Trick riding

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The Cossack Drag or Death Drag.
Roman riding
Stunt riding at the King of the Ranges competition day, Murrurundi, NSW

Trick riding refers to the act of performing stunts while riding a horse, such as the rider standing upright on the back of a galloping horse, using a specially designed saddle with a reinforced steel horn, and specialized kossak loops for hands and feet. The horse is likewise galloping free. Trick riding is NOT the same as equestrian vaulting which is an internationally recognized competitive sport, governed by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI).

Horse riding stunts have been performed in many films, as well as in equestrian events such as Equitana and the official opening of the Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre, rodeos, and much more.[1]

Horse riding stunts were also performed on the musical theatre production of "The Man from Snowy River: Arena Spectacular". The trick riders for the show included Deborah Brennan and Zelie Bullen (née Thompson) (who has also taken part in other horse shows such as Equitana).


Trick riding has a very interesting story. It has not always been an American entertainment act. It was once used as a weapon for the Russian Cossacks who adopted it from the people of Caucasus and called it dzhigitovka. Cossacks were nearly unconquerable because they could easily hide from their enemies.[citation needed] When communism overtook Russia, some Cossacks were forced to leave the country. Many moved to America, where they used their talents for money. They became part of the entertainment community and soon Americans started catching on. Trick riding even became a rodeo event where the hardest tricks earned the most points. Trick riding as a competitive rodeo event came to an end in the 1940s. Trick riding became more dangerous and the horses became a lot faster as the trick riders became desperate for the prize money. Rodeo producers deemed trick riding too dangerous for competition and trick riding then became a specialty act in rodeos.

Albert SEATON - The Cossacks published in 1972.

Trick riders such as Shirley Lucas and Sharon Lucas became famous horse stunt women doubling for many movie stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, Lana Turner, and many more. In films, stunt riders have included Hank Durnew and Ken Maynard (1895–1973).[2]

Rex Rossi was a World Champion Trick Rider in 1950 and 1961, World Champion Trick Roper 1971, and Hall of Fame Movie Stunt Man, a career that spanned 60 years. Rossi performed horse and falling stunts in Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and many western movies. He also stunt doubled for Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Jeff Bridges, Roy Rogers, and Bob Steele. Rossi trick rode at Madison Square Garden for 19 consecutive years. His Veach Trick Riding saddle is on display at the Gene Autry Cowboy Museum in Los Angeles.

Individual tricks[edit]

There are many horse riding stunts and many different variations of tricks, with each rider having an individual style. Tricks can be strap tricks or vault type tricks. Some tricks include the forward fender, layout fender (also known as the Indian Hideaway), one foot stand , spritz stand, shoulder stand, back drag, hippodrome, vault, reverse one foot stand, and spin the horn.

One type of trick riding is known as "Roman riding", and is usually performed as entertainment in rodeos, circuses and horse shows. In Roman riding, the rider stands atop a pair of horses, with one foot on each horse.[3][4]

Roman riding is one of the older forms of riding, and was performed during the time of the Roman Empire. As many as five horses, with the rider standing on the inner three, have been ridden and jumped abreast. As many as nine horses, three teams of three abreast, have been ridden and jumped in tandem. Tricks such as trading teams while riding, riding a pony team between the horse team and jumping six- and nine-horse tandems are also performed. Sometimes riders will change teams at the trot, dance, ride backward and twirl a baton, and even jump through fire.

Trick Moves[edit]

  • One Foot stand
  • Back Drag
  • Sholder Stand
  • Reverse one foot Stand
  • Forward Fender
  • Layout Fender
  • Spin The Horn
  • Hippodrome
  • Vault
  • tail drag
  • death drag
  • suicide drag
  • strode layout
  • back breaker
  • back drag
  • around the neck


  1. ^ Northern Daily Leader, "Inland icon opens", Simon Chamberlain, p.4, 23 February 2009
  2. ^ William H. Young, Nancy K. Young The Great Depression in America: A Cultural Encyclopedia - Volume 2 - Page 476 - 2007 "... ultimately ran from 1930 until 1951. It then went on to more years on television. The credit for the first person to sing cowboy tunes in a sound movie probably belongs to Ken Maynard (1895-1973). A famous trick rider for stunts that he did"
  3. ^ "The Texas Trick Riders Present Roman Riding". Texas Trick Riders. Roman Riding. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 26 December 2017.
  4. ^ "Shawn Brackett". Roman Riding Sensation. Archived from the original on 25 October 2009. Retrieved 26 December 2017.

External links[edit]