FROM  THE  BOOK  "ROY  ROGERS"  BY  ROBERT  W.  PHILLIPS



"Trigger"

In this chapter the word Trigger, without quotation marks, refers to the actual horse by that name, the original Trigger. "Trigger" in quotation marks refers to the character Trigger, which, in actuality, might be any one of numerous doubles.


Important information pertaining to "Trigger" has been generated in the past 55 years from four main sources: 1. publicity, media; 2. Roy Rogers; 3. Glenn Randall, who trained "Trigger" from 1941 through 1965, and gave interviews in the 1980s; 4. William Witney, the director of Roy and Trigger films, 1946-1951.


These sources differ with one another on many points. Each one will be examined. Because of practical limitations of space in this book only a portion of my overall study may be shown. Everything to do with "Trigger" is show business, pure and simple. It is not the most honest thing in the world, but honesty is not an issue. If it were, you wouldn't have pure publicity, and without the publicity, there would be no stars. Fiction is the key word, as in good novels, plays, films, or live shows. The purpose of all these mediums is to entertain. It's not a scam. We Americans spend a large portion of our lifetime wages on entertainment, and if it's good entertainment, we get our money's worth.


THERE  WAS  NO  NEED  TO  TRY  AND  BLEND  TWO  MAIN  HORSES  INTO  ONE.  IT  WOULD  HAVE  BEEN  HONEST,  OPEN,  AND  UP-FRONT,  TO  HAVE  CALLED  ONE  "TRIGGER  ONE"  AND  THE  OTHER  "TRIGGER  TWO"  ESPECIALLY  WHEN  ON  THE  ROAD  -  Keith Hunt

  

Roy Rogers and "Trigger" were one of America's most top-notch acts for over two decades. They entertained us so well they became legends and idols in our eyes, our hearts, and our imaginations. "Trigger" became a legendary star in his own right, getting much press, publicity, and media attention. My research indicates that "Trigger" the character horse was portrayed on film and in photos and live appearances by whichever horse was necessary and available at any given time, and I doubt that this revelation will come as much of a surprise to anyone. Whenever the subject is brought up among true-blue-cowboy-hero-worshippers, a class in which I have held a lifelong membership, most readily admit that they are aware there were numerous "Triggers."


BUT  THERE  WERE  TWO  MAIN  TRIGGER  HORSES  AS  CAN  BE  SEEN  FROM  THE  BUILD  AND  MARKINGS,  WHO  WERE  THE  BEDROCK  OF  THE  MOVIES,  TV  SERIES,  AND  "ON  THE  ROAD"  RODEO  AND  SHOW  APPEARANCES.  TO  BLEND  THEM  IN  CONVERSATIONS  AS  TO  MAKE-OUT  THERE  WAS  "ONE"  TRIGGER,  AS  ROY  AND  DALE  DID  ALL  THE  TIME,  WAS  VERY  WRONG;  BEING  OPEN  AND  ABOVE  ABOUT  IT  ALL,  WOULD  HAVE  BEEN  THE  HONEST  WAY  TO  HAVE  GONE  -  Keith Hunt


The films and shows were a result of hardworking and skilled people and animals. Roy and "Trigger" were out front, but up ahead, perhaps days ahead, in the background and on the sidelines, many other talented people were required to make the show go on. People and horses cannot be in two different places at the same time. And when shows are being scheduled miles apart and time is tight and physical endurance gets pushed to the max, whether it be films being made or shows being put on, the only solution is backups, or "doubles" as they're called in the business. With a person, distance and camera angles are employed to create the illusion necessary to trick the eye of the beholder. This isn't necsessarily true with a horse, unless the observer is very familiar with horses. Most of the observers that will say that they can tell one "Trigger" from another were fans of Roy and "Trigger." And the legend was created for, and has been maintained for, those fans.


It does not appear that Roy Rogers is going to change the way he refers to "Trigger." It is clear to me after studying the many interviews and conflicting statements made over the years, that when Roy says, "Trigger," the name is always in quotations marks. The "Trigger" he will refer to is whichever one the question most readily applies to, or whichever one he is thinking of at the time. This is publicity thinking, and he has done it throughout his career. It has maintained the legend of "Trigger" ever since the horse first rode into our lives. For the most part, when Roy rode out on his horse, the horse was advertised and promoted as "Trigger," just as the man born Leonard Frank Sly, even prior to the name change, was advertised and promoted as "Roy Rogers."


ROY  DID  LEGALLY  CHANGE  HIS  NAME  FROM  LEONARD  SLY  TO  ROY  ROGERS.  HE  SHOULD  HAVE  BEEN  OPEN  ABOUT  THE  TWO  MAIN  HORSES  IN  HIS  LIFE….. A  TRIGGER  ONE  FOR  MOVIES,  AND  A  TRIGGER  TWO  FOR  ON  THE  ROAD  APPEARANCES  -  Keith Hunt


Roy Rogers had numerous doubles, as legions of grown-up fans now know. The doubles kept Republic with a star cowboy by preventing Roy from getting injured or killed while filming stunts. The same was true for the horses Trigger, Little Trigger, Trigger, Jr., and other "Triggers," and different horses would be particularly good at certain feats or tricks.


YES,  ROY  DID  SAY  THAT  A  VET  TOLD  HIM  THAT  GALLOPING  SO  OFTEN  WOULD  WEAR  A  HORSE  OUT,  SO  IN  MANY  LONG  DISTANCE  SHOTS  ANOTHER  PALOMINO  WAS  USED;  BUT  THE  FACT  REMAINS  TWO  HORSES  WERE  PROMINENT….. ONE  FOR  MOVIES  THE  OTHER  FOR  "ON  THE  ROAD"  APPEARANCES  -  Keith Hunt


Roy's filming alone would have worn out the finest horse specimen in the world in short time. The road work, that is, tours, rodeos, stage performances, etc., was more exhausting than anyone not in the Rogers entourage will ever know. The filming and road work obviously required a large number of horses. 


NOT  AT  ALL,  AS  THEY  SAY,  YOU  CAN  ONLY  BE  IN  ONE  PLACE  AT  ONE  TIME….. THE  "ON  THE  ROAD"  AND  "TRICK"  HORSE  WOULD  HAVE  MANAGED  FINE,  UNLESS  INJURED  OR  SICK  -  THEN  YOU  TELL  THE  PEOPLE  THE  SITUATION  AND  THE  SHOW  GOES  ON  AS  THEY  SAY,  WITHOUT  A  HORSE;  THERE  WAS  MUCH  TO  THE  ROAD  SHOWS  BESIDES  A  "TRICK"  HORSE  -  Keith Hunt


This is not to say that in either medium there were not certain ones "up front" at any given time. There were several such horses over the course of Roy's career. The following information is based upon the very earliest palomino in Roy's career that was much more prominent than any other. In my research, I have studied thousands of photos, as well as the published accounts of numerous individuals. My research will continue indefinitely, and I hope that others will be devoted enough to carry on additional research.


YES  IN  SOME  MOVIE  SCENES  A  HORSE  DOING  CERTAIN  THINGS  CAN  BE  SEEN [STOPPING  THE  FRAME]  NOT  TO  BE  THE  "ORIGINAL"  TRIGGER  -  Keith Hunt


The original Trigger was very likely present in most, perhaps even all, of the feature Republic films and the six years of weekly broadcast television episodes. He also appeared in a multitude of the photos used for comic books, magazines, and advertising. It appears that he might have made a tour, perhaps Roy's first, and evidence seems to indicate that it was he who appeared at events in and around Los Angeles. It must be kept in mind, however, that the majority of what came out of the Rogers camp and was published in any form, regardless of who was talking, had publicity as its purpose. Roy and Dale's lives were oriented to writing and talking in a publicity fashion, so when one reads that Trigger, Trigger, Jr., and even Buttermilk are touring the country with Randall in the specially equipped trailer, it is anybody's guess which horses are out there. Magazine articles, as well as Dale's books, kept Trigger touring even in 1956-1957 writings. 


THERE  WAS  IN  THE  MAIN  ONE  HORSE  THAT  DID  THE  TOURING,  RODEO,  HORSE  SHOWS  ETC.  THE  ONE  NOW  OFTEN  CALLED  "LITTLE  TRIGGER"  THE ONE  I  CALL  "TRIGGER  TWO."  IT  WAS  TRIGGER  TWO  THAT  WAS  THE  TRIGGER  IN THE  MOVIE  OF  1952  CALLED  "SON  OF  PALEFACE" -  THAT  HORSE  STILL  HAD  MANY  YEARS  LEFT  IN  HIM  TO  PERFORM,  HENCE  STILL  TOURING  IN  1956-57.  TRIGGER JR. A  REGISTERED  TENNESSEE  WALKER  CAME  ALONG  LATER  INTO  THE  EARLY  1960s.  THE  THREE  MAIN  TRIGGER  HORSES  WERE  NOT  RELATED  TO  EACH  OTHER  -  Keith Hunt

 

There are three important things to bear in mind in analyzing this situation: 1. Every palomino horse has his or her own unique markings. Many horses resemble each other closely, but not identically. 2. Many photographs are doctored for a variety of reasons, from creating an illusion to producing an eye-appealing product. 3. Photographs often do not lend themselves well to study at all because of the photography, the conditions at the time, or, the angle of the subject to the camera. I have been frustrated to find many photographs that fall into this category. Often, only one particular distinctive marking can be seen in a given photo.


The study of the publicity associated with "Trigger" over the years can be very interesting to sort through, for sometimes it doubled back on itself, producing some interesting revelations. It is important to keep in mind that in the early years, the golden palomino that was with Roy was "Trigger." Later on, a "Trigger, Jr.," was introduced. But, although Trigger, Jr., was a real horse, he was also a character, as was "Trigger." I believe it would be reasonable to assume that the corrals and trailers contained numerous golden palominos who could be "Trigger," or "Trigger, Jr.," or a horse by any other name, or a horse by no particular name.


NO  YOU  CANNOT  HAVE  A  HORSE  ABLE  TO  DO  AS  MANY  TRICKS  AND  OR  DANCE  STEPS  ETC.  AS  WHAT  TRIGGER  TWO  AND  TRIGGER  JR.  COULD  DO;  THE  AMOUNT  OF  TIME  SPENT  IN  TRAINING  FOR  OTHER  HORSES  TO  "STAND  IN"  WOULD  NOT  BE  COST  JUSTIFIED,  WHEN  THEY  MAY  NEVER  BE  USED.  ROY  AND  HIS  TRAINER  HAD  PRODUCED  "THE  LIBERTY  HORSES"  AS  PART  OF  THE  SHOW,  TO  GIVE  VARIETY.  ROY  ALSO  HAD  HIS  "TRICK  SHOOTING"  AND  OF  COURSE  WESTERN  SINGING  -  SO  MUCH  TO  STILL  MAKE  A  SHOW  IF  YOUR  MAIN  HORSE  WAS  NOT  AVAILABLE  FOR  SOME  REASON  -  Keith Hunt

 

I believe Glenn Randall knew much more than he ever told, and I believe William Witney knows more than he has told. Some persons, such as trainers or film producers who were very close to the subjects, have shed some light on the mysteries, enough to make us all the more curious. Many of these people are no longer around, however. I have studied the publicity and information pertaining to "Trigger," as well as the photographs and films containing information, especially the markings on the horses, and have drawn many conclusions.


My study of the hundreds of photos indicates that there were at least three principal horses that were "Trigger" in all the mediums. Then there were many others that were shown anywhere from once to a half dozen times in all mediums. All of this is in addition to any "Triggers" in distant film shots. This discussion focuses entirely upon high profile "Triggers." People who were closely involved with the films have admitted to a half dozen or more "doubles" for Trigger in that medium. It has been shown that Trigger was relied upon for years to get Roy and the producers out of tough filming situations. They would have the doubles on the scenes for certain stunts, but there were some stunts that they just couldn't film, despite numerous attempts, because the horses were afraid of whatever objects were employed. They could always depend on the "Old Man" as they called him, to bail them out, however. The horse had quite a reputation with everyone on the set for being fearless….. 


YES  MOST  OF  THE  SHOTS  WHERE  "FEARLESS"  ABILITY  WAS  NEEDED  WAS  DONE  WITH  THE  ORIGINAL  TRIGGER.  AS  ROY  HAS  SAID,  THAT  HORSE  WAS  FAST,  FEARLESS,  AND  A  WONDERFUL  "COWPONY"  -  ROY  COULD  AND  DID ROPE  FROM  HIM,  TRICK-RIDE  FROM  HIM.  ROY  SAID  WHEN  TRIGGER  WAS  MADE [THE  ORIGINAL  TRIGGER]  THEY  THREW  AWAY  THE  BLUEPRINT  -  Keith Hunt


The Original Trigger


Birth: 


My research has determined that the original Trigger was foaled on a ranch in Santa Cietro, California, part-owned by film star Bing Crosby, and managed by Roy Cloud, a horse breeder formerly of Nobelsville, Indiana. Mr. Cloud bred horses, raced horses, and entered his horses in parades. One of these horses was "Golden Cloud," a palomino later sold to Hudkins Stables. It is possible that Mr. Cloud bred some of the "Trigger" doubles as well.


Description: 


Blaze extends from left side of face, jutting out over left eye with a notch cut out, to right face, covering entire right nostril and top part of mouth only. Above left eye, in that area usually covered by mane, the blaze returns, with a jagged edge, to center of face, resulting in very large white area on forehead. On right side of face, blaze runs straight up, considerably away from eye, to high part of forehead, where it turns in. The white area, well below the right nostril, makes a 90 degree right turn and, with a jagged edge, continues toward the mouth. Without being able to see this side of the face, or the part of the blaze extending toward the left eye, it is impossible to make a positive identification. Horse has only one white stocking, his left rear. One must make a decision based on this, and perhaps the right side of the face. 


CORRECTLY  THE  "STOCKING"  IS  A  "SOCK"  IN  TODAYS  TERMED  MARKINGS;  A  "STOCKING"  WOULD  GO  MUCH  FURTHER  UP  THE  LEG  -  Keith Hunt


Often in photos, and on film, the stockings appear blurred or discolored, and the mane obstructs the blaze near the eye. The more of the three distinguishable markings one can see, the better the chance for a positive identification. 


Eye marking visible: 


near positive identification, if paid attention to in detail, i.e., under magnification. Mouth marking visible: same applies. Stocking visible: assumption only. Any two markings together are conclusive in this study. …….

……….


MORE  DETAILED  INFORMATION  ON  "TRIGGER"  IS  GIVEN  IN  THE  MORE  RECENT  BOOK  OF  2007  BY  LEO  PANDO  CALLED  "An  Illustrated  History  of  TRIGGER - the  Lives  and  Legend of  Roy  Rogers'  Palomino"


MANY  ODD  AND  STRANGE  THINGS  WERE  DONE  AT  TIMES  IN  THE  PUBLICITY  OF  ROY  ROGERS'  LIFE….. LIKE  "REVERS  NEGATIVE"  PHOTOS,  MAKING  TRIGGER  JR.  LOOK  LIKE  HIS  MANE  FELL  ON  THE  RIGHT  SIDE,  BUT  IT  TRUTH   IT  NATURALLY  FELL  ON  THE  LEFT  SIDE.  


THE  BEST  MOVIE  TO  NOT  ONLY  SEE  THE  BUILD  AND  MARKINGS  OF  TRIGGER  TWO,  AS  WELL  AS  HIS  ASTONISHING  TRICKS,  IS  THE  1952  MOVIE  "SON  OF  PALEFACE"  -  A  CLASSIC  FAMILY  ENTERTAINMENT.


Keith Hunt