Good Fun, Animal Abuse or Child Abuse?

Would you let your child ride a sheep?

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 of Mutton Busting 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?

Categories: Editor’s Blog