The Pennsylvania State Police Field Exhibition, more commonly known as the State Police Rodeo, began as a competition and morale building exercise among Troops.

The rodeo gained public attention in the early 1920’s as people saw the amazing feats that the men, their horses and dogs could perform.

However there was more to this rodeo than just the act themselves. It was used as a great public relations tool and opportunity to showcase the caliber of Pennsylvania’s troopers. Fairs, schools, stadiums, arenas and parks throughout the state were the scenes of the shows. Each performance was free of charge and overflow attendance was the norm. Over the years, the shows varied in length from an hour and a half to over two hours. Revenue garnered by selling advertising space in the rodeo programs was directed toward the State Police Pension Fund.

Performers were all volunteers who did all the work of the rodeo themselves. They cared for the horses, drove the vans, set up the scenery, procured properties and did their own staging of events. In other words, the was theirs from start to finish.

In its final form the rodeo consisted of 12 events:
1. Fancy Drill– 32 mounted men executing a series of movements and patterns without command.

2. Trained Police Dogs– Handlers had the big German Shepherds climb ladders, jump through burning hoops, roll barrels and perform as part of a clown act.

3. Burning Hoops, Precision Jumping (a) Individual High Jump
(b) Tandem Driving and Jumping, Academy Horses– Four or five specially trained horses demonstrated the natural gaits of a horse and other tricks. Horseman than jumped their mounts through flaming hoops, in teams over a complicated course of hurdles, and even over an automobile.

4. Gymnastics– The necessary physical stamina and agility of the state policemen were demonstrated on horseback as the team performed vaults, tumbles, handstands, and formed pyramids while the not-always-patient horse provided the platform.

5. Atomic Car– Modified Model-T used in conjunction with the Keystone Kops clown act. The car was equipped with a water cannon and the ability to shoot fireworks. The Atomic Car was real crowd pleaser!

6. Aerial Balloon Shooting– Troopers skilled with a pistol, thrilled the audience with precision marksmanship.

7. Motorcycle Stunt Riding- Motorcycle trick riders performed a variety of stunts on their two wheel machine

8. Clown Shooting, Clown Horse– Short clown acts were intermixed through throughout the performance.

9. Acrobatic Riding– The saddle acrobatic team provided its own special thrills for the spectators when the troopers performed almost impossible feats on horseback. Such things as the Cossack drag, saddle stand, neck lay, and fender drag were just a few of the tricks.

10. Silent Manual of Arms-

11. Motorcycle Drill– The 16-man motorcycle drill team demonstrated teamwork and tim- ing when they rode through an intricate set of maneuvers, just inches apart.

12. Finale-

In addition to the many full programs scheduled throughout the state, there were many special performances made by parts of the team. The dog show was featured in many school assemblies used to teach safety. Shorter forms of the rodeo were also presented as separate performances. These types were known as “Bob tail” Events.

In short, the rodeo was a horse show, circus, safety education program, police skills exhibition, motorcycle thrill show and a gymnastic demonstration all rolled together into a smooth professional performance. To the audience, the rodeo was pure entertainment, but to the rodeo troopers it was hard work; displaying
a variety of talents and skills not normally associated with police work.

The rodeo came to an end with the last full show in Latrobe, in the summer of
1974. The end came as a surprise to many, who did not know until there was a public auction of the horses and rodeo equipment two years later. There were likely many reasons why the rodeo was discontinued, but many say it was due to financial considerations and a manpower shortage.