it was a successful day, as crowds were the biggest they had had in six or seven years.

“Everyone works toward the event throughout the year, fundraising through crutching sheep and selling merchandise.”

Clara Smith has been competing at rodeos for two seasons on her horse Archie. PHOTO: TRACIE BARRETT

Last year’s rodeo had to be cancelled because of Covid, so this was a great day to relaunch it.

“The big finale is the open bull ride at the end, so it was good to see club members competing and winning.”

Most of the horses used at the event were club horses, as well as a few from Wanaka.

The next rodeo of the season will be tomorrow at Omarama, then Te Anau on December 30, Waikouaiti on January 1 and Wanaka on January 2.