Horse Athletics Horse General Interest Past Articles

Beyond the Team

Beyond the OSU Football Team: What Goes Into Game Day

By Derinda Blakeney, APR

We all know there would be no football program at Oklahoma State University without OSU’s talented coaches and players who make up the OSU football team. However, there are many things beyond the team itself that help make each home game a special experience for attendees. There is the extremely gifted band performing in the stands and on the field during halftime. There are the dedicated cheerleaders and pep squads, the fans and our famous mascot, Pistol Pete. And there is one more thing—the thunder of hooves racing around the stadium as Bullet and a Spirit Rider celebrate each touchdown. 

                A Spirit Rider has been celebrating OSU Cowboy touchdowns at home football games since 1984. In 1988, OSU bought its own black horse, and the name Bullet was chosen. (See our September/October issue for a full feature article on Bullet and the Spirit Rider program.)

                Oklahoma State’s own Center for Veterinary Health Sciences has provided Bullet’s veterinary medical care for years. In 2005, OSU took that care to a new level when Dr. Lyndi Gilliam began accompanying Bullet to every home game.

                “It’s important to OSU to keep Bullet safe at all times,” explained Dr. Gilliam, equine medicine specialist at OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital. “By being with Bullet at home games, I can attend to his needs should he get hurt. It takes a very special horse like Bullet to perform in a game day environment.  Things at a football game are never predictable, and it is easy to forget a horse is involved. Although he is an exceptional animal, one mistimed or wrong move and we could have an emergency on our hands.  I’m just there as a precaution, a safety net. I work closely with Ty and Jennifer Cunningham, Bullet’s caretakers, to make sure that Bullet is as happy and safe as possible.

                “In reality, Bullet is also an athlete.  He needs to be in top shape to perform at his best. At OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital, we make sure Bullet gets the proper wellness care to keep him healthy. He is on a routine vaccination and parasite control program and is fed top quality Purina© feed.  He receives a pre-season exam from head to tail by our board certified specialists to make sure he is sound for the upcoming season. From equine internal medicine and surgery to sports medicine and rehabilitation, we have specialists trained in the latest techniques to take care of Bullet should he have any health problems.”   

                One of those specialists is Dr. Mike Schoonover. He is a board certified equine surgeon and a board certified specialist in sports medicine and rehabilitation. In the same way orthopedic specialists look over the football players, Dr. Schoonover evaluates Bullet from an orthopedic standpoint.

                “If I ever have a concern about Bullet’s ability to perform on the field from a soundness standpoint, our surgery and sports medicine specialists will perform an in-depth evaluation,” said Gilliam. “These evaluations may include anything from lameness evaluation to diagnostic imaging, such as radiographs or ultrasound. The Veterinary Medical Hospital’s equine medicine and surgery service also provides regenerative therapies as well. We have the ability to utilize many preventative and treatment modalities to keep Bullet sound and comfortable.”

                “We’ve worked together for years,” stated Schoonover. “Having experts in multiple specialties is a wonderful asset that the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences offers horse owners in Oklahoma.” 

                “We always hope that Bullet won’t need our care during a football game, but it’s a comfort knowing we have such a highly specialized team right here on campus ready with the latest techniques and products in equine veterinary care should the need arise,” added Gilliam. “Game day would not be the same without Bullet, and we take great pride in ensuring that we do our job to make sure fans can hear ‘Heeere comes Bullet!’ at every home game.” 

                For more information on OSU’s equine veterinary care, call (405) 744-7000, ext. 2.