Rockhampton national rodeo final hosts Australia’s best cowboys, cowgirls
Barrel racer Trish Johnston is competing in a national rodeo final for the first time in 20 years.
The 58-year-old’s first year of full-time competition was in 1985 when she followed the pro circuit until the mid 90s.
Ms Johnston has made it to 15 national finals, but this year is special.
She’s going head to head with her daughter, Tayla Pierce.
“I did say I was going to retire when she started beating me, but I couldn’t do that because I was still too young,” Ms Johnston said.
“I might have to wait until the grandchildren beat me now.
“I just love it too much.”
The mother and daughter are competing at the Australian Professional Rodeo Association’s National Finals in the ladies barrel racing.
The event brings the country’s best cowboys and cowgirls together to compete across eight events over three days.
This year it’s being hosted in Gracemere at the Central Queensland Livestock Exchange’s Austadium.
Event coordinator Gavin Tickle said it was “some of best rodeo action that you’ll see in Australia”.
“Everything from your timed events, so your roping and barrel racing, right through to all your rough stock, saddle bronc, bare back and bull riding,” he said.
“The Australian Professional Rodeo Association is the highest and [most] prestigious association in Australia, so it really is the best cowboys competing against the best stock.”
Banter and rivalry
Ms Johnston and Ms Pierce have been on the road all year competing at rodeos around the country in the hope of qualifying for the national final.
Ms Pierce said it was incredibly special to have made it to the top 15 alongside her mum.
“It’s great, we have a lot of banter and poke a bit of fun at each other when one of us beats the other,” Ms Pierce said.
“But we’re very supportive, as soon as one of us runs, we’re straight back to the arena to cheer on the other one and help and give support.”
Barrel racing involves riders making a series of sharp turns around three barrels in a cloverleaf pattern.
“Obviously we both want to win, but we want to see the other one do to just as good as well,” she said.
“So far, I’ve got the win and mum’s come second a few times.”
Ms Johnston said she loved the adrenaline rush she felt when entering the ring.
“It just takes over, you just want to go as fast as you can and I just love it with a big crowd, it’s heaps better when there’s a big crowd,” she said.
Rodeo through the ages
Rodeo runs in the blood of the Pierce family, with Tayla and her husband Brad’s children fifth generation competitors.
“I grew up in rodeos and mum and dad both competed full time, so I don’t really know any other way of life,” Ms Pierce said.
“Brad’s great grandfather was one of the founding members of the rodeos in Australia, and they’ve all won Australian saddle bronc riding titles and also my dad he’s an Australian champion as well.
“I love that I can do it with my family we can we can all be competitive … mostly I just love that there’s something for everyone for all our family.”
Ms Pierce’s nine-year-old son Ryder won the mini bull event at the Warwick rodeo a few weeks ago.
“It’s pretty cool and fun, getting on bulls and barrel racing,” he said.
“It can be nervous and pretty exciting too, it’s a bit of both.
“It only hurts a little bit when you buck off, but not much … it’s still fun.”
Katie Pierce, 7, also competes in the barrel race.
“I just got a new horse, Fox,” she said.
“He’s Ryder’s old horse.”
She sad she loved seeing her nan and mum get in the arena and compete.
“It’s pretty amazing.”