A hush fell over the large crowd at the rodeo arena in Salt Lake City, Utah, in July 1938 as daredevil rider Alice Sisty raced into the arena atop two English jumpers. She was standing on the backs of the animals with one foot on one horse and the other foot on the second mount, known as Roman riding. Alice led the horses into a gallop around the arena as the audience cheered and applauded. She expertly handled the jumpers named Whale and Brownstone. Alice had performed the Roman standard jump a number of times and was confident the trick would come off perfectly.
The trick involved the excited horses leaping over a parked automobile. It was an outstanding feat that, when executed well, brought rodeo fans out of their seats shouting for joy. Alice did not disappoint. Her signature jump was flawlessly carried out. She waved to the wildly cheering audience as she urged her horses into another pass at the stunt.
Born in Netcong, New Jersey, in January 1913, Alice first broke into national headlines when, at twenty years of age, she rode an Indian pony from Reno, Nevada, to the steps of New York City Hall. It was a three- thousand-mile journey, and, when she arrived in New York, mayors from coast-to-coast celebrated Alice’s accomplishment with letters of congratulations. The Cheyenne, Wyoming, Chamber of Commerce helped defray Alice’s expenses on the journey, and she helped advertise the Cheyenne Frontier Days by wearing a cowboy suit with the Cheyenne inscription on its back.
Alice had been riding horses since the age of six. Her grandfather owned a racetrack, and the love of horses was undoubtedly born in her. One of Alice’s first rodeo appearances was in Asbury Park. It was followed by well received appearances in such places as Des Moines, Iowa; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Omaha, Nebraska; and Billings, Montana. She performed at the Chicago World’s Fair and at Madison Square Garden.
Billed as a trick and fancy rider, Alice won numerous cowgirl championships. She was one of the highest paid, female rodeo performers in the 1930s. Friends and fans seldom, if ever, saw her without her makeup and hair done to perfection and adorned in beautiful cowgirl clothing. The dark-haired, blue-eyed Alice had decided to become a cowgirl when she was nineteen and signed to ride in Colonel Zack Millers’ 101 Ranch.
In addition to the prized English jumpers with which she used to perform the Roman standard jump trick; she owned a white Arabian horse named Chopa. Chopa was a highly intelligent animal who responded to every command of Alice’s voice. The pair were seen together in rodeo shows from coast to coast.
Alice passed away from an unnamed illness on September 11, 1953, in Crescent City, California, where she lived with her second husband, Hennie Sommer. Alice was forty years old when she died.