CHASING AND CATCHING TRIGGER #2
From the book "An Illustrated History of TRIGGER" by Leo Pando
Little Trigger: The Horse Behind the Horse
"That horse probably had more tricks on him than any other horse
in the world." - Corky Randall describing Little Trigger.
The original Trigger seemed to have had it all. According to Roy
Rogers, "He was an iron horse. And smart! He just would do
anything, and he had a rein on him as good as any cow pony you've
ever seen. He would spin on a dime and give you nine cents
Trigger was blessed with great looks, an even disposition, fine
conformation, athleticism, and perfect timing. When Roy Rogers
selected him from a string of rental horses as his movie co-star,
the palomino was more than ready to make his mark in show
business. Beyond his assets, all Trigger needed for the challenge
that lay ahead was a first-rate support team: a great trainer and
a very special double horse to perform a variety of tricks on
movie sets and on tour. Rogers found Glenn Randall to handle
training duties and an extraordinary palomino look-alike who
would be referred to as Little Trigger.
Glenn Randall's son Corky claimed the only traveling the original
Trigger did was to movie locations in states neighboring
California like Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. The palomino was too
much of an asset to be used touring across the country. He was
groomed like a Hollywood starlet, and his main jobs were to be
seen and photographed; to run at full speed with Rogers on his
back; and to rear up. For just about everything else, he had
Rogers needed not only a second "Trigger" with similar looks, but
a horse with intelligence and endurance because the demands on
him would be great. While Little Trigger was not as beautiful as
the original Trigger, he could do things like dance, count, pull
sheets off a bed, and sign an "x" on a hotel registry. According
to Cheryl Barnett-Rogers, Little Trigger was extremely smart, a
quick study and did not forget tricks. Little Trigger would
eventually go on to double not only the original Trigger, but
Trigger Jr. as well. It was Little Trigger who secured the title
"the Smartest Horse in the Movies" for the original Trigger.
Little Trigger was not a stunt horse but a trick horse. When he
performed in rodeo arenas, fair grounds, parades, hospital rooms,
and hotel lobbies, he had to endure public adulation to the point
where parts of his mane and tail were clipped by enthusiastic
fans as souvenirs. Rogers even used soldiers and policemen to
guard him. He claimed that the pilfering became such a problem
that "Trigger" was sometimes forced to wear a "toupee" till his
mane and tail grew out.
Although Little Trigger was seen in public by more people than
any other palomino Roy Rogers used, much more is known about
Trigger Jr. and even Dale Evans' palomino, Pal. When researching
Little Trigger one mostly encounters theories, hearsay, and
colorful anecdotes. The best one can expect is to corroborate an
occasional story. What one doesn't run across are official
documents. Corky Randall said Little Trigger was not papered...
The palomino could do many dressage steps without a rider in the
saddle cuing him.
Little Trigger's place of birth, date of birth, breed, and
breeder are all unknown. Sadly, even the date of Little Trigger's
death was never acknowledged. When asked by Joel "Dutch" Dortch
of the Happy Trails Foundation in May of 2006, Dave Koch, the
Internet administrator for the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum
and Dusty Rogers' son-in-law, replied, "Little Trigger was
purchased after Trigger for stunt purposes to protect Trigger. We
have no information on when or where Roy purchased him, or his
birth and death dates."
(What a SAD COMMENTARY on what was ultimately in the hands of Roy
Rogers, that a horse as talented and as workable for Rogers in so
many ways, was hardly recognized by Rogers; no special place in
the Roy Rogers Museum; no special burial plot and stone. It
surely was one of the biggest mistakes Roy Rogers ever made in
his entire life, was to just about ignore such a wonderful horse,
probably the greatest "trick" horse that ever walked this earth.
Not to have a special historic spot for him except in books like
that of Pando's, is shameful and very disappointing of Roy Rogers
- Keith Hunt)
Even if papers did exist, it's doubtful he would be referred to
as "Little Trigger" officially. One would have to rely on the
description of the animal on the registration form for
identification and hope that Rogers didn't own more than one
small stocky palomino (if you've seen or own the movie "Son of
Paleface" - 1952, with Bob Hope, Jane Russell, Roy Rogers and
"Trigger" - you will see that Trigger #2 was really not small or
stocky - Keith Hunt)
It's a shame Roy Rogers didn't keep better records for Little
Trigger - and it's strange, really, because of his tendency to
hang on to things.
As one would expect, stories regarding Little Trigger are laced
with contradictions. Roy Rogers and Glenn Randall covered their
tracks, and, with very rare exceptions, neither acknowledged the
horse as an individual to the press. One exception was when Glenn
Randall was quoted in an article titled "He Spoke Horse" which
appeared in the summer of 1992 in "Cowboy Magazine": "Little
Trigger was our personal appearance horse and, by God, he could
do some of the most remarkable things."
During Roger's career, however, Little Trigger's name was not
used publicly and was kept out of most all published matter.
Little Trigger was never recognized as a character in his own
right, like Trigger Jr., Buttermilk, or even sidekick Pay Brady's
Little Trigger was never the subject any of Rogers' films like
Trigger and Trigger Jr. were. He existed only as a double for the
(Again, I say, shame on Roy Rogers for not giving that horse some
of the glory he deserved, while that horse was alive,
especially so after his performance in "Son of Paleface" - Keith
It's never been known exactly how many "Trigger" doubles Roy
Rogers used, much less from where and from whom he got them. One
1946 article claimed, "So valuable is Trigger that he has four
stand-ins who also double for him in hazardous shots. Trigger is
capable of performing any spectacular stunt, but Rogers and
Republic Pictures prefer to use the other four horses, each a
specialist in running, jumping, or talking falls for any trick
action scenes. Trigger is there for the human interest,
devotion-of-master-to-horse scenes. The stand-ins are raised on
the Rogers ranch." Corky Randall claimed that Rogers didn't own
that many Trigger doubles and further claimed that during many
personal appearances anonymous palominos were provided by either
Republic or whoever was sponsoring a particular event. Rogers
occasionally rode horses that were on loan. This happened at the
beginning of his career and especially at the end.
Although official papers have never surfaced, it's very possible
that Roy Rogers might have purchased at least one, maybe two
palominos from cowboy star Ray "Crash" Corrigan, and Little
Trigger may have been one of them.
Ray Corrigan maintained a living by promoting himself. Many fans
thought he was just being a publicity hound when he claimed to
have sold "Trigger" to Roy Rogers. No matter how shaky the
underlying facts were, Corrigan did not draw a distinction
between the original Trigger and Little Trigger. However, there
are ear-witness accounts to what Roy Rogers said when asked from
whom he got Little Trigger. In 1993 longtime Rogers fan Carol
Johnson noted, "I asked him where he bought Little Trigger. He
said, 'as a matter of fact from Ray Corrigan.'"
Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, and Little Trigger arrive in England for
a tour. As a publicity gimmick, the palomino presented a
traveling passport. (Picture not reproduced for space reasons -
"I asked him where he bought Little Trigger. He said, 'As a
matter of fact from Ray Corrigan'. I think both are telling the
truth but talking about different Triggers. I then asked him if
he purchased another horse at the same time and he said, 'No,
that was later but that one didn't turn out as good as Little
Trigger.' Then I asked him about the one time that Trigger was
used as a stud and what happened to the foal. He told me about
the close friend of his trainers that talked him into using
Trigger and how the owner of the mare couldn't wait to go on tour
with the offspring. He whispered to me that he wasn't very happy
about that. Roy did also say on one of the Happy Trails Theater
shows that Trigger was used once at stud. I have that on tape.'
(Carol R.Johnson, letter to Bobby Copeland)
(Again, the "Triggers" are being mixed up. Rogers maintained
that the original Trigger was never used at stud. If he was,
his offspring would now be well known and famous, and would
especially be well published since Roy's death - Keith Hunt)
This may also be corroborated in the Frank Rasky biography "Roy
Rogers: King of the Cowboys." Rasky goes into detail about how
Rogers bought "Trigger" from Crash Corrigan. There are diehard
Roy Rogers fans who believe it was Little Trigger who Rasky,
unknowingly, was referencing.
Ray Corrigan also claimed he sold Trigger to Rogers for $250. "I
sold Roy two palominos for $500 - that's for both of them -$250
apiece. A millionaire from Texas later offered $50,000 for the
one with the four white stockings, the horse you know as Trigger.
The second horse had only three white stockings so when it
doubled the other palomino they painted his leg with white paint.
Roy named both of the horses Trigger - and folks, until this day
he still owes me $250!" During the 1975 Nashville Film Festival,
Ray Corrigan recalled the following conversation with Roy Rogers:
"'Ray, if I ever get a horse I want to call him Trigger.' At that
time, I had thirty-one horses. Among those were three beautiful
palominos. Two of the palominos looked almost exactly alike. One
of them had four white stocking feet, and the other had three
white stocking feet."
The Rasky biography of Rogers was clearly written for the youth
market, and it made a number of outrageous claims, even though it
seemed to have had Roy Rogers' blessing. While it still remains
within reason that Rogers could have indeed purchased Little
Trigger from Ray Corrigan, if one is going to trust the Rasky
book, one has to consider the following inconsistencies. Rasky
noted (page 98) that Roy Rogers bought a palomino at one and a
half years of age from Corrigan in 1938 for $360. This was not
the original Trigger because the palomino's first film as
Trigger, "Under Western Stars," was shot the same year. On page
102 Rasky wrote that trainer Glenn Randall worked Trigger
"between twelve and fourteen hours a day, alternating between
twenty minutes of training and twenty minutes of rest." Horses do
not have a long attention span, and that much training would be
not only counter-productive but ultimately very stressful. Rasky
also claimed it was Rogers who originally named Trigger,
foregoing the Smiley Burnette claim. Rasky does not mention Jimmy
Griffin, Rogers' first trainer. Rasky also stated the palomino
Rogers bought from Corrigan was "fifteen and a half hands"
(15.2). It is generally agreed that Little Trigger was about 15
hands, and he may have looked bigger because he was more of a
bulldog-type quarter horse, very stocky compared to the original
(Not so at all if you look at the so-called Little Trigger in
"Son of Paleface" - that horse looks taller than 15 hands and is
not as stocky as some want to make out. See the horse in the
dancing scene. I do not believe you can say the horse was
"stocky" per se, I've seen many more "stockier" Quarter horses in
my lifetime - Keith Hunt)
There are clearly timeline issues with the Rasky book. Rasky had
Rogers going out on his personal appearance tour and looking high
and low for a horse, then buying "Trigger" from Corrigan. If
Rogers didn't have Trigger until after the personal appearance
tour, what horse he was riding in "Under Western Stars?" But if
one draws a distinction between Trigger and Little Trigger, then
the story works.
In all probability Roy Rogers realized that he needed a horse for
touring, bought one from Ray Corrigan and used the horse in
movies too. Absent a bill of sale, this is a good theory, and the
scenario fits the pattern of the Rogers public relations machine,
i.e., changing the facts just enough to release the best-sounding
The palomino Rasky mentioned was bought in 1938. Roy Rogers
biographer Robert W. Phillips gave 1940 as the year Little Trigger
was bought at age 18 months. If one goes by the timeline provided
by Roy Rogers spokespersons, Little Trigger died in 1965 at
around age 25. This would mean he was born in 1940 and the
Phillips date is incorrect. However, it is very
Roy Rogers and Little Trigger circa 1939-1940, in what is
believed to be one of the earliest known photographs of this
palomino. For serious fans the saddle looks like tack Ray "Crash"
Corrigan used. The future King of the Cowboy's gun holster, still
nice and new in this photo, would soon show wear and tear from
use (Jerry Dean collection). (This may not be Little Trigger at
all, but a look-alike, as the Little Trigger of "Son of Paleface"
 does not look as short or stocky as the horse in the 1939-
1940 photo. Then it could be they had some "strange" cameras or
developing rooms back then that messed things up - Keith Hunt)
unlikely Little Trigger was born in 1940, because he would have
been too young to have been doubling Trigger and performing fancy
tricks in front of cameras at age three. Little Trigger appeared
for the first time in a Roy Rogers movie in 1943. Horses, by
rule, are started under saddle at two and are performing more
complicated tricks at four and five years. The Lippizaner
stallions from the Spanish Riding School of Vienna are started at
four or five an aren't put into advanced training until they are
eight or nine!
In February of 1944 "How I Trained Trigger" by Roy Rogers (as
told to Adrienne Ames) was published in "Motion Picture"
magazine. Rogers said, "I bought Trigger in Santa Susanna,
California, for $350, and that was on-time, no money down.... He
was only a year and a half old." It sounds like Rogers is talking
about Little Trigger in this case, and it may well corroborate
the Corrigan connection.
(Yes Rogers was very good at not telling you whicvh Trigger was
in his mind when relating such facts - hence all the confusion
over many decades - Keith Hunt)
A very likely scenario is that Rogers may have tried to nip the
Corrigan-Little Trigger connection in the bud because he wanted
to maintain the fantasy of Trigger as one horse, discovered
through Hudkins Stables. In later years, after William Witney
first mentioned Little Trigger in his "Trigger Remembered" book
and fans started to ask questions about him, Rogers may have
decided to acknowledge the Corrigan connection to Little Trigger.
Again Roy Rogers and his family may have been spinning facts for
best effect. Rogers may have thought it was good public
relations, like Trigger's appearance in "The Adventures of Robin
Hood" movie, to associate Little Trigger with an action hero like
Ray "Crash" Corrigan - one of the Three Mesquiteers, no less.
According to author Merrill T. McCord in his book "Brothers of
the West," Ray Corrigan claimed that he'd helped Roy Rogers with
his career. This took his Three Mesquiteers co-star Bob
Livingston by surprise. It's well known that there was no love
lost between Corrigan and Livingston. When told of Corrigan's
claim that he had a hand in Rogers being signed by Republic
Pictures, Livingston categorically stated, "That's a lot of
bunk.... Corrigan at that time couldn't help anybody do anything.
He was having too much trouble holding his own job."
Like Corrigan, Livingston also claimed to have had a hand in the
uniting of Roy Rogers and Trigger. He stated: "I was walking from
the back lot up to the front office one day. This was the
beginning of Roy Rogers' career. He said, 'Hey Bob, do me a favor
will you?' He said, 'They want me to pick a horse out of this
bunch (they had about five horses there) to ride in the picture.
I wish you'd help me pick one out.' So I'm in a big hurry. I'm
not much interested in this routine anyway because I know the
background of it.... I said (sarcastically), 'Oh, that's a
beauty! That palomino there. That's the one!' And I went on my
On page 10 of Roy Ropers: "King o f the Cowboy" by Georgia Morris
and Mark Pollard, a book produced in conjunction with an AMC
cable television biography, there is a picture of Rogers on tour
with Little Trigger. The photo was dated 1941. It is one of the
earliest known photos of Rogers with Little Trigger. The horse
was probably around four.
Roy Rogers collector and expert Roy Dillow says there is another
shot of Rogers on Little Trigger and claims it's the earliest
shot to his knowledge, circa 1939 or 1940. He dates the picture
by the style of hat Rogers is wearing and by the fact that Little
Trigger appears to be using a Ray Corrigan saddle. The future
King of the Cowboy's clothes left a little to be desired. On the
other hand, his gun belt is nice and new in the photo; it would
show wear and tear from use in future pictures.
A few news released from the mid-1940s may offer a clue to Little
Trigger's birth year. The New York Times published a short press
release on October 7, 1943. It reported that a celebration for
"Trigger" was being held in the Plantation Room of the Hotel
Dixie in Manhattan: "Smartest Horse in the Movies will be seven
years old today." It's safe to assume it was Little Trigger
touring with Rogers at the time. The New York Times date would
make Little Trigger's birth year 1936. (As previously stated, the
original Trigger's registration gave July 4, 1934, as his date of
birth.) A similar story published in May of 1943 in the Junior
Rodeo Fans newsletter claimed that a "rodeo tour Trigger" was not
at home for his sixth birthday but was honored with his own party
in the main dining room of a Boston hotel. This would mean the
horse mentioned was born in 1937. Again, most likely it was
Little Trigger who was
Roy Rogers and Little Trigger on tour. This photograph is dated
1941, which supports a case for placing the palomino's birth year
in the mid-1930s. (not reproduced here for space retaining -
being referenced. It also needs to be understood, with regards to
the New York celebration especially, that a phony birth date may
have been concocted as a publicity stunt to promote Rogers'
appearance at Madison Square Garden.
A Roy Rogers comic book special section titled "My Pal Trigger"
stated, "Trigger, Palomino stallion, weighs 1,100 pounds and
stands 15 hands. His birthday is March 17." This description
matches Little Trigger's, in which case March 17 might be his
date of birth. However, the same paragraph also contains the
erroneous claim, "He has sired numerous colts, but one in
particular, Trigger Junior, is almost a perfect likeness of his
(Again, publicity stunts or very bad research by the writer.
Trigger Jr. did not look at all like the original Trigger, as
Corky Randall has said, the three Triggers were not at all alike.
Corky knew first hand as he groomed and exercised them - Keith
In the 1944 Motion Picture article "How I Trained Trigger,"
credited to Roy Rogers ("as told to Adrienne Ames"), it was
reported that "Trigger" "made his 'stage' debut about three
years ago in Tulare, California, when Roy made a personal
appearance there, and "[Trigger] was very bad in the first show.
But after a few performances, he began to like it." That would
put the debut in 1941. If Little Trigger is the horse being
mentioned, and he's around three or four, that too would put his
year of birth at 1936 or 1937.
In an article titled "That Horse, Trigger" which appeared in
Pageant magazine (February 1947), Stephen Strassberg wrote,
"Tricks, however, are Trigger's main claim to fame. Since buying
him for $350 in 1935, Rogers has taught him more than 50." Given
the price paid, this again sounds like a reference to Little
Trigger, but the date would mean he was born before the original
If we accept Robert W. Phillips' claim that Little Trigger was
purchased in 1940 at age 18 months, then the palomino was born in
1937. Little Trigger's first appearance was in "Song of Texas,"
released in 1943. Prior to 1943, "Trigger's" tricks on film were
limited. Trigger was hardly seen in "King of the Cowboys," the
movie released right before "Song of Texas." When Little Trigger
arrived on the scene, all of a sudden there vas dancing, bowing,
and more. We know that a horse is started under saddle at two,
and that by three or four a trick horse is moved along to more
complicated tricks. Using 1943 as a point to count back from,
it's reasonable to say that Little Trigger was born between 1936
and 1939. It's doubtful Roy Rogers and Glenn Randall needed to
wait till Little Trigger was six before he was ready to appear in
a film. This writer will split the difference and place his
likely birth year at 1938.
In "Song of Texas" Roy Rogers, playing a rodeo star, visited the
Texas Springs Hospital and took Little Trigger into a children's
ward packed with recovering patients, most of them lying in beds.
The first time Little Trigger appeared on camera in a movie was
when he was walking down a corridor with Rogers and the Sons of
the Pioneers right before they entered the children's ward.
Apparently the palomino had been given a full beauty treatment
in order to pass as the original Trigger. His forelock was teased
and he was immaculate. While the Sons of the Pioneers played
"Git Along Little Dogies," Rogers hopped up on Little Trigger and
they performed a short dance. Rogers even cued the horse to rear
up, which he did quickly and in a very confined space. Little
Trigger also threw a kiss to the adoring children.
This sequence - in which Little Trigger truly shone - was typical
of how he was to be used to enhance the "Trigger" legend. The
sequence was more or less an abbreviated version of the show
Rogers, Little Trigger, and the Sons of the Pioneers put on a
year later in "The Hollywood Canteen" (Warner Bros., 1944).
PURCHASE TIME LINE
We know that Rogers bought the original Trigger in 1943. The
question becomes, why did he buy Little Trigger before the
original? Probably because he had first priority use of Trigger
with Hudkins Stables and also a probable first option to buy.
Rogers either came to this conclusion on his own or was advised
that having Little Trigger as a touring trick horse was more
important than owning the original Trigger. Little Trigger, as a
double with a bag full of tricks, may have been viewed as more of
a necessity, a higher priority. The ever practical Rogers saw
"Trigger" as a prop as much as a partner. He obviously wanted a
personal appearance "Trigger" of his own, and most likely was
able to get Little Trigger for less money than the original
Little Trigger was probably assigned to Jimmy Griffin, Rogers'
first trainer. Corky Randall remembered that Little Trigger was
already being ridden when his father first started working for
Rogers. Since Jimmy Griffin was Little Trigger's first trainer,
that eliminates the idea that Glenn Randall may have found Little
Trigger for Rogers as some have thought.
TEMPERAMENT AND PERSONALITY
For those who have made an effort to learn about Little Trigger,
his reputation for being unpleasant is common knowledge.
According to Corky Randall, Little Trigger, eventually became
quite impatient with fans while on tour and could be aggressive
if they got near him.
One coudn't blame the horse. Any animal who's overstimulated by
too much hands-on attention, especially from strangers, has a
breaking point. Little Trigger had to tolerate an enormous amount
of traveling and attention. Early on, he was sometimes put on
display in front of an arena on show days so children who
couldn't go inside could at least see the palomino. A 1943 Song
of Texas press release the claim that Rogers and "Trigger" gave
136 performances in 20 days.
With a schedule like that, it's astonishing that Little Trigger
actually behaved most of the time. One is amazed not only by what
tricks the palomino mastered, but also by th many different
situations in which he was able to perform them.
Along with his reputation for being impatient with strangers,
Little Trigger was by nature temperamental. Cheryl Rogers-Barnett
described him as being like an ornery little kid: "Little Trigger
hated women, and he didn't much care for kids except for when dad
had him under saddle and bridle. He wasn't one you would let out
in the paddock for little kids to go and pat."
The following anecdotes cannot be connected to Little Trigger
absolutely, but they sound very much like him. After all, when it
came to personal appearances and touring, he was on the front
line, and these stories depict a horse with a bad disposition.
There were occasions when Roy Rogers was in the center of an
arena singing a hymn and "Trigger" cames up behind him and
grabbed a piece of his shirt in his mouth along with a good chunk
of his shoulder. The audience thought the palomino was giving his
master an affectionate nuzzle, but in reality it hurt like crazy.
"Trigger" seemed to know Rogers could not acknowledge his pain in
the middle of the hymn. During rehearsals when there was no
audience the horse never attempted the same stunt. Little Trigger
sometimes left teeth marks along Roger's forearms. In her "Cowboy
Princess" book, Cheryl Rogers-Barnett even recounts a time when
her dad mockingly threatened to discipline the diminutive
palomino with a baseball bat.
In the 1944 article "How I Trained Trigger," Rogers admitted to
author Adrience Ames, "'And sometimes he even goes so far as to
give me a nip. If you don't believe me, I'll show you.' And with
that he rolled up his sleeve and showed me his arm, with some
'gentle' reminders of Trigger's temperament."
It was noted in the pages Roy Rogers and Little Trigger. Here
the dark area around the of Esquire magazine (December palomino's
muzzle is evident - Janet' Miller collection) 1975 that fans
were shocked by a certain exchange between Roy Rogers and his
four-legged partner: "He [Trigger] and his master had more than
one set-to over his penchant for scene stealing. After one such
episode at the Earle Theater in Washington, Roy stormed off the
stage and announced, "Someday I'm going to shoot that god damn
horse right between the eyes."
(This was in Roy's pre-conversion days to Christianity. Anyone who
calls themselves a horse person knows that "stallions" are generally
not the friendliest and can be exactly like what Little Trigger
was somewhat famous for - Keith Hunt)
In August of 1956 Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, and the Sons of the
Pioneers were appearing at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. A
local newspaper published a photo of Rogers and a handler
(probably Glenn Randall) moving clear of "Trigger" as he rolled
on the ground. In all fairness, even the most highly trained
horse can spook, but this roll appears to be deliberate
misbehavior. A horse should not just roll on the ground when he's
being handled, especially when he's wearing a saddle. The
accompanying caption read:
Des Moines, Aug. 31-Roy and Trigger part company - Dale Evans
(mounted, background) holds a hand over her mouth in apprehension
as her husband Roy Rogers (left) and a handler (right) fall clear
of Rogers' sprawling horse Trigger at the Iowa State Fair yester
day. Trigger, for reasons unknown, reared, twisted and fell as
Rogers started to mount him on the muddy infield in front of the
fair grandstand. The western movie star moments later mounted
without trouble and rode away.
(Well maybe some folk just do not know enough about horses. Many
horses will just take an idea that they want to roll in the dirt,
especially if they are hot and sweaty, but sometimes they do it
for the pure pleasure, it is a dirt bath to them, scrub your sin
time. We have it happen now and again at the Ranch here in Calgary,
and have to tell the people that if their pony or horse goes down
to roll, they are to jump off immediately - Keith Hunt)
In 1952, in Los Angeles, actress Mabel Smeyne (aka Mabee Smaney)
filed a lawsuit against Roy Rogers Enterprises seeking $186,000
plus court costs and general relief. She alleged that Rogers and
others recklessly failed to control "Trigger" on the movie set of
Son of Paleface, allowing him to kick her. She claimed permanent
internal and external injuries to the head, chest, and breast.
The trial did not begin till October of 1954. Rogers spoke for
himself and "Trigger." On October 29 the jury was out only 39
minutes and rendered a verdict in favor of Rogers and "Trigger."
To win the case, Smeyne was required to prove the accident
happened because Rogers was negligent. She was unable to do so.
The Mabel Smeyne case was finally dismissed on appeal in 1955.
TOURING WITH LITTLE TRIGGER
It is hard to imagine any room for negligence in the touring
routine described by Corky Randall. Both animal and tack, Randall
said, were kept immaculate and in top condition. He also
confirmed that he and his dad actually drove "Trigger's" touring
trailer. Roy Rogers was not involved in the day-to-day care of
his horse while on the road because he was too busy attending to
miscellaneous business and promotion. Corky also claimed that if
Rogers had checked in on his mount after hours, he would have
been mobbed. The Randalls handed "Trigger" to the King of the
Cowboys right outside a performance arena. When the show was
over, the palomino was returned and Rogers was either off to his
hotel or involved in more promotion and tour business. Corky
Randall also insisted that it was only Little Trigger who went on
the road. Taking along a double was not an option. There was
simply no other palomino as highly trained.
Not surprisingly, there are few existing photos that show the
original Trigger with his doubles. Professional publicity shots
showing the two together would not have fostered the image of
Trigger as a single horse. Nor are there many amateur shots; the
cast and crew on movie sets were sure to have seen Randall and
Rogers off camera with two or three palominos in fancy show tack,
but Republic probably had rules against taking pictures behind
the scenes. Nevertheless, Rogers did allow shots of Trigger with
Trigger Jr. when he was promoting the latter. Even shots of
"Little Trigger" with Trigger Jr. exist. In one of the last
scenes of The Golden Stallion fans get a very rare look at Little
Trigger and the original Trigger together (refer to the "Golden
Rarest of all are photos showing the original Trigger with Little
Trigger. Only one such photo is known. Published in "Pic
magazine" in July 1946 over the caption "Trigger and His
Doubles," it shows Trigger, Monarch, California, Pal, and Little
In "Pals of the Golden West" (1951), the last movie Roy Rogers
made for Republic Pictures, Little Trigger did a small comedy bit
with Dale Evans. The palomino was tied up in, of all places, a
freight office. Evans, who played an ambitious reporter, took a
seat next to him. As she concocted a story about Rogers, Little
Trigger swished her with his tail.
Little Trigger was the cast horse in the movie "Son of Paleface,"
making him the last "Trigger" to star in a motion picture. The
original Trigger was nowhere to be found in the production
despite the King of the Cowboy's claims that he was in every Roy
Rogers film. While most serious fan knows this, they fail to ask
why. Corky Randall's simple and obvious explanation was that the
script called for a trick horse who would be called upon to
perform in most every scene he was in. Only Little Trigger was up
to the task.
(Oh no, Roy would have answered "Son of Paleface" was not realy
his movie per se - Keith Hunt)
My Pal Trigger and
The Extremely rare shot of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with the
original Trigger and four of his palomino doubles. From left to
right: Monarch (featured in such films as Pals of the Golden
West); the original Trigger; California (ridden in running insert
shots by stuntman Joe Yrigoyen in such movies as North of the
Great Divide); Pal; and Little Trigger standing next to Evans.
This photograph, with the caption "Trigger and his doubles,"
appeared in PIC, "a magazine for young men," in July 1946 (Roy
Dillow collection). (When you see them all lined up, there is
little difference in height and general looks - at least in
that particular photo - Keith Hunt)
"Golden Stallion" included, no other Roy Rogers movie required
more tricks of "Trigger" than "Son of Paleface."
MARKINGS AND COLOR
There were a number of palominos featured in Western movies from
the 1930s to the 1950s. Johnny Mack Brown, Eddie Dean, Hoot
Gibson, Russell Hayden, and Ken Maynard all rode them at one time
or another. From time to time some well-meaning fan claims to
have made a Trigger sighting in a non-Roy Rogers movie; however,
most of the time the palomino in question doesn't hold up to
close scrutiny. Horses may resemble each other closely, but
individuals have their own unique markings and conformation.
Two important things to keep in mind about the original Trigger
were that he had a very wide blaze (white marking on his face)
and only one white half-stocking, on his left hind leg (some
published photos are reversed). His blaze extended from the left
side of his face, justting out over his left eye with a notch cut
out, to the right side, covering his entire right nostril and the
top part of the mouth. Above his left eye, the blaze returned,
with a jagged edge, to the center of his face, resulting in a
very large white area on his forehead. One of the best
unobstructed frontal views of Trigger's blaze can be seen during
the horseback square dance in "My Pal Trigger" (1946). Because of
the English tack Trigger carries, the top of his blaze is
exposed; one can see how it ends in a pyramid shape at the top of
his forehead and how at that location it covers more of his left
side (over his eye) than his right side. Viewed from his right
side, the blaze ran straight up, considerably away from his eye,
to the high part of his forehead, where it turned in. The white
area well below the right nostril, made a 90-degree right turn
and, with a jagged edge, continued toward the mouth. It is really
this formation that most prominently distinguishes the original
Trigger from his doubles.
In 1952 Trigger weighed 1100 pounds according to "Western
Horseman" (April 1961) and "Movie Fan" (March 1953). David
Rothel's "Roy Rogers" Book gives Trigger's height as 15.3 hands.
Bobby Copeland wrote in his book "Silent Hoofbeats" that the
original Trigger was 16 hands and weighed 1150 lbs. Corky Randall
claimed the original Trigger was 16 hands. Almost every artist's
rendition of Trigger shows him with four white stockings -
flashier than the single stocking he actually had. This was
Rogers' reason for requesting that four white stockings be
painted on the 23.5' fiberglass statue of Trigger for the front
of his museum.
(Measuring hands depends on which part of the wither to take as
the top. Most have put Trigger at 15.2 hands - Keith Hunt)
According to the Tennessee Walking Horse Association, as with any
breed of horse, a palomino's coat can bleach out under lots of
sun. But true socks are white and permanent, making them a useful
aid to identification. They are not considered socks if they are
simply a lightening of the hair from exposure to the sun and are
not visible year round.
In some photos even the original Trigger's front legs look white.
It is entirely possible Roy Rogers with the stocky Little
Trigger, who was 15 hands at best. (I seriously question the 15
hands for Little Trigger. He does not look that small in "Son of
Paleface, and standing alongside the other palominos mentioned in
the photo above, he does not look that much shorter than the
others, including the original Trigger - Keith Hunt).
Note the light coat and four white feet (Roy Dillow collection).
that photos may have been doctored and makeup used to lighten
Trigger's legs in some instances. There are even those who claim
that Trigger sometimes appeared with four white stockings because
his legs were intentionally bleached. This is absurd; however, it
is likely that peroxide was used on "Trigger's" mane and tail to
keep them white. It has also been reported that makeup artists
polished "Trigger's" hoofs and used extra long lashes on his
(The long lashes idea makes me laugh, as if anyone would notice,
there were very few if any, that closeup shots of Trigger - the
story is probably just that, a story for publicity - Keith Hunt)
On a horse's stifle joint (analogous to the human knee), the
flesh covering the area makes a bulge with a slight indent below.
Trigger's stifle on his off side was more pronounced than on his
near side, and some use it as a way to identify him.
One of the problems in finding a good "copy" of Trigger was that
he had brown eyes. Most palominos have blue eyes.
(What!!! this is one of the craziest statement I've ever heard,
just ain't true and I've seen many a palominos at the Riding Ranch
where my "very much like Trigger" Palomino is kept; they and her
do not have blue eyes - Keith Hunt)
When looking for palomino doubles, Glenn Randall had to get
around that little quirk. For example, Loco, the palomino Leo
Carillo used in the Cisco Kid television show, could not double
Trigger because of this blue eyes. In some running scenes,
however, he would have been a pretty close match.
(That palomino was a rarity - most palomino horse do not have
blue eyes, somebody must be star-gazing too much, and have not
been taking notice of all the palomino horses passing them -
LITTLE TRIGGER AND TRIGGER JR.
The Encyclopedia of TV Pets describes Little Trigger as a quarter
horse. Corky Randall thought he looked like a Morgan. (No in "Son
of Paleface" he's very much like a Quarter horse - Keith Hunt)
Little Trigger had four nearly matching white stockings and a
black line across his back.
(According to my Vet that would not make him a "pure" palomino.
My horse has no line across her back, and my Vet was impressed,
saying to me, "Wow she is a TRUE Palomino" - Keith Hunt)
The original Trigger and Roy Rogers posed for a Schwinn Bike
advertisement. Pictures from this sequence were touched up to
make it look like the palomino had four white stockings. However,
high quality versions indicate Trigger's legs had bleached out
from exposure to the sun. According to Corky Randall, this shot
was taken at the Randall stables in Long Ridge, the same year Roy
Rogers lived on the property in quarters close to the barn in the
background (Joel "Dutch" Dortch collection).
(Great photo - not produced to conserve space - Keith Hunt)
Original Trigger blaze diagram. Bottom: Little Trigger blaze
diagram (Illustrations by the author - not reproduced - Keith
He had a very narrow blaze at top of the forehead, which
gradually widened to approximately 2-3" as it ran downward, along
the center of his face. The blaze widened to approximately 3-4"
at the bridle, where it began to angle towards his right nostril.
Only the top part of the right nostril was covered as the blaze
worked its way toward the center of his mouth. Even with the area
just below the top part of the nostril, there was a noticeable
quarter-sized dark spot. The white area under his nose, near the
top center of his mouth, had a large notch, which was very
visible. Little Trigger's blaze ran narrow and straight up the
left center of his face. Only the top part of the left nostril
was covered. Little Trigger was also very dark around his
nostrils and mouth.
In the Son of Paleface (Paramount, 1952) sequence where Little
Trigger chased Bob Hope into a hotel and up a flight of stairs,
the palomino stuck his head out a window, eyeing Hope as the
comedian tried to shimmy down a drainpipe. As the horse wasn't
wearing a bridle, his blaze was very visible. The window curtains
parted his forelock, and one can see his blaze peak at the top of
his forehead. In a later sequence when Little Trigger is sharing
a bed with Bob Hope, one can see all his facial markings quite
The drawings of Trigger and Little Trigger shown on these pages
are intended to help the reader attempt to distinguish their
facial markings-which are only one aspect of identification. At
best the drawings are simple diagrams. The horse heads are
generic, just like the ones horse owners would find on an equine
registration form; they do not address conformation or head type.
Those are entirely different subjects. Determining a horse's
conformation is a science and is possible only with complete
access to a particular horse and full cooperation of the owner
for specific measurements. No two horses have the same exact
conformation; just as with the human fingerprint, no two are
The illustrations here do not address the subtleties of color or
hue. There are various shades of palomino, often having to do
with age and season. Palominos come with either light skin or
dark skin. Most have dark skin, which makes for the most
beautiful golden color. Whatever their skin color, their fine
hair may catch the light, making the color appear different in
alternate shots. (Light-skinned palominos can have freckles on
their skin, which are more apt to show during the summer when
they don't have thick coats; unlike the dark-skinned ones,
light-skinned palominos can be darker in the winter than the
summer. They have lighter eye color, too.) (No, not automatically
they do not - Keith Hunt)
Little Trigger was not only smaller than the original Trigger but
was also lighter in color. Trigger Jr. was the darkest of
Rogers' three main palominos.
(That was true - Keith Hunt)
Trigger Jr. had four white stockings to the knees. He had a
blaze, but it was not nearly as wide as the original Trigger's.
He was perfect in body color and was sometimes dappled. The ideal
palomino is the color of a newly minted penny, dark with a pure
white mane and tail. It's not easy to find the perfect color, but
Trigger and Trigger Jr. were nearly perfect.
In the movie Trigger Jr. there is a scene where the original
Trigger appears with some dapple spots. Rogers and company have
just arrived at the Harkrider ranch in the wind storm and the
horses are being led into the tent. Rogers is standing beside
Trigger, ready to blanket the horse. Looking closely, one may
notice that there are some dapple spots around Trigger's stomach
area. In "My Pal Trigger" Little Trigger displays dappling in the
scene where; Rogers returned him to Gabby Hayes. The animal is
tied to a stall door.
SERAFIX and "Trigger"
In December of 1984 an article appeared in Arabian Horse World
magazine on a British stallion named Serafix, legendary in
Arabian horse circles and named the Leading Sire of Champions. In
1954 he was purchased by an American breeder named John Rogers
for more money than had ever been paid for a stallion imported to
the states at the time. As it happened, on the flight back to
America, Serafix shared an airplane with Roy Rogers' horse
"Trigger" and a double. It is not known which of Rogers'
palominos these were, but it's a good bet one was Little Trigger.
Serafix was described as massive in structure and, at 15 hands
tall, a good size for an Arab. He was a rich copper chestnut with
a very satiny coat. His head was slightly dished (concave) in
profile, with large eyes and a broad forehead, giving him a very
intelligent look. It was said that quality radiated from him,
with charisma "up to the gills." He had structure and balance -
an overall look that gave Arabian horse experts chills.
Comparing different horse breeds is like comparing apples to
oranges, and when Arabian fans in the Arabian Horse World article
compared Serafix to "Trigger" and his double, the two palominos
got shortchanged. While "Trigger" was acknowledged as a
well-balanced and hand some animal, alongside Serafix both he and
his double were described as "coarse and clumsy."
(GARBAGE to all that idea just presented. It is true, beauty is in
the eye of the beholder. I will put my Golden Palomino up agaist
any Arab you want to stand next to her. Goldie is a classic, her
grand-father was "Impressive" who won everything in the USA in
the "Halter Class" there was to win. He is famous, and Goldie gets
her beauty and conformation from him. I've seen many Arabs that
you would not look twice at. Beauty or not can be in any breed -
Arabians have a reputation for being much more slight and
delicate than quarter horses and Tennessee walkers. If Little
Trigger was indeed the palomino who shared an airplane with
Serafix, it's to be expected that, with his stocky build
(here we go again with this "stocky built stuff" - look at the
movie "Son of Palface" - there was nothing stocky about the
horse, he was a super preportioned Quarter Horse - Keith Hunt)
would not come off well. He probably looked like a draft horse in
comparison. Corky Randall, an expert horseman, described Little
Trigger as "a chubby little horse." It's reasonable to think that
the original Trigger and Trigger Jr. could have won some
legitimate beauty contests. One would not say the same for Little
(Well again watch him in "Son of Paleface" - "a chubby little
horse" - don't think so, maybe Corky was too corked too much of
the time, or his eyes were getting too chubby - Keith Hunt)
Nevertheless, although he did not have show-quality
(Looked pretty super good to me in "Son of Paleface" movie
- Keith Hunt)
he was a nice-looking animal. After all, he had enough eye
appeal to stand in for one of the most beautiful horses in
Hollywood history, and he fooled fans for decades. This sleight
of hand was accomplished by shifting fans' attention from Little
Trigger's looks to his talent and athleticism. (And he was simply
a very good looking horse to boot - Keith Hunt)
Corky Randall stated categorically that although he could not
recall the exact date, Little Trigger died years before the
original Trigger, sometime before the Rogers family moved to
Hidden Valley in 1963.
In e-mail correspondence, Cherly Rogers-Barnett maintains that
Little Trigger died at her father's ranch in Hidden Valley
which was between Malibu and Thousand Oaks. "Dad and Mom
never lived at that ranch as it only had a one bedroom house
while Dad owned it," she wrote. "He planned on adding on to it
but Debbie [another daughter] died and Dad wanted to move away.
Anyway, he had the horses out there (that is where the Old Man
[the original Trigger] died as well) when Little Trigger died and
he had a pit dug and buried him there. With the old horse, Dad
and Mom had already moved to Apple Valley but Dad didn't have a
barn and worked a deal with the new owner of the Hidden Valley
ranch to keep Old Trigger and his thoroughbreds there until Dad
had a place for them."
Corky could not recall if Little Trigger died of old age or was
put down. It's no wonder he did not live as long as the original
Trigger; he worked harder and in more stressful situations. Corky
said the horse developed severe problems with his knees when he
got old as a result of all the traveling he did in trailers. "His
knees bucked. Now you know how a bow-legged guy's knees buck out?
His bucked forward." This happened because of all the stopping
and starting during the trailer rides. (Horse trailers are now
designed to haul horses sideways, not straight on, to avoid such
Little Trigger was also ridden in a number of situations, like
parades, where he had to walk on hard surfaces. This probably
also contributed to the problems he eventually developed with his
LITTLE STIGGER SUMMARY
He was probably born a few years after the original Trigger, in
the mid to late 1930s. He was not related to Trigger or Trigger
He topped out at about 15 hands. (I would say 15.1 like my horse
Goldie is - Keith Hunt)
He looked like a quarter horse or Morgan, very chunky in build,
described as "bulldog" in type.
(That is not what he looked like in "Son of Paleface" - maybe as
he got into his 20s he filled out more - Keith Hunt)
There's a very good chance he was purchased from cowboy star Ray
He was the most highly trained horse in the Rogers remuda and was
one of the first equines on record to be house-broken.
He appeared in most of Roy Rogers' movies after 1943.
He was the primary horse in which Rogers toured the United States
and parts of Europe. If you saw Roy Rogers in person, you most
likely saw him with Little Trigger, especially outside of
When needed, he also appeared in The Roy Rogers Show on
television. Little Trigger was also used almost exclusively when
Roy Rogers made a guest star appearances on television rodeos or
He was the star of the movie "Son of Paleface" and appeared on
the cover of "Life magazine." After years of touring and public
appearances, he became temperamental from overexposure to adoring
Although a stallion, it's very doubtful he was ever used as a
He died in the early 1960s, a few years before the original
Trigger passed away.
Roy Rogers and the original Trigger built their careers on Little
Trigger's back. Corky Randall's claim that his dad and Rogers
didn't use very many trick horse doubles means Little Trigger
worked harder than most people have ever imagined. As well cared
for as Little Trigger was and as glamorous as his job seemed to
be, he was a work horse. On days when he and Roy Rogers weren't
in the mood to perform, they were still out there. Fans just saw
the glory; they did not see the blood, sweat, or tears.
The more one researches Little Trigger and makes a conscious
effort to locate him in movies and personal appearance footage,
the more one understands his importance and how he was as
critical to Rogers' career as the original Trigger.
Little Trigger was truly a wonder horse, and he earned the honor
of being photographed with Rogers on the cover of Life magazine.
A more accurate billing on movie marquees and posters should have
been, "Roy Rogers, Trigger and Little Trigger."
While a great deal is known about the original Trigger, there's
much that remains unresolved about the most important horse who
doubled him. By not discussing Little Trigger, Roy Rogers and
Glenn Randall added to his mystery, and that's ultimately what
makes him so compelling. Not being able to tie up important facts
leaves Trigger's story open-ended. Little Trigger continues to
give the Trigger fantasy resonance. For that reason, the desire
to sort out the fantasy continues, and there are many fans
wouldn't have it any other way. This book is as much about
Little Trigger as it is about the original Trigger. One cannot
say enough for Little Trigger. For all his shenanigans and
notorious temperament, he was, in a word, EXRAORDINARY!!!
To be continued
Some of the photos of Little Trigger seem strange to me. The one
on page 80 of Pando's book is really an odd one. IF that is
supposed to be Little Trigger with Roy standing next to him, then
the horse looked like a pony about 14 hands. Either it was not
Little Trigger, the camera was kooky, or the dark room for
developing the film was so dark they couldn't see what they were
doing and came up with some crazy images of height. The movie
"Son of Paleface" (1952) will give you the very best of this
wonder horse, that I call Trigger #2, and he sure was not as
small or chubby as some are trying to out. You be the judge
by seeing "Son of Paleface" - Keith Hunt