Yes, a cow boy has his troubles and he shore is out of luck,
Out a dozen miles from nowheres and his hoss begins to buck...
So you aim to keep a straddle and you'll ride him if you can,...
People say that pullin' leather don't show ridin' skill. That's true.
But you'd like to stick togather till the argyment is through.
When yo're a slippin' and a slidin', you'll admit at all events
If it doesn't show good ridin' that it shows a heap of sense.
(Bruce Kiskaddon, 1947, as cited in Jan E. Roush and Lawrence Clayton (Eds.) Pulling Leather. (1988). Glendo, WY: High Plains Press.)Pulling leather is a term that means the rider has to grab some part of the saddle in order not to fall off the horse. It is not a complimentary term, meaning that the rider is off-balance, or unskilled, and the horse is about to throw the rider.
In the past few days, I have been doing a lot of pulling leather, and as Kiskaddon said, it might not show skill, but it is smart. Let's face it, when the horse is bucking out of control, in the words of another Bruce I know, you have to "hunker down, hold on, and ride it out."
If you have never been on a bucking horse, or an unknown horse that has its head and is running and paying the rider no mind, when you have no control of the situation, sometimes the only thing one can do is wrap the reins around one hand, grab the saddle horn with the other, lay low over the horse's neck, tuck your feet and legs in as tight as you can get them, and wait for the horse to get tired and slow down and you can finally rein it to a stop.
Granted, this sort of thing may not happen all that often these days, given that the whole horse riding/horse breaking thing is a bit different. None the less, I think it an apt metaphor for some situations when you are "out a dozen miles from nowheres and your horse begins to buck." At those times, it is not about the skill and how it looks, it is about living to ride another day…and that "...shows a heap of sense."