From backpacking to bulldogging – Australia’s only female steer wrestler wows Isa rodeo crowd

German student and former backpacker Eileen Ostwald is the first woman to ever steer wrestle in the 56 year history of the mighty Isa Rodeo.

The first woman in Australia to compete in the adrenalin-charged steer wrestling event, the 21 year old made her Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo debut, successfully catching her steer after leaning from her horse at full gallop, but couldn’t quite roll it to the ground.

Eileen took a break from her medical studies to backpack around Australia, and met her now partner, Northern Territory horseman Johno Ostwald 18 months ago, who taught her how to steer wrestle, which is also know as bull dogging.

“I thought it’s something different, I like a bit of a challenge,” she said. “I’m going to give it a go. Lots of old cowboys tell me they’ve never seen it in Australia.”

It took four months of Eileen jumping from a Landcruiser (“the horse”) onto a quad bike towing a practice device called a steer saver (“the steer”). “Bruises everywhere,” she said. “I wouldn’t go on a horse before they said I was ready.”

Isa Rodeo Arena Director Steve Hilton said steer wrestling was the quickest of the rodeo events, requiring strength, speed and timing to complete the task in five seconds.  “I’ve rodeo’d in five countries and never seen a lady steer wrestler,” he said. “She gave it her best, caught the steer but it was probably just too strong for her. She’s got to be proud of her efforts, she got more done than a lot of the blokes (in the event).”

Love of a challenge is something the couple share – in 2006, Johno and his then partner completed a 3,000km horseback trek across the top end of Australia (from Broome to Cairns) to raise money for the charity, Angel Flight which co-ordinated free non-emergency flights for patients and their carers to medical facilities anywhere in Australia.

The couple drove 1,600km from their home at Bees Creek, outside Darwin to both compete in the steer wrestling at the Isa Rodeo, and admit they have a friendly rivalry. “We know we can’t win here (in Mount Isa) as there are too many champion riders, but in our next round all she wants to beat is me,” said Johno.

Eileen said she planned to keep competing in the steer wrestling event. “I had never ridden out of a chute like the one in Mount Isa,” she said. “It’s an awesome arena.”

Steer wrestling as a rodeo event must be completed within five seconds for the rider to score. The steer is released and the rider charges after it, leaning from their horse to grasp the steer’s horns. The rider then dismounts and uses their feet to stop the steer’s forward momentum before rolling the steer to the ground. A “hazer” rides alongside to keep the steer running straight.

The three-day rodeo, the largest in the southern hemisphere, will finish today (Sunday, August 10).

The Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo won the Festival & Events category of the prestigious 2013 Queensland Tourism Awards and was a finalist at the Australian Tourism Awards for the second consecutive year.

For more information visit www.isarodeo.com.au or phone (07) 4743 2706.  Follow us on www.facebook.com/isarodeowww.twitter.com/isarodeo and www.youtube.com/mountisarotaryrodeo     For accommodation and holiday ideas visit http://www.queenslandholidays.com.au/destinations/outback/

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