Former smokejumper becomes trick rider

Trick riding, Hippodrome Stand

Jen performing a Hippodrome Stand on Shadow

On April 21 I had the opportunity to take some photos of trick riding, which is the art of performing stunts while riding a horse. The person featured here, Jen, used to be a smokejumper, parachuting out of perfectly good airplanes in order to fight fires, but now she stays closer to home with her children while her husband does all the smokejumping in the family.

Trick Riding, side shoulder stand

Jen doing a Side Shoulder Stand

I was amazed at the strength, coordination, timing, and agility that is required for this crazy activity. Jen was vaulting from one side of the horse to the other, her feet were bouncing off the ground, she was standing on the saddle, or was upside down on the side of the horse, and seemed to defy gravity at times. All of this while the horse was moving at speed.

I asked her about the strength that is necessary for trick riding and she smiled and said the pull ups she did as a smokejumper helped. She still does pull ups, she works on her core muscles, and is also doing pilates.

Her friend that trick rides with her was only able to watch that day from outside the arena, sitting in a chair with her broken leg propped up on her walker. Yes, her friend broke her leg in three places a few weeks ago while trick riding.

Trick Riding, vaulting


Trick Riding, Side Back Bend

Side Back Bend

Trick Riding, Full Stroud Layout

Full Stroud Layout

Trick Riding

Trick Riding


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About Bill Gabbert

Wildland fire has been a major part of Bill Gabbert’s life for several decades. After growing up in the south, he migrated to southern California where he lived for 20 years, working as a wildland firefighter. Later he took his affinity for firefighting to Indiana and eventually the Black Hills of South Dakota where he was the Fire Management Officer for a group of seven national parks. Today he is the creator and owner of and Sagacity Wildfire Services and serves as an expert witness in wildland fire. If you are interested in wildland fire, welcome… grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up. Google+

9 thoughts on “Former smokejumper becomes trick rider

  1. I think trick riding might be more difficult than smokejumping! Which base was Jen stationed at when she jumped?

    • There are some good comparisons to make between the smokejumping and trick riding like you have to be able to concentrate on what your doing amidst a lot of commotion and pullups come in handy! I rookied in Missoula 01′ , also jumped out of West Yellowstone.

  2. I’ve always been impressed with the women smokejumpers. Jen is really spectacular!

    • Thanks….I’m actually not a professional …although the sparkly outfit and pro photographer make me look pretty good…still a rookie here. A lot of the tricks in the photos were a first attempt and definately not held all the way around the arena…lots to work on. But when your way out there it feels like your flying!

  3. These are excellent action pictures. Did Mr. Bob Martinez (Cal Fire/Guard photos) also take these?

  4. Hey Jen, what’s that trick after full stroud layout? I do trick riding as well and I want to learn knew tricks. I just got down Full stoud. but what is that trick and how to you do it?? :)

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