“Mutton-Busting,” Where Little Kids Ride Sheep Like Bull Riders, Is A Thing That Happens
From The New York Times comes the story of one of the more...unique sports to come along...and not just because of the name. That sport: mutton busting (or mutton bustin'). It involves little kids riding sheep. You know, like they're bull riders. Awwwwwwww, you think. Little kids doing a thing like grown-ups, only a miniaturized version of it. And then, you might think: ...holy crap, wait a minute, kids are riding sheep like they're bull riders?!
That's what we thought, at least. We should point out that while it seems that mutton busting, in terms of sporting history in America, is relatively new - this book, traces it back to the 1980s, at least in competitions (thanks, Wikipedia) - it's not brand new. In fact, Sarah Maslin Nir, who wrote the Times piece, says it's "long been a pastime of rambunctious rural children." But its emergence as a (somewhat) more mainstream event is still ongoing, and there are some conflicting feelings about that.
We can see both sides' arguments. One parent of a mutton buster, Meredith Templin, raved about what the sport has done for her son's self-esteem, as well as how it's a counterpoint to "this age where we sanitize our kids’ hands every 30 seconds." Another woman who witnessed a mutton-busting event, Stacey Berry, said that while it was "a fun idea," it also, in her mind, "definitely borders on child abuse." It's not the kids who do this go in completely unprotected, though: Maslin Nir says common mutton busting attire includes "helmets with face cages and protective vests." Not that that makes them immune to injury, but most are "of the schoolyard variety" - though one mutton buster's mother said her son once broke his ankle while practicing.
He's still doing it, though, and injury potential exists no matter what physical activity you're performing. (That even goes for the sheep the kids ride, which apparently sometimes sustain sprained limbs, but measures are taken to protect their well-being as well.) The thing separating mutton-busting, though, is these kids are guaranteed to eventually get thrown of a sheep that - comparatively speaking, anyway - doesn't really know what it's doing. It seems like this sport is just asking to eventually produce a serious injury that will make tons of people question whether it should even exist.
But again, the same could go for any number of youth sports (you can play Pop Warner football when you're five years old). It comes down to personal choice. If your kid wants to do it, is reasonably capable physically, and is wearing that helmet and protective vest, hey, maybe it's a perfect fit. If you're in the "borders on child abuse" camp, hey, your kid can do something else. We're not here to tell anyone what to do - well, except that whole "mutton busting as part of rodeo events" thing. Watching little kids get thrown of sheep for pure entertainment purposes is a little beyond our comfort zone.
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