Bonnie McLean has always had a passion for rodeo.
"I've got photos of me when I was two years old and younger sitting in front of my dad's saddle and riding horses," she said.
"My dad is a drover and he was a rodeo rider in his younger years so it's always been something that has been part of my life directly or indirectly."
The 23-year-old from Goornoong was crowned the Australian Queen of Rodeo at a special event on the Gold Coast last month.
The Australian Rodeo Queen Quest first started in 1992 and was adopted by the National Rodeo Council of Australia after it recognised there was a need to promote and encourage young women into the sport.
It is an annual competition run by volunteers, which provides education through an annual Rodeo Queen Clinic and fundraising activities.
Ms McLean signed up for the quest in mid-2017 and has spent the past two years doing what she could to make her name know.
"I have been running events around Australia to qualify to become queen," she said. "I attended rodeos and did my general competing and grand entries. It's been really fun."
The final stage of the quest was in Queensland, where Ms McLean and the other finalists went through an interview process. They also had to present a folio of the work they have done throughout the year.
But Ms McLean said the main focus of the event was always on horse riding and horsemanship.
"It's what it's all about really," she said. "They want someone who is a representative of the sport of rodeo. So having someone who competes and is a pretty good horsewoman is really good to have.
"I think rodeo in Australia is such a heritage sport and it's really nice to have someone who is quite versatile for them to represent rodeo in Australia.
"It is a big part of what Australia is, which I don't think many people realise."
Ms McLean said her passion for rodeo had never wavered.
"It's been something I've always really loved," she said. "You put so much hard work and time and effort into training your horse and getting them ready for an event.
"You get to put all that hard work and turn it into play. You have to make it look effortless when you do go to an event. It's a really gratifying experience."
The 23-year-old has a lot of strings to her bow. Along with her new Rodeo Queen title, she is also studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at La Trobe University Bendigo.
But while she ramped up her efforts for the quest, competing in rodeo events had to take a backseat.
"At the moment, I'm pretty slack because I'm at uni," she said. "My horses are very happy out in the paddock, eating a lot of grass at the moment.
"But while I'm studying, I don't usually compete because it's not fair on my horse to just pull her out of the paddock and say she is going to go to an event because she's a bit overweight.
"Usually when you need to get a horse ready for an event, you treat them sort of like an athlete.
"You want them to have a workout five times a week. You wouldn't run them around the barrels every day - you would probably do that once a week maybe, if they're up to that - but it's a real process.
"It's about listening and getting them to be responsive to you first so it's safe for you and the horse."
But while competing hasn't been such a strong focus, the rodeo itself has remained a large part of her life.
"I still go to rodeos and see everyone," she said. "I'll do a grand entry instead, which is when they sing the national anthem and I'll ride the horse with the flag.
"Or I'll just go to support or help. I've done secretary roles and some other roles at the rodeo to help make it easier for everyone."
Ms McLean said her new role as Australia's Rodeo Queen was multifaceted.
"They look for girls that they think will be a good face for the association so you have to be quite a good public figure," she said. "You have to be fairly responsible.
"So I signed up for the quest and learnt what it was all about and got started. And yeah, I've enjoyed it ever since.
"It's been a lot of organising and scheduling, and learning about how to run events. It's been a really good experience and a really good opportunity."
The 23-year-old said her rodeo career had always been well supported by her family and friends. Her recent accolade only boosted their enthusiasm.
"They all think it's really great," she said. "They have supported me a lot throughout this and helped me get to where I am. I wouldn't have been able to do it without any of my friends or family."
As part of her new title, Ms McLean will spend the next year travelling around the world.
"I'll be the rodeo queen for the next 12 months and I will be at all the major rodeo events within our association," she said.
"I will then be going to Canada and then I'll head over to the United States in July. It's going to be really good, I'm so excited."
But while there were those exciting elements to the role, Ms McLean said she also wanted to leave a lasting mark on the sport.
"It's really about representing the National Rodeo Council of Australia and women within rodeo," she said.
"What I hope to do with this next year coming is run events in smaller communities or areas where there might not be a rodeo.
"It's pretty expensive to get into rodeo sometimes. I would like to try and run events that are cost effective so people can just have a go and see what it's all about.
"I think that would be really nice because as opposed to other sports, rodeo doesn't get as much coverage. But it is such a heritage sport of Australia. It's what we're founded on, really."
Ms McLean has encouraged other women and girls to take up the sport of rodeo and join the quest for next year's queen.
"It's opened up so many doors for me to help myself and to help others, which is really nice," she said.
"I was quite shy and probably not quite as confident as other girls, but doing this quest has opened up so many opportunities for me.
"I'm now really confident and happy in myself and in what I have to say. It's a really good way to grow as a person and it's such a really good experience.
"I think everyone should be able to experience things like this."
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.