One woman’s love for horses and her community has inspired tradition and school spirit at Oklahoma State University.
If you’ve attended an OSU football game since 2019, you’re familiar with the black miniature horse that is featured on the big screen at every game. His name is BB, but many students know him as “mini bullet.”
BB’s owner, Rachel Royston, escorts BB to every football game and parade he attends.
Though Royston’s life currently revolves around horses, it hasn’t always been that way.
When Royston was 35 years old and working in advertising, her boss suggested she volunteer at a therapeutic riding center. Royston’s boss encouraged her to try it out by granting her a long lunch break to attend a class at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Royston was hooked after her first class.
“It took about 5 minutes for me to do a 180 my career,” Royston said.
Volunteering at the therapeutic riding center allowed Royston to combine two of her passions, as well as provide students with an experience that benefited them both physically and mentally.
“I love, love, love horses,” Royston said. “I have always had a heart for people with disabilities and special needs.”
After two years of volunteering and six years of instructing classes, Royston relocated to Oklahoma with hopes of continuing her instruction.
After reaching out to therapeutic riding centers in her area, Turning Point Ranch of Stillwater, Oklahoma, got back to her. They were looking for a new instructor and thought Royston would be a good fit.
Royston began working at Turning Point Ranch in 2016, founded by Tamara Dannel, but now owns and operates the ranch full time.
Turning Point offers riding classes to the physically and mentally handicapped, brings their miniature horse to local senior living homes and partners with Highland Park Elementary School for a reading program.
The reading program’s curriculum improves student’s reading ability as they read “Little Black, a Pony,” by Walter Farley. After completing the book, students take a day trip to Turning Point where they get to do crafts, farm activities and read to the horses.
“We decided because of this curriculum, we need a little black,” Royston said.
As Royston searched for a pony, she learned that one of her high school classmates was selling a black miniature pony. When Royston met BB for the first time, she knew he was the perfect fit for the Turning Point family.
“We bought him on the spot because he was so willing to do everything and he actually rode back in the back of my board member’s car,” Royston said.
BB’s car ride adventures didn’t stop there. He still rides to every football game and event he attends in the back of Royston’s Tundra after being invited to be part of the OSU family in 2019.
Every dollar that BB makes goes back to the Turning Point herd, which is made up of 10 official Turning Point horses, and three other therapy horse hopefuls.
Turning Point Ranch and its students and horses have changed Royston’s life for the better. Her passion for her community has improved the lives of many and boosted school spirit at every event she and BB attend.
To learn more about Turning Point and how you can volunteer, visit https://turningpointriding.org/.