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Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Me Away


I remember sitting on a chair, trying to clear my head and thinking: “It’s a Friday night and I’m in Oklahoma at a prison rodeo. And I just got hit by a horse. WHAT?”

Yeah. Hit by a horse.

I was on the rodeo ground taking photos with a wide lens when I turned around and spotted two horses galloping right at me. One was out of control and a rider was trying to reign him in. I got caught in between the two. It happened fast. I remember thinking: “Uh-oh.” And that’s it. Total silence. Then I remember hearing (not seeing) ¬†someone talking to me, telling me I was alright and to have a seat in a chair.


The next day at the rodeo, everyone was asking me how I was doing. “You OK? I bet you’re sore!” I guess I had made a scene. Aside from my concussion, I had a small bruise on my right leg, where the horse had likely nailed me with his head. And yes, a sore, sore back.

Overall, I was very lucky. And I’ve been in wild situations like that all the time, one reason why I never feel fear or panic. I’m used to being in the middle of insanity. Plus, I’ve never had an accident: not in a car, not for work, and not by the hand, er, head of a bucking bronco.

While sitting in that chair, I kept thinking: Is this worth it? Is what I’m doing worth risking my health for?

Thing is, I know nothing else. I love so much what I do.




There was a TV crew from Ireland in the (big) house. A nice bunch of folks, they kept asking about me after my run-in with the horse.

What’s ironic to me: a group of prison rodeo cowboys had a prayer on Friday morning and one said a prayer for the TV crew – and for me. I remember thinking at the time that that was a nice gesture, but I’d be fine. What could happen to me?




There were several other Oklahoma prisons involved with the rodeo. All the inmates arrived very early – hours before the fans – and were held in a fenced-off pen. Women from a couple prisons were also there; they had their own section for obvious reasons.










Perhaps the best event is called “Money the Hard Way,” where all the rodeo cowboys and cowgirls try to tear off a wrapped up satchel of cash tied onto the horns of a bull.




When I arrived to the motel on Friday night, I was met by this curious kitten staring at me. Made me smile and forget about my sore back.

Part of me felt like chilling on Day 2 of the rodeo. But a larger part of me felt it was important to, um, get back on the horse. I didn’t go all the way to Oklahoma to hang in a hotel.












It was fun to watch the inmates get into the rodeo. These women kicked ass in one event – and they were stoked.

The rodeo was also a chance for prisoners to perform in front of their friends and family. There was a large sense of pride in their achievements that weekend. And I bet there’s plenty of stories to tell and rehash to last until this time next year.



Thanks to Karen, Linda, Terry and everyone else involved with the rodeo for making it a memorable trip .

Oklahoma, you’re OK.


  • ahmet polat - August 22, 2009 - 12:25 pm

    Hello Sol

    I’m happy your still alive. I don’t know how badly you were brused
    I hope enough so next time you want to shoot something this up close with a wide angle you think again.
    I like what you bring in your images though. The closeness and intimasy makes it a joy to look at.
    Just wondering on if you ever thought about using a different kind of post production for every story you make. Have a look at what they do at Noor images.
    Would be good to hear form you again.



  • Sol - August 22, 2009 - 5:26 pm

    Hey man. Great to hear from you. And thanks, I’m happy to be alive, too.

    As for the Noor projects, are you talking about a slideshow for each? It may not be perfect, but I like my current setup just so that folks can easily scroll down the page if they choose. And I put as many photos as I feel necessary, because I could use all the feedback possible, especially since I don’t have an editor. Thankfully, few are still on dial-up modems.

    BTW, I’ll be in Frankfurt this October for a book fair. And the final weekend of Oktoberfest in Munich. Any chance you’ll be in the Holland/D-land hood around then?

    Be well.


  • Patrick Meredith - August 25, 2009 - 12:07 pm

    Another great post…Glad you are OK. I’m sure you’ve seen this link before, but I got a kick out of it… Looking forward to your next update.



  • Sol - August 25, 2009 - 9:43 pm

    Thanks, man, for the nice comments.

    And yes, I’ve been trying to track down an extreme ironing event for over a year. Elusive people.


  • Billie - September 22, 2009 - 6:33 pm

    Fantastic pictures!
    We were unable to attend so enjoyed the pictures to see what we missed.
    What is the chance that you have pictures of the female participants? We had a daughter there and would love to see some pictures of the females.


  • Ross Eaton - October 25, 2009 - 9:14 pm

    President of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce. Loved your pics! Love your other blogs as well. Glad you were able to attend and glad you didn’t get hurt!


  • Sol - October 25, 2009 - 11:56 pm

    Thanks, me too.


  • nicholas hand - August 31, 2011 - 3:10 pm

    hey mr neelman i was one of the guys at osp my name while i was there was red i wonder if there is anyway you could send some of your pics to me it would really be awesome if i could have some to print and hang up at home please get back with me thank you


  • Red + Bull » THE WILD WEIRD WORLD OF SPORTS - November 10, 2011 - 11:13 pm

    […] aiming in all directions. Sure, it’d be cool to get a fun wide angle photo. But after being KO’d by a loose bronco in Oklahoma, I’m not sure how I’d do with a angry beast with horns chasing me […]


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