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.
Example: My friend, Bill, was about to do some bull riding at a rodeo. Before I knew it, he was on the animal’s back holding on as hard as he could as it thrashed about. I yelled: “Ride him, cowboy!” However, he was thrown off shortly after and broke his arm in the process. “Never again,” Bill said.
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.”
- The crowd was yelling “ride him, cowboy!” to all the bronco riders at the rodeo.
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