PITTSBURG — Trick-riding, some call it acrobatics on a horse.
With great agility and dressed in a colorful cowgirl costume, Virginia Robison Moore would jump off the back of a horse and swing herself right back on.
This was a crupper trick.
Virginia also did the hippodrome stand, where she stood on top of a horse with poise while the horse ran around the arena. Other tricks included death drags and jumping a horse over a car.
Virginia was a trick rider and she did so for nearly 16 years. Her career as an entertainer was recently recognized by the Cowboy Hall of Fame at Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City, Kansas. She was honored as the Entertainer of the Year.
The hall of fame was hard to get into, because only one person is inducted into each category a year, Virginia said.
An old friend from back when Virginia was still trick riding was the one who nominated her.
That friend was Peggy (Veach) Robinson and her father was a saddle maker at his business Veach Saddlery Co. He also ran rodeos.
Virginia used to work for Peggy’s father in the late 40s and early 50s.
Peggy being involved with the Rodeo Historical Society and her own father being in the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, thought Virginia should be recognized too, in the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Kansas.
Peggy didn’t wait for any approval from Virginia because she knew that she was something special.
What made Virginia stand out from all of the other lady trick riders was that she “was a young woman that did a lot of groundwork, and even today it’s mostly strap work,” Peggy said. “Groundwork is generally male trick riding.”
By ground work, Peggy means Virginia would hop or swing off the horse, hit the ground and get right back into the saddle.
“She was so good at it, agile and picture perfect doing it,” Peggy said. “She was pretty awesome back in the day.
“Even today there’s not too many young woman who do groundwork.”
Along with the nomination, Virginia had to write an essay and send photographs from her time as a trick rider. Virginia’s granddaughter, Marenda Moore, helped write the essay.
Her granddaughter also wrote a story book about her grandmother’s trick riding career when she was in elementary school. This special book helped share Virginia’s story and is held dear to her grandmother’s heart.
In November, Virginia traveled with her family to go to the Cowboy Hall of Fame award banquet.
“I was thrilled to death for her, of course she was too and her family,” Peggy said.
When Virginia found out that made it into the hall of fame she said she cried. Just the thought still brought happy tears to her eyes as she shared her story. She said friends have been so kind with gifts and phone calls, congratulating her on her recognition.
The trick-riding journey
Virginia traveled from coast to coast and border to border more or less.
She was born Nov. 25, 1925 in Midway, Kansas to Ernest and Maude Robison. Virginia had a brother, Elmer, and a sister, Genevieve.
As a small child she and her brother rode ponies all the time and once they out grew the ponies their father bought them horses. When her family moved to West Mineral, Kansas, her father began taking her to rodeos.
Her favorite part? Trick riding.
After watching trick riding she decided to learn the craft herself. Her father bought her a horse for trick riding and a trick riding saddle. That horse was a black and white mustang named Tim.
“We’d go to rodeos and watch the girls trick-ride and I would pick it up and go home and work on it,” Virginia said.
She had Tim for a year and a half, but he was a little too wild for tricks.
A palomino (yellow and white) horse named Silver would be her new trick riding horse.
In 1944 she began trick riding at local fairs and amateur rodeos. A year later she joined the Rodeo Cowboy Association (RCA). She promoted herself by sending her resume and photos to rodeo producers.
From there, she began her 16-year career in Trick Riding.
Virginia’s father helped her train and her mother helped make her colorful costumes. She even had matching hats that would go with costumes, along with custom cowgirl boots and trick-riding saddle.
When Virginia would practice children would come up to the fence and watch her do the tricks.
“If you wanted to know where your kids were they were at Virginia’s house,” Virginia said laughing.
Virginia had another horse named Chalk and he could go down on both front knees and could put his head between his legs like he’s praying while Virginia knelt beside him.
He could also roll a barrel and could untie a handkerchief from his rear leg with his teeth and hand it to Virginia.
Virginia has performed at, but not limited to: the Johnnie Lee Wells Stampede Rodeo in Tulsa, Oklahoma; The Fort Smith Arkansas 25th Anniversary Rodeo; Huntsville, Texas Prison Rodeo; McAlester, Oklahoma Prison Rodeo (inside prison grounds); Nashville, Tennessee Rodeo; Salina, California Rodeo; Bismarck, North Dakota Rodeo.
She had the distinction of working with the Billy Veach Rodeo, Walt Plugge Rodeo, Homer Todd, Ken Roberts and Burr Andrews.
During one season, she traveled with Jim and Rita Murphy a brother and sister from Nebraska who performed. She jumped a horse over a car with Jim during an act called “Me and My Shadow.”
“I enjoyed going to the banquet with Roy Rogers’ sisters and nephews in Tulsa, and I knew Tex Ritter,” Virginia said reminiscing the people she met and places she went. “I was invited to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and I met Hank Snow and little Jimmy Dickens.”
Virginia performed in 18 states, traveled through 26 during her rodeo career. Virginia said she wanted to perform internationally but did not want to risk harming her horse by traveling outside the U.S.
While traveling across the states, Virginia had a companion, a dog called Booger. The Australian Shepherd went everywhere with her.
Later she worked at the Anshires Coat Factory in Pittsburg. When the factory closed she was supervisor. On May 28, 1960 she married Richard W. Moore. He died on April 12, 1988. She has two children Graig and Kevin Moore, and two grandchildren Miranda and Mattew Moore.
(This story was written with the help of Miranda Moore’s story book of her grandmother, Virginia Moore Robison.)
PATRICK'S PEOPLE — Virginia Robison Moore inducted into Kansas Cowboy of Fame
PITTSBURG — Trick-riding, some call it acrobatics on a horse.