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Happy Trails with Dawni O’Bryan: Cowboying Outside the Box

By Dawni O'Bryan

March 8, 2024

Rodeo and most equestrian events are considered “cowboying” and are part of the wild west in nature. Man versus beast or man in partnership with beast put into competition is always challenging and entertaining. However, there are a few activities that I would consider outside of the box.

Number one is “Whiplash,” the cowboy monkey. Whiplash is a Capuchin monkey that was born in 1987 and has ridden since he was 2 years old and is now aboard a border collie named “Boogie.” Whiplash was trained by animal trainer Tommy Lucia and is owned by Kenny Petet and performs at rodeos as a specialty act. The cowboy monkey and his mount, herd Barbados sheep for a demonstration between rodeo events. He has appeared in advertisements for the fast-food restaurant, Taco John’s, made an appearance on ESPN, Good Morning America, and The Today Show. His act was voted three-time Pro Rodeo Entertainer of the Year and is obviously a fan favorite.

Photo credit: Steve Sunday Photo

Number two is the event of skijoring. Skijoring is a winter sport in which a person on skis is pulled by a horse through a course, sometimes with obstacles, sometimes without. A rope is tied to the saddle horn and is draped over the rider’s leg and knotted at the end for the skier to hang on to. Horses are equipped with special shoes to run at full speed in the snow. There are often jumps that the skier has to go over while being towed. In 1928, it was an event at the winter Olympics. In 1949, Leadville, Colorado held its first competition that is still going to this day. In 2022, there were 30 events held in the United States.


Number three is an event that happens outside of the United States. It is called the Mongol Derby. I had never heard of this event until I read about the retirement of National Finals Rodeo pickup man Josh Edwards. Edwards has been a pickup man in the professional ranks for 25 years and is ready to hang up his chaps. A pickup man is not referring to his way with the ladies, but the act of getting the rider off of a bucking bronc and assisting with getting the bucking stock out of the arena after the ride is completed. Anyway, Edwards said his next goal is to be in the Mongol Derby. My research found that it is held on the Mongolian Steppe with a rider paying a $17,000 entry fee and riding for ten days straight. There are 40 riders entered and they get on 25 semi-wild horses to go 1000 kilometers (620 miles), changing horses every 40 km. Edwards is planning on losing 20 pounds to get down to jockey-size for the competition. It was started by Genghis Khan as a horse messenger system and is now claimed as the longest and toughest horse race on earth. Not necessarily something I personally would want to tackle going into retirement.

As Saint Patrick’s Day approaches, here is your Irish Blessing. As you slide down the bannister of life, may the splinters never point the wrong direction.

Happy Trails.

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