Team Ghost Riders to gallop into Fifth Third FieldWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | email@example.com
Team Ghost Riders have quite a reputation in the rodeo world.
Charger, Laramie, Mega and Dakota wear matching shirts, tiny hats and little scarves that billow as they ride their trusty steeds — Rock, Ted, Dog and Spot. These cowboys are capuchin monkeys that sit tall in the saddle atop border collies. Make no mistake: They get the job done; they round up bighorn sheep.
“People will be shocked, they’ll be mesmerized, seeing these animals work, the camaraderie and the love and relationship that we have for each other,” said trainer Tim Lepard. “The reason we call them Ghost Riders is, as soon as you see them, you imagine that you’re seeing things.”
Toledo fans who go to Fifth Third Field to watch the Mud Hens take on the Indianapolis Indians on July 11 will get a glimpse of Team Ghost Riders. The game starts at 6:30 p.m. and there’ll be fireworks after the final out.
Lepard is a colorful character. “Wild Thang” became a professional rodeo clown and barrel man after several serious injuries while fighting bulls. It was a bullfighting champion, Jimmy Anderson, who suggested the career change in the late 1980s.
“Jim Anderson said, ‘Let me tell you something. You can go to a rodeo and you can find 100 macho guys that are bullfighters, but you’re only going to find one funnyman. You need to get you an act that will carry you into the future,’” Lepard said during a phone call from his home in Pontotoc, Miss.
“All my life I always wanted a monkey. As a kid, my mom made the sock monkey and I carried it around. Curious George — I can remember it like it was yesterday, you know, the books,” he said. “So I bought me a monkey not knowing nothing, and I thought I was going to train this monkey to ride a Shetland pony.”
He laughed and continued, “And it didn’t work because the monkey kept climbing up the horse’s neck and getting in between his ears, and the horse shook his head and the monkey couldn’t stand it.”
It took six years to find the right combination.
“Every time I did this I had to learn from my mistakes,” Lepard said. “I’ve raised these monkeys and dogs up together; they bond.”
While the animals like each other, it also seems they like the attention during the shows.
“There’s no way to determine if [the animals] like it or don’t like it. All I can say is the monkeys get on the dogs and they ride themselves; I don’t make them do anything. I’m licensed through the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture); they inspect everything I do. When I put a monkey on a dog, they inspect; they come to the house to inspect; they come to shows to inspect; they look out for the welfare of these animals.”
Lepard’s love for his team is obvious.
“My animals get everything I get; I treat them as if it was me. They take care of me; I’m going to take care of them.”
Tags: Mud Hens