“Do it with style and a smile” was the motto of Connie Griffith, one of the world’s greatest trick riders to ever ascend a horse. Not only did she do the most difficult women’s tricks, she was the only woman to excel at mens’ difficult groundwork routines. She lived and breathed trick riding.
Connie was selected as the Nebraska High School Rodeo Queen, honored as the state’s most superb horsewoman, when she was 17. More than just a pretty cowgirl, Connie was valedictorian of her high school in Hemingford, Nebraska.
She continued trick riding lessons from Dick Griffith during her years as a student at Colorado State University. Despite their age difference, Connie and Dick fell in love and were married. Connie continued to perform at every major rodeo and horse exhibition across North America, including a show at Madison Square Garden in New York. While raising their son Tad, Connie joined Dick as an instructor at their premiere trick riding school. Over the years, she taught some of the most famous female trick riders and trained more than 100 trick horses. Her students saw her as a mentor, heroine, and cheerleader.
She also went on to excel beyond Dick’s wildest expectations, as one of the best Roman Riders ever. She perfected stepping from one horse to another, cross stepping, complete pirouettes, switching teams, and jumping both in tandem and through wall of fire.
Introducing trick riding to the Las Vegas strip, Connie and her son, Tad, performed at the Excalibur Hotel for 8 years. The show, King Arthur’s Tournament, featured Riders of the North Country, a trio of trick riders which became one of the highlights of the show. Connie performed for 6 straight years in more than 6,000 consecutive performances, many times while maintaining bruised and broken bones.
“ It takes a certain amount of nerve, but most people have more of that than they know,” said Connie describing the attributes of a trick rider. “Desire is really more than half the battle. Some people have plenty of natural ability, but without desire they won’t go far.”
Tragically, Connie died much too young at the age of 56 while trick riding at a rodeo on a Saturday night. She was in transition from the horse’s neck when Winnie stumbled and somersaulted, crushing Connie beneath. She embodied passion and precision in her riding and will be remembered by those lucky enough to see her perform and witness the sheer grace and joy she brought to the arena she loved.
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