The phrase ride him, cowboy is typically a shout of encouragement directed towards people who are riding on the backs of horses and other untamed animals, like bulls.
The Origin Of ‘Ride Him, Cowboy!’
Does this phrase come from the 1932 film called ‘Ride Him, Cowboy’? No, the expression does not originate from this movie because it appears in print at an earlier time. We’ll talk about that in a minute.
The saying ‘ride him, cowboy’ possibly originates from rodeo events where people go to watch or test their cowboy skills. There are a few events that are held there. For example, one event involves someone climbing onto the back of a horse (or bull) and staying on as long as possible as the animal tries throwing them off. People watching from afar might shout to the rider, “ride him, cowboy,” encouraging him to stay on.
So how old is this phrase? The early 20th century is the oldest I’ve seen it in print. For example, the phrase is used as part of a title in a short article from a magazine called Boy’s Life, 1924. What follows after that title is a colorful description of what it’s like trying to stay on the back of a horse:
“Ride Him, Cowboy!
A headlong dash. A sudden stop. Whirl. Back again, twisting, rearing, pitching up and down, sideways, any old way! Horse and rider battling for supremacy.”
- It was Jill’s first time at the rodeo. When her friend climbed onto the back of a bronco and tried staying on, she shouted “ride him, cowboy!” but it didn’t take long until he was thrown off.