One of the first-ever songs in the genre that is now known as “Bro-country” is the 2004 hit by the duo Big & Rich, “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)”.
Released as a single from the group’s debut album, A Horse of a Different Color, the country rock and rap fusion track blew up after ESPN used it in commercials promoting its coverage of the 2004 World Series of Poker, and it is now remembered for the phrase after which it was titled.
If you’re wondering what “Save a horse, ride a cowboy” means — it’s exactly as dirty as it sounds. Songwriters Big Kenny and John Rich are encouraging women to save horses the trouble of being ridden, and instead mount up on the midsection of a cowboy.
Of course, the lyrics describe Big & Rich as the very cowboys that all the women would like to ride, with a tongue-in-cheek bravado that depicts the boys riding into town on horseback and impressing all the women, “Cotton Eye Joe” style.
Right from the intro, which features a silly interpretation of the theme song from the Western television show Bonanza, you can tell you’re in for quite the interesting song.
Following this, Big & Rich set the scene on their swag-tastic style with the first verse:
Well, I walk into the roomFirst verse to “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” by Big & Rich.
Passing out hundred dollar bills
And it kills and it thrills like the horns on my Silverado grill
And I buy the bar a double round of Crown
And everybody’s getting down
An’ this town ain’t never gonna be the same
Here, Big Kenny depicts himself walking into the room and just tossing out money. The people are thrilled and impressed, just like they are when they see the grill of his Chevy Silverado. He proceeds to buy everybody two rounds of Crown Royal and the party is on.
The town that they’re referring to is Nashville, as revealed in the chorus, which is up next:
Cause I saddle up my horseChorus to “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” by Big & Rich.
And I ride into the city
I make a lot of noise
Cause the girls
They are so pretty
Riding up and down Broadway
On my old stud Leroy
And the girls say
Save a horse, ride a cowboy
Save a horse, Ride a cowboy
In the chorus, Kenny sings about saddling up his horse Leroy and heading down Broadway in downtown Nashville. He is purposely making noise to draw attention to himself, because all the women he sees are looking good.
They clearly think he’s looking good, too, because they all instantly want to ride him. They’re out there shouting in the streets, “Save a horse, ride a cowboy.”
It’s not just the women either, it’s everybody. They all want to ride the magnificent cowboy that is strutting his way through town.
In the second verse, Big Kenny tells us a little more about the kind of man he is:
Well I don’t give a dang about nothingSecond verse to “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” by Big & Rich.
I’m singing and Bling-Blinging
While the girls are drinking
Long necks down!
And I wouldn’t trade ol’ Leroy
Or my Chevrolet for your Escalade
Or your freak parade
I’m the only John Wayne left in this town
We can see that Big Kenny is out to show off his money and his attitude. The girls are drinking long neck bottles of beer, and he’s completely happy with himself and his choices.
He explains that he wouldn’t trade his horse for anything, nor would he give up his pickup truck for a Cadillac, and he’s certainly not interested in the freak parade.
Big Kenny even brings the late great Western actor John Wayne into it, insinuating that he’s the only genuine cowboy around.
Next up, we have another hit of the chorus before the spoken word section in the bridge:
I’m a thourough-bredSpoken bridge to “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)”
That’s what she said
In the back of my truck bed
As I was gettin’ buzzed on suds
Out on some back country road
We where flying high
Fine as wine, having ourselves a big and rich time
And I was going, just about as far as she’d let me go
Here, Kenny tells the story of what happens later that night when he leaves the bar with one of the women he met there. They go out into the country to hang out in the back of his truck, drinking more beer and getting hot and heavy.
We get more details about their night in the third verse:
But her evaluationThird verse to “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” by Big & Rich.
Of my cowboy reputation
Had me begging for salvation
All night long
So I took her out giggin frogs
Introduced her to my old bird dog
And sang her every Wilie Nelson song I could think of
And we made love
Apparently, this woman has heard about Big Kenny’s reputation as a cowboy, and she was very intrigued by it. She rode that cowboy so well that he was begging for mercy all night long. If you don’t understand what that means — they had a very nice time together, but did not get much sleep.
Since they were up all night, he took her out hunting for frogs, introduced her to his dog, and serenaded her with Willie Nelson songs.
As if it wasn’t obvious enough, the two also had sex that night.
After revealing the intimate details of his fantastical escapades, the song closes with one more chorus, before Big & Rich go riding off in the night on the back of old Leroy, presumably to find another lady to impress.
Watch the music video for “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” by Big & Rich below.