(VIDEO) Lyndi Starr made her final appearance before passing the reins to Emily Brodbeck.
Texas Tech University on Friday (April 19) named Emily Brodbeck of Lubbock as its 58th Masked Rider. Brodbeck, a graduate student majoring in Wildlife, Aquatic and Wildlands Science and Management in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, will serve in the position for the 2019-20 academic year.
The 57th Masked Rider, Lyndi Starr, an agricultural communications major from Mount Vernon, wore the mask and cape one last time before passing the reins of horse Fearless Champion to Brodbeck during the annual Transfer of Reins ceremony at the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center.
"The Masked Rider is a pure representation of the spirit and the drive every single Red Raider has, whether they are alumni, fans, students, faculty, staff, anybody," Brodbeck said. "Having the honor of representing my university as the Masked Rider is something I've dreamed of for a long time, and being able to take that dream and make it a reality is something I know I will cherish for a lifetime."
An equestrian since the age of five, Brodbeck has spent the majority of her life in the saddle. Her parents bought her first horse when she was nine, and since then she's earned 15 American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) all-around awards, nine top-5 and top-10 placements at the Texas State 4-H Horse Show and a top-15 placement at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress in Youth Western Riding. She has qualified for the AQHA Youth, Amateur and Open World Shows for the past nine years, and in 2017, placed seventh at the Lucas Oil Amateur World Show, Level 2.
During her time at Texas Tech, she has served in several leadership roles with the Texas Tech Equestrian Team, the Red Raider 4-H Club and the Texas Quarter Horse Youth Association. Brodbeck also served as a Masked Rider assistant and as part of the Field Safety Team, is the current on-site resident at the Texas Tech Equestrian Center and serves as a volunteer teaching assistant for the Texas Tech's horsemanship courses.
As Masked Rider, she looks forward to meeting Texas Tech supporters and hopes to continue strengthening the bond between the university and the surrounding area.
"As a high school student in Lubbock, I didn't think about Texas Tech being its own entity," Brodbeck said. "When I first visited the campus, it just it blew me away. I'd like to talk to high school students who may not have had any kind of interaction with the university and bridge that gap to pull more local students into Texas Tech and show them all the opportunities that are here."
During her time as the Masked Rider, Starr made a record 323 appearances, surpassing 55th Masked Rider Charlie Snider's 312 appearances in 2016-17. Starr appeared at numerous events on and off campus, including visits to local schools and businesses, parades and sporting events, including two appearances in April in Minneapolis where the men's basketball team competed for the NCAA national championship.
"It was an absolute honor to represent Texas Tech as the 57th Masked Rider," Starr said. "It was life-changing for me as far as maturity, attitude and perception of life. Each day and each appearance was humbling and made me extremely honored to be the symbol that unites Texas Tech with the community."
Though she said it was a bit intimidating becoming a part of the Spirit Program and being surrounded by the spirit squads and her fellow mascot, Raider Red, Starr quickly became friends not just with the other students but with Spirit Program director Stephanie Rhode.
"Being surrounded by such talented people also was humbling for me, but I became friends with almost everyone and being exposed to the team environment, the professionalism, the hard work and the entire atmosphere was so amazing," Starr said. "Stephanie and I met about appearances and Masked Rider duties, but also talked about life and anything in between. I opened up to her, and I think that really affected me in a positive way. In the beginning, I looked forward to getting my new appearances. By the end of the year, I looked forward to having those moments to just talk to Stephanie."
Starr can list many of her favorite moments as the Masked Rider: quiet mornings and evenings with Fearless Champion, the moment she first sat in the saddle as the Masked Rider, singing with her assistants on the way to games, hanging out with Raider Red at events and taking pictures with fans.
But her year did not come without challenges. In August, just before the first football game where she and Fearless Champion would make the traditional pre-game entrance run onto the Jones Stadium field, the horse was sidelined indefinitely due to a leg injury.
"His injury was very unexpected and the hardest thing I experienced as Masked Rider," Starr said. "It changed my year drastically in a matter of seconds. It changed my attitude, the way people approached us at appearances, the questions I got asked and how I answered those questions. It changed the view on the program for a lot of people, and it definitely made me appreciate each moment I had with Fearless Champion."
Finding a suitable replacement horse for Fearless Champion quickly became a priority. Luckily, they found one in Cody, an American Quarter Horse gelding from Archer City. While Cody took care of the majority of the duties, including game-day runs, Fearless Champion still made some of the other appearances. Through it all, Starr took responsibility for both horses and for helping Fearless Champion on his road to recovery.
"My equestrian background really came in clutch when we had to switch to Cody nine days before the first football game," Starr said. "He was easy to work with because of his age, training and gentle nature, but each game was a new experience because he responded to the crowd differently and ran differently than Fearless Champion. I had to stay alert and read him constantly, and I had to stay extra calm because any nervousness could've triggered a bad experience for him. The amount of support from fans and the community was very touching and definitely helped during those trying times."
Starr said support and encouragement from Rhode also helped during this time.
"Lyndi had two horses she had to care for this year, and she did it beautifully," Rhode said. "She rose to the occasion and did exactly what she needed to do every step of the way. We are so proud of her and everything she gave as the Masked Rider this year."
Cody completed his duties in November, with Fearless Champion declared fully healed and able to return to full duty in February. He and Starr were able to squeeze in a few runs before transferring the reins to Brodbeck.
"I was not prepared for the stress that came with his injury, but it made me a stronger individual and his return was a big relief," Starr said. "It reassured me that I had done the best I could with the given situation, and he would be able to continue being the Masked Rider horse. Fearless Champion loves every part of his job and that made me love being the Masked Rider that much more. His personality was very fun to be around, and we got really close through his rehabilitation and appearances."
After Starr graduates in May, she will work at the Texas Tech Equestrian Center as an assistant to the director. She hopes to open, own and operate a promotional company for the equine industry and would like to stay involved in the Masked Rider program. She said her advice to Brodbeck and future Masked Riders is to be open to change and just enjoy the experience.
"The people I met throughout my year at each appearance is something I am going to miss," Starr said. "It was inspiring to see the amount of school spirit the community, students, alumni, fans and surrounding towns, and even states, have. This position changes any person who takes the role, if they let it. Let it change you, and never take any day or appearance for granted, because once it passes, you won't get that opportunity back. Being the Masked Rider was everything I thought it would be and so much more. It was exhilarating."