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Adley McPhillips holds on as tight as she can to her sheep at the 2021 Big Sky PBR. PHOTO BY BAILEY MILL/BARE MOUNTAIN PHOTOGRAPHY

Mutton Bustin’s reigning champion is back for more

By Brooke Constance White


BIG SKY – Last year’s mutton bustin’ champion, 5-year-old Adley McPhillips, is back to defend her title at the 2022 PBR! Her winning technique? Clutching onto the sheep as tight as she can for as long as possible. Sound easy? Not so much … This is all done without any type of assistance while the sheep storms around a dirt arena filled with thousands of spectators. But it worked last year and she’s hopeful it will work this year as well.

“You hold onto the sheep, wrap your arms around their neck, grab the fur, hold the fur as tight as you can until you can’t,” McPhillips said. “They’re stinky sheep. But nice. The bulls jump and buck but the sheep just run.”

To practice for this year’s Big Sky PBR competition, McPhillips has been practicing mutton bustin’ on her parents by holding onto their backs as they move around. It’s a decent way to practice, but her parents are much more gentle with her than the sheep will be!

For the big event, she will wear a padded vest, chaps and a full-face hockey helmet, which she tries on during the interview. Even with all that protective gear, it’ll be a bit jarring when mutton busters like McPhillips do inevitably hit the ground.

With a huge smile on her face, Adley McPhillips raises her winning trophy in the air, celebrating her mutton bustin’ victory. PHOTO BY BAILEY MILL/BARE MOUNTAIN PHOTOGRAPHY

Reminiscing about the win, McPhillips brings out last year’s trophy to show it off.

“It’s big, to my belly button, actually bigger,” she said. “I heard the crowds cheering, my mom and dad cheering too. It felt like 20 minutes but really like 30 seconds.”

Her mom, Alicia McPhillips, said Adley wasn’t scared in the slightest last year but that there were some tears when she hit the ground after finally losing her grip and falling off the sheep.

“She’s grown up watching it every year but last year was her first time ever doing it herself,” Alicia said. “There wasn’t any big lead up to doing it; we were there and she said ‘I should do that,’ and she did. And she loved it.”

Asked about how she spends her free time outside of riding fluffy steeds for sport, McPhillips said she takes selfies with the sheep after she rides them and skis in the wintertime.

Eric Anderson, Marketing Director of Big Sky Vacation Rentals, said they’re thrilled to be this year’s event sponsor for the locally-famous mutton bustin’ event and are looking forward to watching McPhillips defend her title again this year.

“Big Sky PBR and Big Sky Vacation Rentals both started about the same time 10 years ago. We
have really enjoyed being a small part of this event throughout the years as it has grown to become the biggest event of the year in Big Sky,” Anderson said. “Mutton bustin’ is our favorite part of PBR as it gives the local kiddos such a special experience and ties this great community into this great event.”

Big Sky Vacation Rentals is a proud lodging partner for this year’s Big Sky PBR and mutton bustin’ event.


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