With a new football season and a new horse, centennial champion Texas Tech can embrace its unique tradition of the masked horseman.
Caroline Hobbs, Tech’s 61st masked rider, says she arrives at the barn twelve hours before kickoff.
“I feed him breakfast, clean his stall, tie him up and then ride him for about three hours,” she said. “I then let him take a three-hour break when he finished his breakfast or lunch or whatever that time was for game day.”
After bathing and riding the Centennial Champion, Hobbs and his team put on his boots and took him to Jones Stadium.
“After nailing it, we go to the Masked Rider statue for about an hour,” Hobbs said. “Then we go back to the trailer, give him some water and go down to the stadium.”
As for preparing the Centennial Champion for the game, Hobbs says that while they can try, there’s no way to recreate a game-day-like atmosphere.
“About a month before the first football game, we do a practice run with the band, the cheerleaders and the shots, but that’s it,” Hobbs said.
However, before the practice session, Caroline Hobbs took the centenarian champion to the domes to allow him to get a feel for the terrain.
“We try to prepare him mentally and do as much as possible off the pitch,” Hobbs said. “We desensitize him to guns, flags and cheerleaders.”
Lauren Bloss, an assistant to the Masked Rider, says that she and three other assistants are with the Masked Rider throughout the game.
“Since Centennial Champion is a new horse, we want to make sure he’s comfortable and Caroline is comfortable and doesn’t have to worry about anyone getting in his way.” , Bloss said.
Lauren Bloss, a fourth-year equine production student from El Paso, said the assistants were also cleaning up after the horse and supporting Hobbs throughout the game.
“We help her get the horse ready and make sure everything is clean for Caroline,” Bloss said. “We are doing everything we can to make it easier.”
Marshall Conde, a member of the field security team, says his main job is to keep Caroline Hobbs and the horse safe.
“We keep people out of her way and away from her to make sure she and the centennial champion have enough space for safety,” Conde said.
Conde, a fourth-year animal science student at Little River-Academy, said during the game that he stood with the Saddle Tramps and kept a gap wide enough for Hobbs to cross.
“Throughout the game, Caroline will run every time the football team scores,” Conde said. “I follow her on the sidelines and keep the pitch clear of vagabonds or anyone trying to get in.”