The number 92, pinned to the back of Cauy Betony's shirt,
flapped recklessly as the boy clung to a sheep, grimacing as he
endured six long seconds atop the animal.
the sheep didn't stop.
Cauy found himself careening around the rodeo arena Friday at the
Shiprock Navajo Fair's junior rodeo, a bullfighter in full pursuit.
was fun," Cauy said after the ride, though his eyes were wide
with anxiety and determination as he grasped the saddle horn during
the ride, the clock ticking past the mandatory six-second mark and
continuing until the bullfighter reined in the sheep.
4, was a contestant in the annual woolly riding competition held
at the Shiprock Navajo Fair. At about 3
feet tall, the boy needed assistance to mount the sheep, a common
occurrence in the woolly riding competition.
he was professional after the ride, methodically removing his gear
and stowing it in a duffle bag.
proficiency in the arena and behind the scenes is not surprising,
said Cauy's father, Phil Betony. Cauy is the youngest of Phil's
four sons, and the boy grew up watching his father, brothers and
competed Friday in the bareback riding contest.
family traveled to Shiprock from Tonalea, Ariz., to compete. The
athletes planned to participate in a second rodeo Friday in Kirtland,
and Cauy wasn't schedule to ride in Shiprock, Phil said.
told him he would ride tonight, but he threw a fit," Phil said
of Cauy. "So he rode."
ride earned Cauy his first belt buckle, a shiny silver piece bigger
than his hand.
want to show this to my mom," he said after receiving it.
riding, also known as mutton busting, is a sport geared toward the
smallest cowboys and cowgirls. Competitors follow the same basic
rules as bullriding, except they ride atop a fluffy mound of wool.
fall from a sheep is much shorter than from a bull, Phil said.
who know they want to start early do woolly riding," he said.
"If they find out they're good at it, they keep going."
athletes begin later and start on regular rodeo animals, but Phil
said the woolly riding experience gives a cowboy or cowgirl an advantage.
grow into it," he said.
also started rodeo at an early age, learning woolly riding at home.
He never competed in the soft sport, however.
who walks and talks like a cowboy, would blend in with the other
athletes at the rodeo if it weren't for his height. Friday's competition
was one of his first. He started riding only a couple of months
ago, his father said.