Dangling Upside Down from a Running Horse!

Suicide Drag

At 40, I decided I wanted to ride a galloping horse at full speed while hanging by one foot upside down.  This is called trick riding!

Mid life crisis?  Hells yes!   It all started when I saw a photo of a woman riding a galloping horse standing up on top of the saddle! I NEED TO LEARN TO DO THIS.  This sport was huge back in the 30s through 60s, with trick riders performing at all of the rodeos. But for some reason, it started to die out and there were only a handful of people doing this sport in the entire US! There was no one to teach me!   There were no YouTube videos, no DVDs, nothing in Google that showed me how to trick ride.  NOTHING!   The only thing that I found was a book called “Trick and Fancy Riding, 140 ways to break your neck” that was written about 50 years ago.  In this book were stunts that were done on a galloping horse with little stick figures showing the prospective lunatic how to get in and out of each trick!  NUTS!

Then one day, after searching and searching in Google about anything to do with horse stunt riding and finding zilch, I came upon a very crude personal webpage of a man named Rex Rossi about 20 pages deep in the dark reaches of Google.   Rex Rossi is in the Stunt Man Hall of Fame. His trick riding saddle is on display in the Gene Autry Museum in LA. He was a national Trick Riding Champion many times over and performed at Madison Square Garden for 19 consecutive years as a trick rider and trick roper. He had been in a zillion movies and had doubled for John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Clint Eastwood and many others. He was  also a stunt man on TV shows such as Bonanza. He was legendary. I about fainted when I clicked on his contact page and it said he lived only 45 minutes from my house!

I practically had to audition for the man in order to get lessons from him. Once I proved I was serious, he finally let me bring my horse to his ranch.  He was in his 80s at this time and I was lucky to find him when I did. He passed away a couple of years later!

I became a professional trick rider performing at fairs, rodeos and private events throughout the state. I started my own trick riding team called the radical riders. I gave lessons, filmed a trick riding documentary and started the website www.rodeotrickrider.com that had the first forum about the sport before Facebook was around. I have to say that my website brought so many people into this sport and trick riding has made huge comeback. I was also profiled in this fantastic book call Wild Women and Tricky Ladies by Jill Stanford about legendary  and present day trick riders!

In 2008, I broke my arm while trick riding at a rodeo and this led to the end of my performing because my doc said I had bone density issues and I didn’t need to be hanging upside down from a horse any longer.  However, I still gave lessons at my ranch and traveled to other states to give clinics and private lessons.

Today, my chapter in this wonderful world of trick and fancy riding has come to a complete end as I start another chapter in my life. My horse is old and I quit giving lessons at my ranch. The sand in my arena has washed away from the past two winters, and I’m selling my custom trick riding saddle that I had specially made in 2008. That was a hard decision. But, its just sitting in the barn and I need the funds to buy backpacking gear! My new chapter!

What will I do next?  Hike a few hundred miles? We shall call it my golden years crisis!

 

janfenderdragjan hippodromejanmendozafender2008

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