College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources / Oklahoma State University


Spirit Rider charges into OSU history
"...and here comes Bullet!"


When Oklahoma State University football fans go to a game, they all want to see one thing. It’s better than eating a hot dog, shaking Pistol Pete’s hand and chanting “Orange Power.” What do Cowboy fans want? Bullet! Any Poke learns quickly that seeing Bullet on the field means OSU has scored.

History

The Spirit Rider is the cowboy mounted on Bullet and together they represent more than just school spirit. They are an example of OSU’s western heritage. Their presence is welcomed by all who call Lewis Field home.

The Spirit Rider is now a tradition at OSU thanks to the late Eddy Finley. He had an idea of promoting school spirit the “cowboy way,” on horseback. Finley was a professor in the department of agricultural education, communications, and 4-H youth development.

His wife, Nancy, assistant coordinator of nursing services at the OSU Student Health Center, said Finley received the idea for the OSU Spirit Rider from the Texas Tech University mascot, the Red Raider. The Finleys both graduated from Texas Tech. He wanted the OSU Spirit Rider to be outfitted as a working ranch cowboy, she said.

“If he were here today he would be delighted at what the Spirit Rider has become,” Finley said.

The program was a cooperative effort from the beginning. Athletic director Myron Roderick, former music department head Gerald Frank, and band director William Ballenger implemented the Spirit Rider program into the OSU spirit group.

Finley was the adviser of the Spirit Rider position for the first five years. Don Topliff, former professor of equine studies at OSU and good friend of Finley, took over. Now David Freeman, extension equine specialist, is the Spirit Rider adviser.


Bullet and the Spirit Rider team take the
field during an OSU football game.
(Photo by Shelly Sitton)

The Debut

1984 was the debut year of the Spirit Rider, but Bullet was yet to come. The first “Cowboy” to hold this position was John Beall, Jr.

He had a black mare named Della with whom he competed in rodeos. She gladly carried Beall and the orange and black. This was not the end of the group though; Hooker, Beall’s Australian Shepard, made it a trio.

“Every time I see the bronze of the Spirit Rider I am proud,” Beall said. “It was a great experience in my life to be the first Spirit Rider; I am glad I could be part of the beginning.”

Beall now lives in Norman with his wife, Carol, and two sons. He manages a race horse farm.

It was not until 1988 that Star Par Money, a 1983 black American Quarter Horse gelding was donated to OSU, Freeman said.

Bullet, as we know him today, also had another name when he arrived, said H. Robert Terry, regents service professor. The title of “Possum” was changed to Bullet after students were asked to enter ideas for a name to give the new arrival.

Throughout the 14 years additional support has come for the Spirit Rider and Bullet, much of it due to Finley’s hard work. A horse trailer, custom-tooled saddle and uniform dress for the Spirit Rider and ground crew have been donated to OSU.

Jim Hamilton sculpted the Spirit Rider Bronze that sits next to the Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater. He also sold miniatures as a fund raiser for the Spirit Rider program.

For the zeal, hard work and commitment Finley gave to students and OSU, faculty, staff, students and friends honored him with the Eddy Finley Memorial Garden, which is in front of Agricultural Hall.


David Freeman, Spirit Rider adviser, and Ty Cunningham
wait for another Cowboy touchdown and appearance by Bullet.
(Photo by Shelly Sitton)

Today

Of course what Finley started continues to live on each year. OSU faculty and students take this tradition seriously.

“The reason I am doing this is because you see the development of students; it matures a college student so much,” Freeman said. “The program represents OSU and the horse industry.”

Bullet is housed at the OSU Equine Center. Freeman said, besides the Spirit Rider, students in the ground crew are in charge of Bullet’s feeding, exercise and grooming.

Cleaning the horse trailer and keeping the saddle polished are other chores that are part of the students’ job. They also make sure Bullet’s environment is safe at football games by keeping a path cleared for him and watching out for objects and people who might affect him.

Today, Ty Cunningham, animal science senior from Jay, sits in the driver’s seat atop Bullet during home games.

“Getting to see people pet Bullet and going to different places to see kids and see their faces are what I like the most about being the OSU Spirit Rider,” Cunningham said.

He said the Spirit Rider and ground crew take Bullet to elementary schools, day cares and Special Olympic events. Bullet also went to a Lake Carl Blackwell trail ride and appeared at Beauty and the Beast, a barrel racing and bull-riding event sponsored by the OSU Rodeo Association.

The alternate Spirit Rider is Britton Collum, an agricultural economics junior from Antlers. The ground crew includes Wes Magill, an animal science sophomore from Weatherford; Ann Russell, a biotechnology junior from Ardmore; and Kim Davis, an animal science sophomore from Hastings.

Bullet is still going strong and if you want to see for yourself, head to Stillwater for some Cowboy football.

By Lydia Laske


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