Retiring Masked Rider Ashley Adams transfers the reins to Caroline Hobbs.
Born and raised in Lubbock, retiring 60th Masked Rider Ashley Adams is a graduate student in the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources at Texas Tech University. After completing her thesis through the Department of Agricultural Education & Communications, she will graduate with a master's degree in animal science later this year. Today (April 29), Adams transferred her reins to Caroline Hobbs of Dallas, a junior animal science major who will serve as the university's mascot for the 2022-23 academic year.
“What a ride Ashley has had as our 60th Masked Rider,” said Stephanie Rhode, director of the Spirit Program. “It's been an absolute pleasure to work with her this year as she lived her childhood dream of becoming Texas Tech's iconic mascot. Her dedication to this program has been immense as she made 460 appearances representing the university. She has made a huge impact on everyone she met during this unforgettable year.”
Below, Adams shares some of her favorite memories as the Masked Rider.
What was it like to represent the university and the Spirit Program as the 60th Masked Rider?
Representing Texas Tech as the Masked Rider has been the greatest honor of my life. For one unforgettable year, I was able to represent one of the nation's top universities alongside the best horse of all time, Fearless Champion.
What was your favorite part of being the Masked Rider, and did it live up to your expectations going into the role?
My favorite part of being the Masked Rider was Fearless Champion. He truly makes this job so incredible. At appearances, when people would ask what my favorite thing about Texas Tech was, my answer was and will always be Fearless Champion. It takes a one-in-a-million horse to do this job, and he is one-in-two-million.
My other favorite aspect of being the Masked Rider is the friendships I was able to form. Everywhere you go, there are Red Raiders, and meeting so many people in the Texas Tech family was something I did not expect.
Being Masked Rider absolutely lived up to my expectations and even exceeded them. Going into the job, you hope that it is everything you've dreamed of; the Masked Rider Program is everything I dreamed of and so much more.
What memory will stick with you, and why?
I don't have a single memory that will stick with me forever, but multiple. Among my favorite memories are when Fearless and I were part of a wedding engagement last summer, and when we were part of the grand entry at Rodeo Houston and the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. Also, I always loved it when new students at orientation would come up to take a picture and tell me, “My older sister has a picture with Fearless Champion from her orientation.”
The memory that comes immediately to mind and brings up the most visceral emotions is being the last Masked Rider to run Fearless Champion at Jones Stadium. When I look at pictures or watch videos, I remember how I felt that day. Being the Masked Rider is an honor in itself, but being his last rider to run at the Jones was an honor unlike any other. The amount of love and support that came from our Red Raider family that night was incredible. I loved that all 10 of Fearless Champion's Masked Riders were there to see his last run and be at his retirement ceremony.
What are your plans after you transfer the reins to the next Masked Rider?
Graduation! I'm looking forward to completing my thesis in agricultural education and communications, receiving my master's degree and beginning my career.
Do you have any advice for your successor?
My advice to the next Masked Rider is to run as hard as you can. This has been the most incredible year, and I am blessed to have been able to represent Texas Tech with the number of appearances I've made. So, I would tell the new rider to never turn down any opportunity that comes her way. Hold onto every moment because the year goes by so fast.
Is there anything else you'd like to add about being the Masked Rider or your time at Texas Tech?
Being the Masked Rider for Texas Tech has been the greatest honor. I am forever grateful to the Masked Rider Committee for selecting me and allowing me to be part of the greatest college tradition in the country.
During my year as Masked Rider, I had four amazing assistants: Makala Fussell, Maddie Tafolla, Caroline Hobbs and Morgan Gramling. Without my team, I would not have been successful. I cannot put into words what this year with them has meant.
My family has supported me unlike anything else. I never had to wonder if they were going to be at a football game, rodeo run or parade – all I had to do was look to the stands and there they were. Thank you for being an incredible part of my year!
I would also like to thank Fearless Champion. He is a once-in-a-lifetime horse, and to be able to spend a year with him is something I will hold onto forever. There was never a time that I doubted how much he loved his job, from running at the Jones to receiving scratches from fans. He loved every minute of it, and I am humbled to have been able to take him to see all of the Texas Tech fans.
Taking the Reins
Caroline Hobbs, a junior majoring in animal science with a concentration in equine-assisted therapy and a minor in American Sign Language (ASL), will spend her senior year as Texas Tech's 61st Masked Rider. After she obtains her bachelor's degree next spring, she plans to continue training horses and eventually open her own facility for clients and horses of all ages and disciplines.
“I am looking forward to working with Caroline,” Rhode said. “I've had a lot of fun getting to know her as a Masked Rider assistant over the past two years, and I anticipate that we'll make a lot of great memories together as she serves as Texas Tech's 61st Masked Rider.”
Below, Hobbs shares her thoughts as she looks ahead to her new role.
What originally ignited your passion for horses?
I have been riding horses since the age of 3. When my mom began potty training me, she knew I had a love for horses and used this to her advantage. She told me that if I would go to the bathroom by myself three times in a week, I could ride my first horse. Within seconds I ran to the bathroom and, success! This sparked my love and passion for horses, and I grew up practicing both English and western riding styles. At the age of 10, I began participating in eventing, an equestrian competition consisting of dressage, show jumping and cross-country.
I competed on the Texas Tech Equestrian Team as a first-year student. Although I started riding horses in an unconventional way, I owe everything to my parents, trainers and horses. They have all been there through the hardships and the victories, and I cannot wait to have them by my side this year.
What was your favorite part of working as the Masked Rider's assistant?
I was on the Field Safety Team for the 58th Masked Rider, Emily Brodbeck, during my first year. Growing up in Dallas, I had always watched Texas Tech games on TV and seen the Masked Rider running down the field and thought, “Wow, I want to do that one day.” My grandfather was the handler for Peruna – Southern Methodist University's pony mascot – in the '50s, so being able to carry on his tradition on an even bigger scale is more than I could ask for.
Being an assistant for Cameron Hekkert and Ashley Adams and my involvement in this program has opened many doors, and I have memories that I will cherish forever. No matter where I am, the moment I hear the national anthem I get goose bumps. I feel as if I am standing in Jones Stadium, looking around at all the fans and gearing up for that iconic run. I will cherish all the laughs, cheers and memories that were made on the field, and I cannot wait to make more as the 61st Masked Rider!
Parades, rodeos and the Carol of Lights® are just a few appearances I have been to, each bringing new memories. I will always cherish the opportunities we were given this year, from seeing hundreds of Red Raider fans along Beale Street with their guns up at the Liberty Bowl game, to traveling to and from the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo and Rodeo Houston and seeing Red Raider fans everywhere we looked.
What are you most looking forward to doing as the next Masked Rider?
This year, I am looking forward to welcoming a new horse to the program and continuing the Masked Rider tradition with my assistants and the public. With Fearless Champion retiring, the new horse and I have big shoes to fill. I believe this starts with continuing the relationship with alumni, potential Red Raiders and the Lubbock community. Ashley always says, “We go where Red Raiders are,” and I want to apply that during my year. Being able to go to schools and talk to kids about Texas Tech has been one of my fondest memories, and I want to implement that in my year as well.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind after your time as Masked Rider?
Being named the 61st Texas Tech Masked Rider is a dream I have always hoped for. Thinking about leaving behind a legacy feels a million miles away, as my year is just getting started, but I hope to make the public, my friends and my family proud. To know that I will be added to the list of 60 riders who I have looked up to for years now is an amazing feeling.
Character, respect, integrity and honor are a few of the virtues I plan to uphold in my year. I hope to establish a strong foundation for the new horse as it carries on the legacy of Fearless Champion and the 13 horses before him. Past riders have left a phenomenal legacy for this university, and I plan to continue to build the relationships this program has set forth.
Is there anything else you'd like to add or mention about becoming the Masked Rider or your time at Texas Tech so far?
Thank you to everyone who has given me countless opportunities in the horse community, in this program and in my life. Each person has touched my life in some way and has contributed to where I am today. I am excited to see what this year has in store, and I look forward to this new adventure. As always, Wreck 'Em!