Save a horse, ride a cowboy

(Sex talk, but in mostly academic style. Still, definitely racy; use your judgment.)

This vision of shirtless high-masculinity turned up on Pinterest this morning:


There will be another satisfyingly shirtless cowboy (these two images chosen from dozens, maybe hundreds, that are available), but the focus of this posting is on the saying

(1) Save a horse, ride a cowboy.

on its syntax, its semantics, and of course its allusion to positions for sexal intercourse.

(On a persnal note, I admit that I’ve chosen two cowboys whose body type — lean, well-muscled, long-bodied — appeals to me. Hey, it’s my blog.)

#1 appears to be from a site associated with the book “The Teenage Bucket List: 250 Things To Do Before You Turn 18” by Tammy Mitchell, a slim (34-page) 2014 book that seems to be nothing but that list of 250 things to do.

Here’s the second hunk, rather more interestingly dressed:


This guy has on blue jeans (with a worn weather belt), with chaps over them. Chaps — see my 12/24/15 posting —  are crotchless, seatless leather pants that originated as workwear for cowboys, to protect their legs, but then came into fashion as fetishwear; the effect of chaps over jeans is to emphasize the cowboy’s basket (also his butt), so the chaps add an additional note of sexiness to an already sex-drenched image.

These cowboy images are, most of the time, designed to present the hunks in them for the delectation of women: women find them desirable, straight men identify with them as sex magnets (as attractive to women), and of course the images rope in gay men along with women. (There are also specfically homoerotic cowboy images, which a great many women find hot even though they’re not the intended audience.)

Ride that cowboy! So much for the sex that’s pretty much out in front in such images. Then there’s the allusion in the ride a cowboy part of the saying. From Wikipedia:

Woman on top, also called the cowgirl or riding position, is a group of sex positions in which the man lies on his back or sits, the woman straddles him facing either forward [cowgirl] or back [reverse cowgirl], and the man inserts his erect penis into the woman’s vagina or anus.

The cowgirl name derives from the image of the receiving partner “riding” the partner as a cowgirl rides a bucking horse. It is one of a number of receptive-partner-superior sexual positions, another being the reverse cowgirl position. It is fairly simple to achieve and maintain and pleasures both partners.

Man on man, this is Cowboy. From my 2/12/16 posting “Sex positions for gay men”:

something that came up while I was assembling a new AZBlogX posting “Liam Riley, power bottom twink”, with two images of Riley as bottom in what I’ve called sit-fucks (the bottom sits on the top’s hard dick): an in-facing (the bottom is facing towards his top) sit-fuck with top Dustin Gold and an out-facing one (the bottom is facing away from his top) with top Dillon Rossi. I then discovered, in comments on these performances that this was a named sex position, with a cute name: Cowboy for the in-facing variety, Reverse Cowboy for the out-facing. As a cowboy rides a bronco (or a bull), so the bottom rides his top’s cock.

On to the saying. The saying is variously punctuated: most commonly with a comma separating its two parts, as in #1; sometimes with a colon or dash as the separator; and, in these punctuation-shy times, with only a line division as separator, as in #2. In any case, it’s an instance of a two-part sentence construction in which each part is a V-headed constituent (a clause or a VP), with the two parts strung together without any sort of connective or subordinator:

[1: VP(BSE)] save a horse  +  [2: VP(BSE)] ride a cowboy

The mode of syntactic combination here is known technically as parataxis, a subtype of co-equal combination (with parts of equal syntactic rank): pure parataxis, in fact, with no overt coordinator. The other type of co-equal combination is (explicit) coordination, with a coordinator like and or or. Standing in contrast to co-equal combination is subordination (or hypotaxis), with an explicit subordinator, as in these alternatives to (1):

(1a) To save a horse, ride a cowboy. [with complementizer to introducing part 1]

(1b) Save a horse by riding a cowboy. [with preposition by introducing part 2]

Now one type of pure parataxis is in fact fairly common: the paratactic conditional, for instance:

(2a) You break it, you bought it. ‘If you break it, you bought it’; 2 is a result or consequence of 1

with its co-equal alternative:

(2b) You break it, and you bought it.

(Brief discussion in a 2/4/10 posting.)

Similarly, with clauses in both parts: He answers the phone, (and) you (will) die. And with BSE-form VPs in both parts (as in (1)): Learn to fish, (and) eat for a lifetime.

The example in (1) is different:

(1) Save a horse, ride a cowboy. ‘In order to 1, 2’: 1 is a reason or purpose for 2 (1 is a result or consequence of 2)

We might call this a paratactic preconditional.

The saying. Mentions of (1) refer to it as a “saying” or a “familiar saying”, but I haven’t been able to track it back very far. In fact, the trail seems to go back only to a 2004 song. From Wikipedia:

“Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” is a song written and recorded by American country music duo Big & Rich. It was released in April 2004 as the second single from their debut album Horse of a Different Color. … The song received wide exposure when ESPN featured the song in commercials for its coverage of the 2004 World Series of Poker. It was also featured in the Boston Legal episode “Death Be Not Proud”.

On February 19, 2016, a parody release by artist Skinny & Broke was released entitled “Save A Wookie Ride A Jedi” by Sony Music Entertainment.

Big & Rich also released a remixed dance version of the song which appeared on their compilation Big & Rich’s Super Galactic Fan Pak. They performed this remixed version at the CMT Video Music Awards in 2005. The song was also featured in a Chevrolet commercial that was aired during Super Bowl XLI and the 49th Annual Grammy Awards.

The song appears on the game Karaoke Revolution Country, as well as in the 2012 film Magic Mike.

The song is a fusion of country rock and country rap. The first two verses detail “Big” Kenny Alphin and John Rich’s arrival into Nashville, going into a bar, “passing out hundred-dollar bills” and, “buying the bar a double round of Crown.” They vow that Nashville is “never gonna be the same.” They ride around Nashville on horses, while everyone else says to “save a horse” and “ride a cowboy.”


The song is addressed to women, encouraging them (I think) to ride a cowboy.

You can watch the video here.

An extra. It was bound to happen, I suppose. Frat-boy humor from a meme site:


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