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Tricks of the Trade (3)


Once she’s in the saddle, she lunges forward, makes a double-kissing sound, and shouts “Trot!”

When he reaches full speed, she pulls her feet up, squats in the saddle, and stands upright — the Hippodrome. She lowers herself to the saddle again, praises her horse, and pats his neck.

Trick riders want to perform with precision, says Abigail of a profession that trusts horses with lives, but sometimes riders make mistakes.

“Sometimes we throw our weight too far to the right or left, but well-trained horses can shift their weight under us. They can balance out a rider’s mistakes.”


The morning of the Wapello Rodeo, Abigail and Meishja step out of one end of a 34-foot aluminum trailer. This home on wheels — where the sisters eat, sleep, and shower — pulled into the fairgrounds behind a black Silverado 3500 a day earlier.

The other end of the trailer serves as the portable horse stables, and Poco, Junior, and Appy arrived in tow.

The trailer’s center compartment is jammed full of costumes, makeup, blankets, ribbons, glitter, even hoof polish.

Meishja rakes the straw bedding around the trailer and scoops manure into a bucket. Abigail brings fresh water and mixes feed to boost their horses’ iron and electrolytes.

Poco and Junior are tethered to one side of the trailer. Alone on the opposite side, Appy the Appaloosa nuzzles his haybasket and dumps it on the ground.

He paws the dirt to stir up dust. Abigail walks to his side, strokes his neck, tells him she’ll ride him soon.

“Appy is my first trick-riding horse, and he loves coming along,” she explains. “If we don’t take him, he pouts when we leave the driveway.”

The trailer has only two tether rings on each side, and Appy doesn’t like this arrangement, says Abigail.

He prefers to be with the herd. Abigail smooths his flanks and massages his legs. “Later we’ll let him hang out with Junior and move Poco to this side.”

(Read more Tricks of the Trade)

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