Entertaining the masses so thoroughly for over two decades, Roy Rogers and Trigger were one of America's most recognizable duos, becoming instant classics in people's eyes, hearts and imaginations. Trigger also reached legendary status in his own right, and is undeniably one of the most memorable horses that ever lived.
"The Old Man" was foaled July 4, 1934 on a small ranch co-owned by Bing Crosby and was originally named for his breeder manager, Golden Cloud. On March 25, 1937, Golden Cloud, standing 15 hands high and registered with the Palomino Horse Association and Stud Book Registry, was sold to Hudkins Stables, a Hollywood provider of animals appearing on the silver screen. This was Golden Cloud's first prance into stardom and his early resume included roles such as Maid Marion's horse in the 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood where Olivia de Havilland famously rode sidesaddle.
In that same year, before filming began on Roy's latest film Under Western Stars, several of the stables that provided horses to Republic Studios brought their best lead horses so Roy could select a mount. It's been said that the third horse Roy got on was the handsome golden palomino, Golden Cloud, who handled so well and reacted swiftly to whatever was asked of him. Reportedly after riding the horse just 100 yards, Roy never looked at another, and purchased Golden Cloud on a time payment plan for the amazing sum of $2,500. As Roy recalled, "He would turn on a dime and he'd give you 9 cents change."
Trigger, a handle affixed to the animal once under Roy's ownership, was a name credited to Roy's sidekick Smiley Burnette who upon seeing the horse running, commented on how quick on the trigger he was. Roy agreed and decided that Trigger was the perfect name.
Amazingly, Roy never used his reins, never a whip, and never his spurs. Trigger had been trained to respond to touch and hand movements so with just a gentle pat on his neck, Roy would let him know just what he wanted him to do. They worked so in step with one another that it seemed as though Trigger instinctively knew just what to do and how to please the crowds. Roy once said of Trigger that he "seemed to know when people were watching him and that he recognized applause and just ate it up like a ham!"
Already a famous pair, Trigger accompanied Roy on his 1938 personal appearance tour stopping in almost every major city in the U.S. over a three month period. As Trigger's career progressed in show business, he became known as "The Smartest Horse in the Movies," performing some 100 recognizable tricks: Counting, doing the hula, untying ropes, shooting a gun, knocking on doors and walking on his hind quarters. The horse was outfitted with an exquisite Edward H. Bohlin gold and silver saddle and was even the focus of the movie My Pal Trigger where Rogers' Character gives the name "Trigger" to a new born colt. Trigger also appeared in the Republic Films sequel Trigger, Jr. and in all of Roy Rogers 188 movies and the Roy Rogers Show on NBC from 1951 to 1957, garnering his very own fan club. The awards and accolades achieved by Trigger were second to none- He shared the spotlight with his pal Roy at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood on April 21, 1949 when both Trigger and Roy's hoof/foot prints were forever mounted in concrete. In 1953, Trigger won the P.A.T.S.Y. award (animal equivalent for the Oscar) for the Son of Paleface where he upstaged Bob Hope. He also won the 1958 Craven award.
Trigger was such an integral part of Roy's life both on and off the stage throughout the years. Together, they performed all over the country during World War II raising millions in the sale of bonds to aid the war effort. And it was Trigger that gave Roy his legs as he proposed to Dale Evans in Chicago during a performance.
On July 3, 1965 at the Rogers ranch in Hidden Valley, California, Trigger left this earth at the age of 30 (one day before he would turn 31), succumbing to old age. Reluctant to "put him in the ground," Roy was inspired by the animals on display in the Smithsonian. He decided to have Trigger mounted in his iconic rearing position on two legs and put on display at the Roy Rogers - Dale Evans Museum, then located in Victorville, California.