The gelding from Archer City is teaming up once again with the Masked Rider and giving Fearless Champion some well-deserved rest on the sidelines.
This weekend, a familiar face will charge out of the tunnel at Jones AT&T Stadium as the Red Raider Football Team takes on Oklahoma State University: Cody, the black, quarter horse gelding from Archer City is coming out of retirement to once again lend a leg (or four) to the Spirit Program as Fearless Champion gets some well-deserved rest on the sidelines.
Last year, Cody completed the majority of the game-day runs after Fearless, the iconic black steed ridden by the Masked Rider, was injured. This year, Cody is back to make sure Fearless stays as healthy as possible while still interacting with the Red Raider community.
"It's important to note that Cody's return is not because of an injury," said Sam Jackson, a professor in the Department of Animal & Food Sciences in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources (CASNR) who tends to the horse's care on campus. "Fearless Champion has served Texas Tech since the Meineke Car Care Bowl in December 2012. He's worked hard throughout the years. At a recent routine checkup, the veterinarian saw some inflammation in his front legs and suggested he take it easy for a few weeks to avoid another possible injury. So Cody is stepping in to help."
Cody is already in Raiderland, getting back in the swing of things and training with CASNR graduate student Emily Brodbeck, who serves as the 58th Masked Rider.
"Emily's getting him ready, riding him and getting him used to the stadium again," Jackson said. "He'll be ready to go this Saturday. Fearless isn't in any pain or discomfort – he's up and walking around, but he won't be doing any running for a while."
For now, the plan is similar to last year: Cody will complete the game-day runs and some of the other duties, while Fearless helps out with the less-strenuous appearances, like school visits and meeting with fans.
Cody was first introduced to Raiderland during the 2018 season after the unthinkable happened: less than two weeks before the first home game, Fearless Champion was sidelined indefinitely with a leg injury. For a moment, it looked like the first two home games of the season would happen without the traditional pre-game entrance run. The chance of finding a suitable replacement by the first home game on Sept. 8 was slim, Jackson said.
Just a few days later, the Spirit Program received another surprise, but this time, it was good news: a replacement horse had been found. Cody, a black, quarter horse gelding from Archer City, joined the Masked Rider program for the rest of the season, taking over the majority of the horse duties, including the game-day runs, while Fearless healed and helped with other appearances.
After the last game in November, Cody retired the reins and returned to Archer City. Fearless was declared healthy and able to return to full duty in February and ended the 2018-19 year in April with 300 appearances under his saddle.
"Fearless Champion loves meeting people and people love meeting him," said Stephanie Rhode, director of the Spirit Program. "For more than six years, he has served as an incredible ambassador not just for the Masked Rider program, but also for the entire Spirit Program and the university. We are excited to see how he and Cody work together again to help Emily fulfill her duties as the Masked Rider and represent Texas Tech University."