Trick riding is a family of riding techniques which evolved in the American West. These techniques were originally developed to meet the needs of working cowboys, and they have since evolved into stunts designed more for performance than practicality. In the United States, the Wild West Arts Club works to preserve and celebrate the history of trick riding and other Western stunts, and it is offered at several riding schools in North America.
Most trick riding stunts involve performing tricky maneuvers on a moving horse. For example, riders may vault onto or off of a horse while it is in motion, or stand on the horse's back. Accomplished trick riders can play jump rope with a lasso on the back of a moving horse, trade mounts with other riders while in motion, and keep their seats while horses perform controlled rears and other showy moves.
For working cowboys, being able to be extremely comfortable around a horse is critical. Cowboys work in close partnership with their mounts, and they need to be able to jump from a moving horse, trust a horse to stop on a dime, and engage in other riding maneuvers which are not seen in recreational riding. Some trick riding stunts are used by many working cowboys even today, while others have become much showier, diverging from their real-world roots.
Trick riding performances can often be seen at big events in the American West. Riders typically perform during rodeos, often parading in elaborate team drills which involve multiple riders. They are also included in many parades in the American West, where they show off their horses and skills for the crowd.
In addition to being native to the American West, various forms of trick riding are used in circuses around the world. Bareback acrobats are especially common in European circuses, working with very highly-trained horses to put on spectacular performances. Some equestrian sports also lay the groundwork for tricks: buzkashi and polo, for example, both require extreme maneuverability on the part of riders and horses.
People who want to study trick riding usually start by getting a very thorough grounding in basic riding schools. In order to ride like this, someone needs to be bold, confident, and very in-control, and it is important to be comfortable with horses and a variety of situations. Once basic riding skills have been mastered, trick riding can be acquired through an advanced riding school or a mentor.