What to know about trick riders and the magic behind trick riding
When you hear the word “tricks”, what comes to mind? Evel Knievel riding a motorcycle, jumping over part of the Grand Canyon? Or maybe something like one of David Blaine’s magic tricks? While both of these types of tricks are entertaining and exciting, the rodeo world has a different trick up its sleeve!
Meet trick riding (not to be confused with rough stock riding). This goes beyond getting onto a bucking bronc or bull – instead, it involves men and women training and practicing tricks with their horses, allowing them to stand up or even hang off the side of their horse as they ride through the arena, sometimes at high speeds! As hard as it might be to imagine what trick riding look like, in this blog, we’ll give you a breakdown of trick riding’s early beginnings, how it’s evolved and become an occasional part of our Kissimmee rodeo, and what tools trick riders use on their horses.
While trick riding may seem like a fun and exciting sport now, it didn’t begin that way. Known as jigitovka in its mother tongue, the art originates from Turkic cultures of Caucasus and Central Asia, and the word describes a skillful and brave equestrian. Admiring the talent, Russian Cossacks learned how to trick ride and used it during battle, proving a formidable force against their enemies. However, when communism overtook Russia, the Cossacks fled the country to America and used their talent to earn money, becoming prominent figures in the entertainment community, particularly in the rodeo world.
While the sport of rodeo was still being established, trick riding seemed to naturally fit into each rodeo performance. In the 1940s, trick riding evolved into a rodeo event, where tricks were scored on their difficulty, the rider’s execution and outfit, and the horse’s performance. However, with trick riders doing more daring and extreme tricks to earn money, rodeo producers deemed trick riding too dangerous for competition and many made it just a specialty act. (However, nowadays, there are a few trick riding competitions riders can compete in if they wish.)
When you watch a trick riding performance, you’ll notice that it’s just the trick rider and their horse (with a lot of trust and faith) during the performance. It’s imperative that trick riders build a relationship with their horses to understand when one another is tired out, or what tricks might be too dangerous to perform. Some unique accessories on a trick rider’s saddle that help them throughout their performance are:
- Special handles that provide a better grip for the rider when they’re hanging or moving around the horse.
- Crouppers are put on the back of the saddle and allow riders to do hand holds or croupper vaults.
- A hippodrome strap to help them backbend or to stand up on the saddle.
- A breast collar goes around the horse’s chest, which is attached to the saddle to secure their saddle on the horse and lessen the strain on the horse.
- A suicide strap is located in front of the stirrups and allows trick riders to hang off the side of the horse.
So be careful mom and dad, while trick riding is very cool, your kids might want to change careers after watching them perform!