Skyler Seder, 6, of Hidden Valley Lake said she practiced every day for the 2013 Mutton Bustin' competition at the Sonoma County Fair.
Outside the ring at the fair's Chris Beck Arena Sunday, she stood among competitors ages 5 to 7, in pink boots with spurs, pink hat, shirt and pigtails.
"You get a sheep and you have to hold on to it as long as you can," said Skyler, who has been riding ponies at her family's Sebastopol ranch since she was 3.
The young and old dove into the dirt and wrestled with animals Sunday at the fair's Farmers Day festivities.
Children clung to woolly sheep, scrambled after greased pigs and pranced around on stick horses at the fair's Farmers Day festivities held Sunday.
Older children clung to cow hides pulled behind sprinting horses. Adults squeezed drops of milk from feisty cows for the Wild Cow Milking event and trotted enormous draft horses hauling wagons and coaches before several hundred attendees.
"It's a chance to pay homage to our rural roots," said Sheila Quince, a retired Fair employee who now volunteers to run the Farmers Day events.
Sunday was the first time Nick Nolan, 11, of Redwood Valley competed in the Hide Race, a daring feat much like water tubing but on dirt instead of water and a cow hide in place of a tube.
"When you go into the last turn, you have to just hold on and lean into it," Nolan said.
Garrett Corbin and Byron Crosshead, both of Santa Rosa, won, traveling around the arena in just 11:44 seconds.
Next, a herd of bounding piglets was set loose.
"On your mark, get set, go," said longtime rodeo announcer Don Jesse of Twin Falls, Idaho, launching a bouncing herd of tiny children in pursuit of the piglets.
The groups soon became a tangled bunch of pigs and kids.
Events like the Pig Scramble and Mutton Bustin' have for generations been the way children were introduced to the sports of rodeo, said Jesser. He said he started Bustin' Mutton when he was 5.
As children lined up for their turn to hop onto a sheep, Jesser warned the crowd about the "one rule" of Mutton Bustin': If a parent puts a reluctant child on a sheep, "that parent will have to ride the bull at next year's fair."
When Skyler's turn came, the Lake County 6-year-old dug in her spurs and clung tight.
"Lock your feet around those legs," Jesser called.
Her pigtails flailed and she held onto the sheep for several breaths until the sheep shook free, sending Skyler tumbling with just one boot.
A relative novice, Dourado Lytle, 6, of Rio Nido held on the longest and claimed the prized James W. Bertolini Memorial Award buckle.
Holding his buckle with pride, Dourado pointed out a few bumps and bruises but said he only had one thought during those wild seconds: "That I could hold on."