It’s good that Elise Wade is not in the least bit squeamish. Someone has a few broken ribs, no big deal. A cracked collarbone that needs emergency surgery, nothing she can’t handle. A three-inch gash over the eye that’s going to require several stitches, she won’t blink an eye. How about a broken arm dangling at a person’s side? May as well be a hang nail.
It takes more than a few broken ribs or a cut above the eye to distract the sideline reporter for Bullfighters Only, an extreme sport in which freestyle bullfighters spend 60 seconds dodging, jumping and avoiding aggressive Spanish fighting bulls. While many OSU students spend their weekends relaxing with friends, studying in the Edmon Low Library or attending fraternity and sorority parties, the Spears School of Business student is often traveling across the country to work the next Bullfighters Only event.
Just this last year, she traveled from coast to coast with tour stops in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, California and Washington. This year is beginning like the last, and she has plans to travel to Hawaii for an event in April.
“Bullfighters Only is extreme. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve had the opportunity to do lately,” Wade said. “You may see a few cowboy hats, but you are not at a rodeo. It’s loud, it’s intense and for 60 seconds at a time the bullfighter and the bull are basically kind of dancing.”
Bullfighters can be awarded up to 50 points for style, control and difficulty while maneuvering around and jumping over the bull, and the bull can be awarded up to 50 points based on his aggression, quickness and willingness to remain engaged with the fighter.
Similar to a television sideline reporter interviewing a football coach on the field after a game, Wade waits for the bullfighter to complete their round before interviewing him for everyone to hear.
“They’re sweaty and they’ll throw their arm around me,” she said. “I’m trying to interview them, and I can see blood dripping from their face, and they’re like, ‘oh, it’s fine. I’m good. I’ll just get some water here in a minute.’”
And, as Wade has witnessed, the sport is dangerous.
“You get used to seeing people get hit really hard, and seeing people get knocked out and people’s jaws being broken,” she said. “They call freestyle bullfighting the last of the gladiator sports, and that’s exactly what it is. These guys crave the adrenaline, they look chaos in the face and can control it. They love their job.”
Growing up on her family’s horse training farm north of Enid, Oklahoma, Wade is no stranger to working with animals more than 10 times her weight. She was on a horse before she was a year old and she grew up showing horses and riding in Hunter Jump competitions before eventually getting into barrel racing.
“I’ve been riding horses longer than I’ve been walking. I grew up on the back of a horse,” she said. “(My dad) was training horses about the same time I was born, and I was thrown on one not very long after coming home from the hospital. I was living every little girls’ dream – I had ponies everywhere.”
But upon arriving in Stillwater as an OSU freshman in 2016, Wade was hoping to live out a cowgirl’s dream – becoming the OSU Spirit Rider, the one student chosen each year to ride Bullet, the black horse that serves as the school’s mascot. Since 1984, the Spirit Rider has brought Cowboys fans to their feet, riding Bullet onto the field at Boone Pickens Stadium to celebrate each OSU touchdown.
She tried out and was selected as the Spirit Rider for the 2017 football season.
“Being the Spirit Rider is an honor, to say the least,” she said. “One of the reasons that I wanted to come to Oklahoma State University was someday I wanted to ride Bullet. For horse kids, that’s what they want, that’s what they think about.
“It’s so much more than sitting on this black horse that everyone knows as Bullet … it stands for everything that’s good about Oklahoma State University.”
Leading the 1,100-pound black beauty through the OSU Cowboy Marching Band as 60,000 people cheer wildly just minutes before the Cowboys football team enters the stadium is a thrill, she says. But there are other responsibilities, which Wade says are just as important, if not more so.
“There’s something about it that I didn’t fully comprehend until I took the field the very first game and got to sit there and talk to the fans, little kids, some of the football players and grandparents,” she said. “One of the main things I tried to remember is I wanted to be everything that these people expected, plus more.
“It’s not about you, it’s not about the Spirit Rider. At that point you just get to be along for the ride. You just get to pilot this ship getting to do all these things but that black horse means a lot to a lot of people. To understand who he is and what he stands for is the biggest job.”
Through her connections with the rodeo world, Wade has spent the last few years also working for companies like Wrangler, Justin Boots, Cavender’s and Ride TV. She was in Las Vegas as a representative for Wrangler nearing the end of her one-year stint as the Spirit Rider when she was approached by Bullfighters Only and offered the job as the sideline reporter.
She is most recognized by Bullfighters Only fans from her work as the sideline reporter, a job she’s had for the past two years, but she also has branched out into other areas with the company. Wade’s focus is still on interviewing participants, but she’s also now assisting with marketing, including corporate sponsorships, social media or other avenues.
The 22-year-old Oklahoman’s passion is marketing and it shows when she talks about Bullfighters Only, Wrangler or her year as the Spirit Rider.
“With marketing you’re learning how to sell products, you’re selling an idea, you’re selling yourself,” she said, “and if you can put all of those things together you can walk into any job interview or different industry and show you are capable and prepared.
“Everything I’ve learned as a marketing student here at Oklahoma State University has gone into what I do on a daily basis. Whether I am speaking to a major corporation about sponsorships for the company I work for or event that I’m being contracted to work for, I’m using the skills that Oklahoma State University has taught me.”
Wade says balancing her school workload while traveling for work has been challenging but with the help of Samantha Lancaster, her advisor in the Chesapeake Energy Business Student Success Center, and Spears Business faculty it has been manageable.
“The Spears School of Business has been really good to me,” she said. “Here at OSU they want to prepare you for going into life as an adult and the things you’re going to do, and to help you cultivate and create these goals and ambitions that you have – they want to help you achieve them.”
While it’s not a lifestyle for every college student, Wade is making it work – whether she’s studying for a marketing class exam or standing in front of the camera interviewing a person who seconds earlier was dodging a 1,200-pound bull.
MEDIA CONTACT: Terry Tush | Director, Marketing and Communications | 405-744-2703 | firstname.lastname@example.org