In 1952, four men traveled on horseback from Brenham, Texas, to raise awareness of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™. Today, more than 2,000 trail riders partake in the Rodeo’s signature tradition each year. Riders hit the trail in an attempt to recreate the Old West, and in doing so, find a common ground that links us all to the Rodeo.
Be a part of history and support the 10 trail rides as they cross the great state of Texas toward their destination, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
PRESERVING A PIECE OF HISTORY
Texas was once a land of many trails — the arteries that linked the outlying areas with settlements. The only transportation in the early days was powered by horse, mule or oxen, and many trails in different parts of the state were originally paths formed by the repetitive use of settlers. Stagecoach routes also helped establish more trails, and today’s highways are modern day versions of those same routes which connected the more populous areas of the state.
The groups of people who comprise the 10 trail rides that converge on Houston are like small cities of settlers, combining their leadership and resources to bring their group over many miles. They are people from all walks of life, and each trail ride has many interesting stories. Their appearance in Houston signals the start of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ as they merge via many routes into Memorial Park and proudly ride Saturday morning in the Downtown Rodeo Parade.
DIVISION I AWARD
(Large Trail Ride: 145+ participants)
Prairie View Trail Ride
DIVISION II AWARD
(Medium Trail Ride: 50-144 participants)
Valley Lodge Trail Ride
DIVISION III AWARD
(Medium Trail Ride: 49 or fewer participants)
Texas Cattlemen’s Trail Ride
TRAIL RIDE HISTORY
THE ROLE OF THE TRAIL BOSS
The Trail Boss is the manager of the entourage and its activities, and has the ultimate responsibility for:
- The safety of not only the riders, animals and equipment on the ride, but also of the public who watch and visit.
- Organization of the structure of the trail ride group, with its officers and members.
- Coordination of the route, including permission to use roads and rest stops, and securing permits and police assistance in each jurisdiction passed.
- Teams of scouts on the ride maintain traffic control and serve as flagmen on horseback. The team of scouts meets with the Trail Boss each night to go over the next day’s route.
- Coordination with the Wagon Boss, who oversees the wagons, equipment and people who make up the ride. Each trail ride has a number of wagons, and each wagon is the nucleus for its own group of members. Each wagon is usually responsible for most of the food preparation for its members.
- The water truck – with all the animals and the volume of water they require, the water truck is an important item.
- The campsite – the Trail Boss sometimes has to make alternate arrangements during the ride if weather makes the condition of the preferred campsite unusable for the group.
- The safety of the public viewing the Downtown Rodeo Parade, and the horses and wagons that pass near them.
- The Trail Boss maintains high visibility during the ride, riding in front and leading the riders along the route, and during the Downtown Rodeo Parade.
TRAIL RIDE FACTS
- In January of 1952, the first Trail Ride took place with four men from Brenham, Texas.
- One year later in 1953, 80 people signed up to start the Salt Grass Trail Ride. By 1954, 800 people were participating.
- Today, more than 3,000 riders saddle up from all directions, including Louisiana.
- 11 Trail Rides participate in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Downtown Rodeo Parade.
- Approximately 1,300 miles are covered by all Trial Rides.
- Shortest Distance = 75 miles: Valley Lodge Trail Ride begins in Brookshire, Texas.
- All Trail Rides are led by Trail Bosses, who a responsible for ensuring safety.
- Many of the horses on the ride are rescued animals. The Texas Independence Trail Ride has such animals, as well as three century old wagons.
- Many of the trail rides include family members and generations of all ages.
- Some trail rides distribute scholarships to area students and visit schools to share the history of the Show and trail rides.