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‘Little ice man,’ 7, ‘busts’ mutton, hangs on for dear life

Tyler Acree, 7, won’t be riding his family’s quarterhorse Grey this week at a national youth-rodeo championship in Texas, but a sheep in a juniors event called mutton busting. (Photo by David Knopf/Richmond News)

Tyler Acree, 7, won’t be riding his family’s quarterhorse Grey this week at a national youth-rodeo championship in Texas, but a sheep in a juniors event called mutton busting. (Photo by David Knopf/Richmond News)

By David Knopf/News Editor

Closer to the city, where mini-vans and SUVs are the preferred taxis to drive kids to youth sports, she’d be a soccer mom.

But north of Knoxville, where four-wheel-drive pickups and horse trailers are king, Valerie Acree is the rodeo equivalent.

Her son, 7-year-old second-grader-to-be Tyler Acree, is headed to the Lone Star State this week to represent his region at the Youth Bull Riders Association World Championship Aug. 5-8 in Abilene, Texas.

Tyler won his wild-card bid from the board of the Kansas Junior Bull Riding Association with a convincing demonstration ride.

“You had to send in an application, and then he went on to do the Mo-Kan Juniors (Bull Riding Association) finals, then on to Texas,” Valerie Acree said.

Tyler, red-headed like his mom, doesn’t brag about his experiences with the sport, but he’ll answer questions when asked.

For one thing, the name of his competition is deceiving. He doesn’t ride bulls – his father, George Acree, a lieutenant colonel in the Missouri National Guard, would consider that too dangerous, now or later – but rather adult sheep that, like bulls, aren’t that thrilled with being ridden.

For younger riders like Tyler, the event is called mutton busting.

But the format has lots in common with bull riding, with everything from a tense starting pen to the opening of the chute, and from timed rides to rodeo clowns used to distract the animals and protect riders once they fall.

Bull riders are required to stay aboard eight seconds, a mutton buster, six.

“They open the gate, and then you stay on until you hear the buzzer,” said Tyler, who holds on with one hand and keeps his other arm cocked in front of him.

The complete story is in the Monday, Aug. 3, 2015 Richmond News.

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