Mutton bustin’: A wild and woolly ride | SierraSun.com

Mutton bustin’: A wild and woolly ride

Sierra Countis
Sierra Sun

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunHayden Sumner, above, gets bucked by a speedy sheep during the Mutton Bustin' event at the Truckee Rodeo on Saturday.

Ryan Murphy, 8, is already a retired champion.

On Saturday at McIver Arena, Murphy showed off the belt buckle he won at last year’s Truckee Rodeo in the mutton bustin’ event. Murphy, the “Wool Riders Only 2005 Champion,” said his goal this year would again be not to fall off the animal he’s riding.

“I sit on the sheep backwards,” Murphy said about his mutton-bustin’ technique. “You get a better grip.”

There were plenty of spectators gathered at the rodeo Saturday to watch Murphy and other children grab hold of a sheep and hold on for as long as possible. Parents and their kids dressed the part of cowboys and cowgirls sporting boots, straw hats, handkerchiefs and belt buckles. Many of the children anxiously waited at the gates with their mutton bustin’ numbers pinned to the back of their shirts.

Two sisters from Sacramento, Carmen and Emalee Sault, said they’ve both been waiting to get a chance to try mutton bustin’. Eight-year-old Carmen said she rides horses and wasn’t scared to try riding sheep. Emalee, 7, listened to the champ’s riding instructions closely beforehand to gain a few pointers.

There were no prior instructions for the children as they strapped on their helmets and climbed onto the woolly sheep that were approximately twice their size.

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To participate in mutton bustin’ children have to be between the ages of 4 to 8 and weigh no more than 60 pounds.

For Murphy, he’ll “have to retire” after this year because he weighs 59 pounds.

The first boy out of the gates lasted 2.59 seconds before being tossed into the thick mud in the arena.

As the reigning champ latched onto his sheep, the announcer laughed, “He’s gonna ride backwards!”

Hugging the animal with all his might, the chute opened and cowboy clowns kept the stubborn sheep moving after it stopped in the center of the arena. Nonetheless, Murphy managed to stay on for 22 seconds, winning the title of the mutton bustin’ champion for the second year in a row.

The Sault sisters both followed Murphy, employing his unorthodox riding position.

“It was fun,” Carmen said, with dirt sprinkled on the tip of her nose. “I’m like, I’ll stay on backwards.”

Carmen’s 6.9 second ride secured her a third place finish. Jose Contreras, 5, came in a close second place with 19.3 seconds.

One rider “got the wind knocked out of him good” when he fell off the sheep, the announcer reported, but the rider regrouped quickly to join the rest of the sheep riders for the award ceremony, which was met with cheers from the audience.