Trick riding refers to the act of performing stunts while riding a horse, such as the rider standing upright on a galloping horse. Other stunts might include hanging upside down off of the side of the horse while attached to a strap or jumping on and off a galloping horse.
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.
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. When communism overtook Russia, the 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 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.
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).
Rex Rossi was a World Champion Trick Rider in 1950 & 1961, World Champion Trick Roper 1971 & 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.
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, one foot drag, spritz stand, shoulder stand, back drag, hippodrome, 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. Roman riding is one of the older forms of riding, and was performed during the time of the Roman Empire. As many as 5 horses, with the rider standing on the inner 3, have been ridden and jumped abreast. As many as 9 horses, 3 teams of 3 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 6 and 9 horse tandems are also performed. Sometimes riders will change teams at the trot, dance, ride backward and twirl a baton.