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You could tell by the way Hazel Elizabeth Hickey Moore dressed when she was growing up she was a cowgirl. You could also tell she was a cowgirl by the way she rode magnificent jumping horses in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus. Hazel was also destined for a career as a Wild West Show cowgirl because of her parents: Her father was an equestrian circus performer and her mother was a trapeze artist. Hazel was raised under the big top.
Born in Watertown, New York, on June 25, 1902, Hazel’s early years were spent raising and training a variety of animals from sheepdogs to stallions. When she wasn’t training animals, she practiced her horseback riding skills and became an expert in dressage and high jumping atop her horse Perfect Lady. When the Ringling Brothers Circus was performing in Kentucky, Hazel took some time away from her act to enter Perfect Lady in a jumping competition. The pair rode away with the top prize.
Hazel and Perfect Lady performed in several other Western shows including the 101 Ranch, Cole Brothers, the Joe Green Wild West Show, and the Tim McCoy Wild West Show. In one of her most popular routines, Hazel would ride out into the center of the arena dressed in a long gown. After dazzling the audience with a series of dressage maneuvers she would break into song and doves would fly about overhead. When Hazel signaled the birds, they would land on the horse and ride about the ring with her.
Not only did Hazel possess exceptional horseback riding talent, but she was a gifted fashion designer and seamstress. Throughout her career in the arena, Hazel designed and made her own costumes and beaded accessories. In addition to making clothes for herself, she made outfits for several of the other men and women in the show. Hazel always had a small, travel-sized treadle sewing machine and riding tack with her.
The accomplished rider and seamstress met saddle bronc rider Percy Moore while performing in a show in the Midwest. The couple married on May 13, 1932, and continued to travel throughout the United States entertaining audiences. The Moores had three daughters, the oldest of whom was born while they were on the road performing. News of the blessed event and the location of the birth, a tent in Colonel Jim Eskew’s Wild West Show, was carried by newspapers across the country. Two of Hazel and Percy’s daughters went on to be rodeo performers, regaling spectators with their abilities as trick riders and ropers.
Hazel’s daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughter pursued both her legacy in rodeo and in fashion design. Her daughters and granddaughters were barrel racers and contract rodeo personnel. Her great-granddaughter Darcey Good not only became a barrel racer and a breakaway roper but went on to open a clothing boutique showcasing garments inspired by Hazel’s style. Hazel’s Fashion Wagon pays homage to the diminutive horseback riding superstar who entertained enthusiastic crowds from Syracuse to San Francisco.
Hazel Hickey Moore passed away on July 24, 1977, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, at the age of 75.