THE HORSE TRAINER GLENN RANDALL
From the book "An Illustrated History of TRIGGER" by Leo Pando
Glenn Randall Magician
"A bus load of fans drove out once to where they were filming an
episode and somebody asked Roy, 'To what do you attribute your
success?' Roy walked over to Trigger, and he took Glenn Randall's
hand, and he said, 'These two right here.' He attributed his
success to Trigger and Glenn Randall Sr." - Bill Catching
Roy Rogers had many deep relationships in his life beyond those
with his wife and family. Many extended to his celebrity and
business life. He was very close to his manager, Art Rush; a few
of the men who played his sidekicks (especially Gabby Hayes and
Pat Brady); the original Sons of the Pioneers (especially Tim
Spencer); and the man who cared for and trained his horses, Glenn
Randall. When one studies how Rogers and Randall worked together,
it's easy to conclude that their relationship transcended that of
client and trainer to that of confidant and mentor. After
speaking to Randall's son Corky, it's easy for this writer to
conclude that they were almost family. When Corky Randall spoke
about Roy Rogers, he said, "He was like a father to me." Cheryl
Rogers-Barnett says that her father even lived at the Randall
ranch for a while some time around 1947: "He stayed at the home
of Glenn Randall, his good friend and Trigger's trainer, which
was also practically right around the corner from Republic."
Rogers entrusted Glenn Randall with what could arguably be his
most precious celebrity assets, his horses. Both men spent hours
together training and traveling all over the United States and
parts of Europe.
Not only did Rogers give Randall control over his horses, the two
men also shared their stock. Rogers and Dale Evans did not own
Trigger look-alike Pal or the palomino Liberty Horse act remuda;
these belonged to Randall. Conversely, Roy Rogers owned
look-alike California but lent the palomino to Corky Randall
during a college rodeo in San Francisco for a calf roping
During the golden age of Hollywood, only movie headliners, and
certain people in production working in areas such as special
effects, set design, and wardrobe, were given screen credit.
There was no screen credit for stuntmen, horse trainers, or
wranglers - the people who had the most dangerous jobs. (Today,
every crew member's name is in a film's credits, even drivers and
caterers.) But, credited or not, great trainers are all-important
for animals who spend as much time before the public as Trigger
and his doubles. Glenn Randall's contribution to Roy Rogers' and
Trigger's public personae was just as important as that of Dale
Evans and agent Art Rush. According to Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, her
dad was quick to point out that he owed his success to Trigger
and his trainer, Glenn Randall.
Before Glenn Randall arrived on the scene, three men are known to
have had a hand in training the original Trigger. His first
owner, Roy Cloud, in all probability started the palomino under
saddle when the horse was around two years of age. According to
Corky Randall, a trainer named Johnny Goodwin was responsible for
finishing horses at Hudkins Stables, and it's safe to assume that
Goodwin probably continued Trigger's training, preparing him for
work in motion pictures. By the time the palomino was ready to
become a cast horse, he was well prepared for work on a movie
set. After Rogers started riding Trigger, he hired his first
trainer, a cowboy named Jimmy Griffin who brought the palomino up
another level and most likely taught him a first repertoire of
simple tricks. According to Republic director William Witney,
Griffin was not only responsible for care and training of Trigger
and Little Trigger, but he transported them wherever necessary.
Jimmy Griffin left Rogers' employ sometime in 1941 to work in the
defense industry. According to author David Rothel, Glenn Randall
claimed to have started working with Trigger, replacing Jimmy
Griffin, the same year. It was Glenn Randall who would work with
Roy Rogers' horses for the next 24 years.
Corky Randall does not remember a Jimmy Griffin. According to
Corky, Rogers was already in possession of Little Trigger when he
started working with Glenn and needed the palomino trained for a
forthcoming appearance at Madison Square Garden.
Randall's Early Years
Glenn Randall was born on Christmas Day, 1909, in western
Nebraska. His family homesteaded in the area around Melbeta, and
he grew up farming with his dad's team. He always loved horses
and began training them at an early age. The very first horse
Randall owned and trained was a little mustang named Rags.
When Randall was only nine years old, he trained and sold a black
and white half-Shetland/American Saddlebred paint mare to the
Sells-Floto Circus. "My people were horse people," he explained.
"I used to go to all the circuses and horse shows and [watch the]
stunts, and I'd always see a horse do something and go home and
try it on my pony."
In the early 1930s, Randall's first job away from home was
breaking horses for the cavalry and artillery. After that he also
worked for the mayor of Torrington, Wyoming, training his
standardbred trotters and pacers. He also worked for movie cowboy
Tim McCoy's Wild West show, handling 250 horses. Randall went on
to train remount horses and mules for the cavalry at Ft.
Robinson, Nebraska, and worked at the Oregon Trail Days
celebrations near Gering. He trained horses for the government at
Ft. Warren, Wyoming. Randall eventually left his military job and
followed the professional rodeo circuit, where he rode bucking
horses and even worked as a rodeo clown.
By the late 1930s, Randall moved to California, where he managed
a thoroughbred breeding facility owned by Elmer Houchins outside
Bakersfield in Arvin. It was here that Randall branched out and
started his own training stable at the Arvin facility. He
eventually ran across the Hudkins brothers, who introduced him to
the horse and client who would change his life.
Randall Takes Over
Clyde Hudkins, brother to Ace and Art Hudkins, recommended Glenn
Randall to Roy Rogers after Jimmy Griffin left. Clyde Hudkins
told Rogers of a young man living in Weedpatch, California, who
was naturally gifted with equines and who he thought could help
with his palominos. According to Corky, Art Hudkins brought Roy
Rogers to Bakersfield to meet Glenn Randall. This introduction
gave Randall his start in the film industry and began one of the
great partnerships in entertainment history.
"When I started working with Trigger," said Randall, "I
discovered right away that Roy's claims about the horse sure
weren't exaggerated. He was smart, full of action, and hungry to
learn. I've worked with horses since I was a boy in Nebraska. But
from that morning when I started working with Trigger, I knew he
was the savviest horse I'd ever seen."
Randall told Rogers biographer Elise Miller Davis how he wound up
touring with Rogers: "About a week before he was scheduled to
leave for Baltimore, Roy came up to my place for a sober-faced
talk with me. 'Glenn, I'd like you to go on this trip with me,'
he said. 'I'd feel better if you'd handle Trigger on the road.'
Roy worried about Trigger all the way across country on that
first trip. He wouldn't turn in himself until he saw that the
horse had been stabled down properly."
During training sessions at Hudkins Stables, Randall worked
closely with Rogers. After the singing cowboy purchased Little
Trigger, the palomino was moved to the Randall ranch. Randall
began to work exclusively for Rogers, training and managing all
the "Triggers" that were used on film and in personal
appearances. Like Rogers, Randall was captivated by Trigger, and
he made sure to stick closely to the horse and to Rogers. In
Randall's mind, that might not have constituted being Trigger's
"trainer," even though a part of his job, while working at
Hudkins, would have included working with Rogers and Trigger part
of the time. Not until he went to work exclusively for Rogers,
and the singing cowboy was Trigger's owner, would Randall's job
title have been Trigger's trainer.
Cheryl Rogers-Barnett claimed that Trigger and all his doubles
were trained by Glenn Randall and her dad. Early Roy Rogers
publicity maintained that Trigger had been trained by Rogers
since the horse was five years of age.
Rogers and Randall did not sign a formal contract; a handshake
sealed their association. Rogers knew he needed a dependable and
expert trainer to travel with his horse. In all probability one
of the first major tasks he and Randall needed to work out was
how to appear across the country in varied and unusual venues
"At first, it wasn't easy to find the right kind of quarters in
every strange city we pulled into," said Glenn Randall. "It was
on Roy's mind a lot in those days." Eventually, said Randall,
they knew the "best stables in every city," and Randall booked
Trigger's reservations in advance.
Randall's most important assignment was to train "Trigger" to a
point where he would secure the tag line "the Smartest Horse in
the Movies." Fortunately, "Trigger" was up to the task. Anything
a script or show called for, Trigger, Little Trigger, and Randall
could handle. Smiling, dancing, you name it: The palominos and
their trainer would deliver. Counting, simple addition and
subtraction, as well as counting to twenty, was one of their
primary routines and used in more publicity stories than any
other trick. "Trigger" could sign his name on a sheet of paper by
making an X with a pencil. He could drink milk from a bottle. Not
only could he rear when asked, but he could also walk 150 feet on
his hind legs. All cues for the tricks were from subtle hand
motions by Rogers.
At one point in time "Trigger" was credited with knowing
fifty-two tricks. That number eventually grew to around one
hundred, according to a Western Horseman article from April 1961.
The public relations machine wasted no time reporting "Trigger's"
tricks, offering every number imaginable.
(Ah, remember now, it was the "second" Trigger that was the
master of the "trick horse world" - he was really the horse
behind the phrase "Smartest Horse in the Movies" - Keith Hunt)
One might ask whether Trigger deserves the recognition he has
achieved, considering that he gained his reputation on the skills
of other horses. It's worthwhile to reiterate, however, that no
one horse could have done all that was asked of the original
Trigger. Rogers and Randall weren't going to compromise him
through overuse. It would be like expecting Sean Connery to have
performed all the stunts in his role as James Bond or Harrison
Ford to have done the same in his role as Indiana Jones. Between
movies, with all the action that scripts demanded, with all the
traveling involved in personal appearances, one single horse
would have broken down over time. Even though the original
Trigger could perform a few specialties like rearing and nodding
his head on cue, his most powerful assets were his beauty,
charisma and camera presence. Most important, he ran full out
with no accidents. Said Rogers, "He was just a flawless horse. He
never made a mistake in his life. All those running shots down
hills, up hills, sideway and every ways. He never once fell with
me, in all those pictures."
As Roy Rogers' trainer, equine confidant, and advisor, Glenn
Randall became the middleman in one of the best horse deals in
Hollywood history. As Randall claimed later, the $2,500 paid for
Trigger was the finest investment Rogers ever made. Considered a
fortune in the 1940s, it was nevertheless pretty near a steal.
According to one biography, Rogers talked over the matter with
Randall and he, too, agreed that the singing cowboy should own
Since Rogers didn't buy Trigger until late in 1943, Randall could
have been training the palomino for as long as two years and
would, therefore, have been the person on hand to advise Rogers
on the purchase. Randall had a huge influence later in the
selection of horses Rogers bought to fill in for Trigger, except
for Little Trigger, whom Rogers already owned. According to Corky
Randall, his father was instrumental in every equine purchase
Rogers made while they were working together.
Other Horse Students
Beyond Trigger, his doubles, and Dale Evans' horse, Buttermilk,
Randall also trained the Roy Rogers Liberty Horse Act, a matched
group of eight palominos who, minus lead lines, responded to
voice commands and visual whip cues.
With "Trigger" being highly visible, Randall eventually earned a
reputation as one of the finest horse trainers in motion
pictures, and many wanted to use him. Rogers and Randall worked
out an agreement whereby Randall could train horses for other
western stars. Randall started a training and rental stable in
North Hollywood where he schooled mounts and supplied them to the
movie industry, rodeos, and other show business venues. His list
of equine pupils included Rex Allen's chocolate stallion, Koko.
After Gene Autry's trainer, Johnny Agee, passed away, Randall
worked with the last Champion. Glenn Randall also trained White
Flash for Tex Ritter, many of John Wayne's horses, and Slim
Pickens' Appaloosa, Dear John. Glenn Randall and his son Corky
trained horses for such television shows as Walt Disney's
long-running Zorro series and James Garner's Maverick, and they
trained the last palomino to play Mr.Ed in television
Eventually Glenn Randall toured with his own horse acts, leaving
Corky to tour with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. When Rogers
gradually stopped touring with "Trigger," Glenn Randall continued
to work with other clients. He helped Corky train Cass Ole and
actor Kelly Reno for their roles in The Black Stallion (United
Artists, 1979). It was Corky who went on location to manage the
tricks during the actual filming.
Along with training Trigger and his doubles, one of the high
points of Glenn Randall's career was his masterful work training
the four whites (Altair, Rigel, Antares, and Aldebaran) that
Charlton Heston drove in the mega-movie Ben-Hur (MGM, 1959). The
heart-pounding chariot race sequence still thrills audiences
today. It was filmed in real time, live and in person, with very
limited special effects. Along with the second unit director, the
legendary Yakima Canutt, Glenn Randall gave audiences one the
most impressive action sequences ever put on film. In a dramatic
contrast to the silent era production of Ben-Hur, horses were not
injured or killed during filming.
Ironically, the most difficult task Randall faced in Ben-Hur was
in the more benign sequence when Sheik Ildrim, owner of the
Arabian horses, first introduced them to Judah Ben-Hur. After
dinner in his tent, Ildrim clapped his hands and a curtain was
pulled, revealing four white horses standing free, with no
halters or reins. "If I had a song to sing, I would sing you the
song of horses," the sheik says before he asks the horses to step
inside to greet Ben-Hur. The horses' movements - entering the
tent, playfully nuzzling and licking Ben-Hur's hand, and
eventually leaving - were controlled, on the set with the cameras
rolling, with hand signals from Randall, who was lying on the
floor out of camera range.
The night Roy Rogers was the subject of "This Is Your Life," the
television biography show, "Trigger" was one of the surprise
guests. The palomino (Little Trigger) appeared from behind a
curtain to greet his surprised master. After "Trigger" gave
Rogers a kiss, the horse was led off stage.
Glenn Randall was not mentioned on "This Is Your Life." While
Rogers frequently acknowledged him in interviews, Randall's role
was strictly behind the scenes. Glenn Randall's part in making
Roy Rogers "the King of the Cowboys" and Trigger "the Smartest
Horse in the Movies" was enormous, but he never received screen
credit in a Roy Rogers movie. Randall did make one brief cameo
appearance in Heldorado (1946) in a rodeo performance sequence.
After Rogers sings "My Saddle Pals and I" with the Sons of the
Pioneers, Randall may be seen handing Little Trigger off to
Rogers. Heldorado is, by the way, a great example of Rogers' live
performance act of the time.
When Ace and Clyde Hudkins retired and decided to sell their
stable, Glenn Randall bought them out. He moved to Newhall and
renamed his stable business the Randall Ranch. Corky Randall
recounted three of the ranches where his family lived: a rented
one in Weed patch in Bakersfield (Little Trigger lived there for
a while, but the original Trigger did not as he was still owned
by Hudkins); a ranch they owned in Long Ridge in Van Nuys; and
the last ranch they purchased (in 1960) in Newhall on Sherman way
not far from Hudkins Stables. Glenn Randall maintained a herd of
over 300 horses, mules, burros. He even boarded camels and other
more exotic livestock. Like the Fat Jones and Hudkins stables
before, Randall also kept an inventory of vintage horse-drawn
vehicles including stagecoaches, covered wagons, chariots,
buggies, and hundreds of saddles of many different styles.
Glenn Randall was in his retirement years when western films
finally started to wane in popularity. The old horse trainer sold
his ranch and held a public auction to liquidate his holdings. He
retired with his wife, Lynn, in a spacious home in the Santa
Clarita Valley close to the 50-acre Randall Ranch site.
Glenn Randall was honored on numerous occasions. Honors he won
include the Golden Boot Award, the Rodeo Historical Society's
Hat's Off Award, and a spot in the prestigious National Cowboy
Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. He was also honored with a dinner
dance and reception at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in
Burbank, California, in April 1986. More than 300 friends and
admirers from rodeo and movies attended the gala. Lynn and the
children, Glenn Jr., Corky, Pinky, Joan, and Dolores, were
present. Dale Evans opened the celebration with a blessing.
Former bronc rider Jerry Gatlin acknowledged Randall on behalf of
the Hollywood stuntmen for whom he helped train their "falling
horses." Roy Rogers thanked and praised Randall for his work with
Randall closed the banquet by saying, "When I go, I visualize
myself going off into the sunset driving four white horses to a
chariot and leading old Trigger."
Glenn Randall passed away in 1993. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were
asked to give a eulogy at his funeral. Unfortunately, Dale had
suffered a heart attack a few days before and the couple was
forced to cancel what surely would have been a heartfelt and
well-deserved tribute to a great friend and partner.