Texas Tech University

Texas Tech's Midnight Matador Passes Away

K'Leigh Sims

March 2, 2015

The university's longest-serving horse worked 10 seasons alongside 11 Masked Riders.

Midnight Matador
Midnight Matador

Midnight Matador, Texas Tech University's longest-serving horse, died Tuesday (Feb. 3) due to complications from colic surgery.

He was the 13th horse to ride for Texas Tech's Masked Rider program and served for 11 seasons. The only Masked Rider horse to come close in length of service is Happy IV-II, who served an eight-year term from 1980-1987.

Stephanie Rhode, Texas Tech's Spirit Program director, said Midnight Matador will be greatly missed.

“The entire Texas Tech Spirit Program mourns the passing of Midnight Matador,” she said. “He lived almost his entire life in service to our university inspiring hundreds of thousands of fans during his tenure as the Masked Rider horse. He devoted himself to our university with such loyalty, and he leaves a legacy that will be difficult for any horse to surpass.”

Selected for the Masked Rider program in 2002 at the age of three, Midnight Matador carried 11 riders, including:

  • Jessica Melvin, 2002-2003
  • Ben Holland, 2003-2004
  • Stacy Stockard, 2004-2005
  • Justin Burgin, 2005-2006
  • Amy Bell, 2006-2007
  • Kevin Burns, 2007-2008
  • Ashley Hartzog, 2008-2009
  • Brianne Aucutt Hight, 2009-2010
  • Christi Chadwell, 2010-2011
  • Bradley Skinner, 2011-2012
  • Ashley Wenzel, 2012-2013

It's estimated during his time, Midnight Matador traveled more than 100,000 miles to more than 1,500 university and community appearances, including a trip back to the Gator Bowl in 2007, where Joe Kirk Fulton made the first appearance as the Masked Rider in 1954.

Stockard atop Midnight Matador during the 2004-2005 season.
Stockard atop Midnight Matador during the 2004-2005 season.

Midnight Matador was featured on “ESPN College Gameday,” “ESPN Road Trip,” “60 Minutes” and in the American Quarter Horse Journal. In addition to home football and home baseball games, he ran at the Alamo Bowl, the TicketCity Bowl, San Angelo Colts games and at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. In 2010, The Associated Press named the Masked Rider as one of the top 10 coolest college mascots.

At 13 years old, Midnight Matador retired from his Masked Rider duties in 2013 due to his age, safety and the normal wear and tear on a horse.

When his retirement was announced, Texas Tech honored him during the Texas Tech vs. Texas football game at Jones AT&T Stadium in between the first and second quarters of the game. The Masked Rider advisory committee then selected former Masked Rider Stacy Stockard, as Midnight Matador's primary care owner, where he lived out the remainder of his days here in Lubbock.

Stockard served as the Masked Rider during the 2004-2005 season. She graduated from Texas Tech in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in agricultural communications. She then earned her master's degree in agricultural education in 2006 and graduated from the Texas Tech School of Law in 2009. Stockard is the marketing coordinator for Texas Tech's Transportation and Parking Services.

Stockard says Midnight Matador was treated special with such love and care.

“He was the bright spot in every day for me,” she said. “He was such a blessing to me, and I'm just so thankful for having these years with him. He had world-class surgeons and the best recovery agents in the business. He had the best care possible, and he was surrounded by such love every day in his retirement.”

Midnight Matador honored in November 2012.


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