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Jul 28, 201111:59 AMEditor's Blog

Good Fun, Animal Abuse or Child Abuse?

Jul 28, 2011 - 11:59 AM

I just read an article in the New York Times about Mutton Busting. Mutton Busting consists of usually 3- to 6-year-old kids riding a sheep until they fall off.  Kind of like a woollier, smaller version of bull riding. I’ve heard of this before. Kids who grow up in rural communities ride sheep for kicks (excuse the pun).  But evidently sheep riding is becoming a larger competitive “sport.”


One of the parents interviewed in the article said that it’s the antithesis to the overprotective, sanitized brand of parenting where kids don’t experience risk or failure, much less get dirty. She said they learn a lot of great things from mutton riding, and that improves her son’s self-esteem because he’s small.  Aren’t most 4-year-olds small?


Another mom (from Massachusetts, of course) calls the practice child abuse.  The mutton-rider moms write her off as some kind of east coast pansy.


The article describes the “holding pens” for the pint-size riders as a big bawl-fest. The kids are scared to death, especially when they see their fellow competitors covered with blood spurting from their noses.  And it can’t feel good to be a 3-year-old and have a 150-pound sheep fall down on you.


I don’t know, call me old-fashioned or over-protective, but It’s not something I would have wanted my toddler to do.  I mean, it’s one thing to allow your 6-year-old to ride a bike (with a helmet, of course) without training wheels at the risk of falling, and another thing to put your kid on top of a 150-pound animal that could step on his or her chest.


What do you think? Would you let your kid compete in Mutton Busting? Are we too overprotective with our kids these days?



Old to new | New to old
Jul 28, 2011 01:06 pm
 Posted by  ARodgers

You are not over-protective or old-fashioned, this is really, really bad and the mom who thinks it helps her child's self-esteem is absolutely crazy! I don't think you should ever force a child to do something if they're scared, especially when it's something as stupid as this.

Aug 8, 2011 02:10 am
 Posted by  twinmom

My now seven year old son has rode sheep since he was four. Yes we live in "rural" Oklahoma and his Dad has rode bulls for years. As far as animal abuse, there is NOTHING about the sport, yes I said sport, that hurts these sheep. Therefore, maybe that time should be spent on actually helping animals that are being mistreated. The thought that it could even possibly be considered child abuse blows my mind. People who don't understand something or are ignorant to the facts of something immediately want to pass judgement. Here are some facts: some children do it for fun, called exhibition, and some do this as a sport, the mutton busters pay entry fees to enter, some use ropes other hang on to the wool, and there is equipment available (including vests and helmets) that you can get for your child. When the kids fall off, it is on dirt, not pavement. Can someone get hurt? Yes. Yet it is no different than a first grader playing tackle football or any other sport. My child loves riding. He goes to practice once a week and rides most weekends. He has won quite a bit of cash and, as of this posting, three buckles. I invite anyone who hasn't witnessed mutton bustin to go to an event and watch these kids as they are the future of the bull riding sport. I am more than happy to loan my sons equipment if we are at an event and a child without equipment wants to ride. I ask that these people take time to research things fully before passing judgement, especially when making such accusations as child abuse regarding a sport.

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Our editor-in-chief, Betty started working for TulsaKids when her youngest child was 3 years old. That daughter will be starting graduate school in the fall. Her son is now 27 and her middle daughter is 24. TulsaKids and her children literally grew up together (and she lived to tell about it)! Betty is an avid runner, cook (loves to eat) and coffee snob. She is an award-winning writer and most recently was honored with a Great Plains Journalism Award as Best Blogger of 2013. Last year, she wrote and illustrated her first children’s book, “May Finds Her Way” (2013 The RoadRunner Press). Watch for her every Tuesday on KTUL Channel 8’s Good Morning Oklahoma and Thursdays on KTUL’s Good Day Tulsa.

She enjoys getting reader feedback on articles, blogs or with suggestions for the magazine. Email her at editor@tulsakids.com

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