Trigger’s Training

Trigger and Roy

Trigger bowing while Roy plays his guitar.

Have any of you ever admired Trigger’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of tricks? I know I’ve been impressed time and time again. Trigger seemed to talk to his rider with his perfectly timed yes and no responses. He knew how to throw kisses, smile, nicker, whinny, prance, rear, bow, dance, mule-kick, attack the bad guys – he could even shoot a gun! Watching him work at liberty demonstrates just how well-trained the palomino was (watch My Pal Trigger and The Golden Stallion in particular). Trigger’s first on-screen trick comes at the end of Under Western Stars. This is the first time Trigger and Roy performed their rearing trick on-screen. In Billy the Kid Returns, Roy calls Trigger by name for the first time. Also, Trigger responds to a question from Roy by nickering. Frontier Pony Express is the first time Trigger gets to work at liberty. He has to take the mail in by himself after Roy is shot (but not killed, don’t worry). This performance required the palomino to navigate the rough trails at high-speed while being chased by a gang of gunmen. At one point he had to jump off a cliff into a river and swim ashore. The only time Trigger ever tripped on-screen occurred during a chase scene from In Old Caliente. Since Trigger ran so fast, the director had to find some way to slow Roy down enough for the villain to catch up with him. The chase was through rough, sandy desert country – why not have Trigger slip in the sand and fall down?

Roy and Trigger

Roy doing a running dismount off Trigger.

In Days of Jesse James Roy goes undercover in the James’ gang over a bank robbery they supposedly committed. While he’s in the gang, the James brothers arrange to rob a different bank. Roy, as a member of the gang, must go along. Once in town, he has to find a way to warn the Marshal without arousing the James brothers’ suspicions. He tells Trigger, “I guess you’ll have to throw me.” Trigger then does a brief bucking show and easily tosses his rider. Unfortunately, Roy’s warning comes too late and the bank is successfully robbed. In The Carson City Kid, Trigger is responsible for the girl discovering Roy’s true identity as the Carson City Kid. She notices Roy’s close friendship with the palomino who is widely known to be the Kid’s mount. Roy has no choice but admit his guilt to the pretty gal – who then promises not to tell, and warns him to stay away from the horse before someone else guesses. Song of Texas features a brief look at Roy’s appearances in children’s hospitals around the country. Trigger performs beautifully despite the rather cramped space. In Man from Music Mountain (also known as Texas Legionnaires), Trigger drags Roy. This was not an accident – rather, Roy told him to. Hands Across the Border is the second lengthy demonstration of Trigger’s skills in a film. Roy is trying to prove that Trigger is a special horse to the gal, Trigger’s owner. There is a scene about 4 minutes long demonstrating Trigger’s speed, steadiness, and a few tricks: smile, kiss, and push. Roy also jumps Trigger over a car.

Trigger, Roy, and Bullet

Trigger (smiling), with Roy and Bullet on the set of the Roy Rogers Show

Trigger gets a part in San Fernando Valley. He keeps two villains at bay when Roy is knocked out, until the cowboy can get back on his feet – and rescue the villains from the angry stallion! Other films Trigger gets to perform in are Lights of Old Santa Fe, Don’t Fence Me In, Rainbow Over Texas, My Pal Trigger, Roll On Texas Moon, and Heldorado. Under California Stars centers around Trigger’s kidnapping. There are a couple good fight scenes between Trigger and his kidnappers. In one Trigger goes over backwards. This was not originally part of the plan! The editors kept it in the film however, since it helped portray the desperation with which Trigger was fighting. Trigger gets to perform at liberty in Eyes of Texas – momentarily saving Roy from a gang of bad guys who are trying to kill him. In Susanna Pass, Trigger chases Roy when Roy lights out on a different horse. Roy transfers from the chestnut to the palomino and is able to catch up with he man he’s chasing. Trigger then distracts the villain (who is hiding inside a small fish hatchery) by mule kicking the front door while Roy sneaks in the back. The Golden Stallion is another great example of Trigger’s liberty work. He spends a little over half of the movie running with a herd of wild horses. More films where Trigger gets to show off his training are Bells of Coronado, Twilight in the Sierras (Trigger is shot in this one and displays an impeccable limp), Trigger Jr., Spoilers of the Plains (Trigger runs for help after Roy is severely wounded and unable to ride), South of Caliente, and Son of Paleface.

Roy and Trigger

Roy and Trigger in their classic rearing pose

It is understandable why Trigger was so well-trained when you know who his trainer was. Glenn Randall was one of the elite horse trainers of the time. Besides Trigger, Glenn trained Shadowfax (Gandalf’s mount in Lord of the Rings) and Ben Hur’s four white horses in the MGM production of the novel. Glenn’s son, Corky Randall, was also a renowned movie-horse trainer – perhaps more so than his father. He trained Tornado from Zorro and Mask of Zorro, as well as the Black Stallion from the film versions of Walter Farley’s books. Corky also trained horses for “The Alamo” (1960), “The Misfits” (1961), “How the West Was Won” (1962), “Soldier Blue” (1970), “Hot to Trot” (1988), “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989), “Buffalo Girls” (1995), the 1950s TV shows “Spin & Marty” and “Zorro”, among others. Corky also worked with Trigger during Roy’s later years at Republic.

So there you have it, a brief summary of Trigger’s training, the films in which it is shown off, and a little bit about his trainer and trainer’s son. I know reading this simple article doesn’t nearly do justice to beauty and awe of watching Trigger strut his stuff. If you want to see Trigger perform for yourself, check out these films:

Note: The three best films for watching Trigger at his best are The Golden Stallion, My Pal Trigger, and Under California Stars.

  1. Under Western Stars
  2. Billy the Kid Returns
  3. Frontier Pony Express
  4. In Old Caliente
  5. Days of Jesse James
  6. The Carson City Kid
  7. Song of Texas
  8. Man from Music Mountain/Texas Legionnaires
  9. Hands Across the Border
  10. San Fernando Valley
  11. Lights of Old Santa Fe
  12. Don’t Fence Me In
  13. Rainbow Over Texas
  14. My Pal Trigger
  15. Roll On, Texas Moon
  16. Heldorado
  17. Under California Stars
  18. Eyes of Texas
  19. Susanna Pass
  20. The Golden Stallion
  21. Bells of Coronado
  22. Twilight in the Sierras
  23. Trigger, Jr.
  24. Spoilers of the Plains
  25. South of Caliente
  26. Son of Paleface

About rogersdale

I am originally from Texas but have lived in Florida for the past 8 years. I am the oldest of 6 and live on a 10 acre farm.
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