LITCHFIELD — Three men held a sheep in place as an eight-year old girl with knee and elbow pads mounted the animal. She wrapped her legs around the sheep’s torso and her arms around its neck, nuzzling her helmeted head into the side of the animal.

When released, the sheep, kicking its hooves in the dirt, bolted all 125 feet of the exhibition hall, but Savannah Hill never let go.

Others weren’t as lucky or didn’t have as good a grip, crashing into the ground as they lost their hold on the sheep or pulling the sheep down on top of themselves as they tumbled over each other.

Today’s event marked the third year the Litchfield Fair has hosted mutton bustin’ — a miniature version of bull riding, with kids seeing how far they can make it clinging to the back of a sheep.

Hill, of Bowdoin, was the second girl that day to stay on the whole time. Her friend, Darcy Cram, of Lisbon, also accomplished the feat, leading to a playoff between the two girls.

But in the end, not even a second race on the back of galloping, bucking sheep could separate the two girls — or the sheep from the girls’ grip.

The boys group didn’t fare as well. The winner only made it about three-quarters of the way before tumbling.

Cram, 8, said she learned how to stay on the sheep from riding her goat when she was younger and from riding horses.

“I don’t just hug under them. I grip with my fingers,” Cram said, showing how she clenched her fingers down on the sheep.

Hill, who also won the event last year, said she didn’t expect to win again.

Melanie Page, the announcer, said no injuries have yet occurred in the popular event. The first year contestants were given only helmets, but now the kids have to wear knee and elbow pads, she said.

“They bang themselves, get a little grubby, but well, you’ve got to accept that when you’re riding the sheep,” Page said.

Savannah’s mother, Stephanie Hill, of Bowdoin, said she was more worried about her daughter last year.

“She’s tough, and she rides a lot of horses,” said Hill, 35. “And those are much bigger.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
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