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Raising the Bar – Cody Hollingsworth



When Oklahoma State University Alumnus Cody Hollingsworth was first approached to take the reins of the college’s rodeo team, the partnership was obviously a perfect fit.

The Colorado cowboy had attended Oklahoma State and competed as a bull rider on the rodeo team in the mid-1990s before transferring back to his home state, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural business and animal science.

The pull from Stillwater was strong, so in 2009, Hollingsworth, his wife Katie, and daughter Lyndsey packed their bags and moved south, settling in just miles from the campus. The Hollingsworths owned a marketing agency called Western Integrity Agency, which specialized in the equine and rodeo industry.

Shortly after the move, they were approached for a sponsorship by then OSU student and Rodeo Team member Courtney DeHoff. “Of course, with my ties to OSU rodeo, it was almost an immediate ‘yes’ when we saw what it was for. So, we agreed to sponsor, but said they had to let us help with the sponsor packets through our marketing company,” he recalled. “We just volunteered to dive in to help with the sponsorships and other stuff. That started the relationship with the team.”

Barely a year later, several rodeo team donors and supporters, requested a meeting to discuss officially running the program. “It all just fell into place after that,” he said.

Day to Day

With the title of Rodeo Program Coordinator and Head Coach, Hollingsworth wears many hats throughout the day. Typically, each morning begins with office hours, during which time he handles program duties ranging from recruiting to fundraising to managing the facility.

He also works directly with students to ensure their academics are in order. “I also work with the Student Success Center in the Ferguson College of Agriculture doing academic advising,” he explained. “As proud as we are of the students who compete on the rodeo team for the success they have in the arena, it’s even more important that they find that success in a career when they graduate.”

Shortly after lunch, he moves to the rodeo facility, located northwest of town. He and his two graduate students, Lariat Larner and Zane Grigsby, begin the regularly scheduled practice at 3 p.m.

The practices are scheduled Monday through Thursday, with every team member honing their skills. Practices for the various events are typically staggered throughout the afternoon, ensuring each member gets the time and coaching they need. “I try to be everywhere and help out as much as I can for each event, and luckily I have Lariat and Zane assisting with managing, organizing, and running practice,” Hollingsworth explained.

The OSU Rodeo Team facilities makes practicing multiple events at one time relatively painless. The large outdoor arena is typically used for barrel racing and team roping, and an additional calf lane is utilized by the calf and breakaway ropers. There is also a smaller covered arena that houses the bucking chutes, although it is large enough to accommodate the other events in the case of implement weather.

Although a bull rider himself, Hollingsworth has developed a knowledge of all the events. “It’s definitely been a challenge to learn as much about each event as possible so that I can be helpful to all the members of the team,” he admitted.

There is one speed event that he’s become even more well-versed at over the years – barrel racing. Both Katie and Lyndsey run barrels, and the family has raised and trained several of their own futurity and rodeo horses. “I have some techniques and knowledge in a few areas you might not expect,” he said with a laugh.

Challenges & Accomplishments

While a dream job, Hollingsworth knew there would be challenges along the way. The first being the restructuring of how the program was ran. “It was entirely a student-run organization before I came on. They had a volunteer faculty advisor, and it was less organized. The students were used to just doing their own thing, and so that first year definitely demanded some work to get things organized and running smoothly so that the students could continue to improve,” he shared.

The other obstacle? Funding.

“I would get comments like, ‘Why doesn’t the school just fund this or fund that?’ It’s just like anything else in that trying to create funding where there was no line item in the past for that was very difficult. Everyone does all they can to balance their budgets and make things work well, and then when something is added in that hasn’t been funded before, it can be tough,” Hollingsworth explained.

He gives a large amount of credit for the Rodeo Team’s current financial situation to Cynda Clary, the Associate Dean of the Ferguson College of Agriculture, who was hired shortly after Cody. “She has given us a great bit of help and has tried to add that funding and find extra in the budget. Honestly, I don’t know how long this position would have lasted if it wasn’t for her and her work there,” he said.

Now, the Rodeo Team is able to provide scholarships to worthy students, maintaining and developing the facility, as well as travel support for the students. Over the years Hollingsworth and the team has grown the fundraising efforts, which are highlighted by the Cowboy Ball held each February. “We are always looking for ways to expand scholarships and build on our facilities,” he said. “Donor opportunities are currently available. If someone is interested in donating, they can contact me directly or visit with Dusty Bedwell at the OSU Foundation.”

Finally, the incredible growth of the program has been a double-edged sword, causing logistical difficulties in practice and travel. When the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association announced, as did the NCAA, that college seniors would have another year of eligibility, the number of team members increased even more.

“When I first started, there were maybe 20 students in the organization, and I never took more than a dozen students to the rodeos,” Hollingsworth remembered.

This year the program boasts 54 students, with nearly 50 traveling to the first two rodeos of the season. “Everyone is a little bigger and busier than normal, but that’s why it was important to develop the graduate assistant positions. We had one already, but we grew so much we were able to add a second one,” he said.

Those challenges are worth it, as the OSU Rodeo Team has become a regular contender at all levels of collegiate competition. In 2019, the women’s team won the Central Plains Regional Championship, punching their ticket to the Collegiate National Finals Rodeo. Each year, the Cowboys can boast of taking several students to the CNFR. “It is extremely gratifying to see the program grow so much. Embracing that growth and raising the bar in competition as high as the team has is very rewarding,” Hollingsworth said. “When I got here, the students didn’t have a lot of support. You’d have a few decent students every now and again, but now we are at the point where we always have competitive students, and we’re able to build on that consistency.”

Although Hollingsworth can be found across the country attending the major youth rodeo events such as the National High School Finals Rodeo and the International Finals Youth Rodeo to recruit members, the success of the team now regularly draws talented individuals to Stillwater.

While talent in the arena is an important component of a prospective student’s resume, their performance in the classroom and drive for career success carries just as much weight. “The main thing a high school or junior high student – one that wants to compete on the rodeo team – needs to focus on is academics. We want to ensure we recruit students who are going to be successful,” Hollingsworth said. “They are student athletes, but they know they can come to a Division One school, get a quality education, and still get to be on a competitive team.”

He added that once those students begin to progress through high school, they can send in videos of their competition runs and their accomplishments. “We will look at those, and that will ensure they’re on our list of students to watch and be aware of,” he said.

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Guttural Pouch Diseases of Horses



The guttural pouches of horses may not be very well known to most horse owners. These bilaterally paired pouches are located below the base of the skull, below the ears and extend into the throat latch region. The pouches purpose is not fully understood, but some theories is that they reduce the weight of the skull or have a blood cooling function to reduce the temperature of the arterial blood going to the brain. The guttural pouches can be plagued with a multitude of issues that are difficult to treat or can be life threatening to the horse. Other species contain guttural pouches such as some bats, American Forest mouse and Hyraxe.

The anatomy of the guttural pouches is complex and houses various important anatomic structures. The guttural pouches are an auditory tube diverticulum that is analogous to human Eustachian tubes but much larger. The volume of the guttural pouches can be up to 400-600 milliliters of air. The guttural pouches contain large arteries, nerves, the bones of the inner ear, muscle tissue and part of the hyoid apparatus that connects the skull to the larynx. The opening of the guttural pouches is deep in the nasopharynx through the slights call the pharyngeal ostium, which can only be accessed with an endoscope passed up the nose. The difficulty of accessing this area makes treatment of these diseases challenging at best. The guttural pouch is the only location in the horse that allows direct visualization of the arteries and nerves. The main arteries that are present in the guttural pouch are the maxillary artery and the internal and external carotid arteries that provide all the blood to the skull. The nerves in the guttural pouch are cranial nerves that exit directly from the brain or brain stem that innervate critical structures that control breathing, swallowing, chewing and ocular functions of the skull.

Read more in the April issue of Oklahoma Farm & Ranch.

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Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis of the Horse



By Dr. Garrett Metcalf

The suspensory ligament is a vital component of the limb of a horse to produce normal locomotion and support. The suspensory ligament is a common area of concern in performance horses of various disciplines and can be single handedly the cause of lameness or performance issues. This article is going to look at a specific degenerative disease of the suspensory ligament and what horses are at risk for this disease.

DSLD or degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis was first discovered in the early 1980’s in Peruvian Paso horses. The name has been changed because the suspensory ligament is not the only organ affected from the disease but the suspensory is ultimately the biggest issue. The newer name, ESPA or equine systemic proteoglycan accumulation, is more correct because other ligaments and tissues are affected by this disease. In this article we will only focus on the suspensory ligament. The most commonly affected breeds are Peruvian Paso, Paso Fino, Morgan, Saddlebred, Warmblood, Paints, American Quarter Horse, and Thoroughbred breeds. The age of onset of the disease is variable among breeds but it is more common to be seen in middle age to older horses.  However it has been documented in horses as young as one year of age. The disease generally will have a slow insidious onset that can go undiagnosed for months or years depending on the horses work and discipline.

A horse that begins to show early signs of DSLD may have a vague lameness issue that is difficult to isolate and they most likely will resolve with a period of rest. As the horse returns to moderate level of work the lameness will return. This scenario may go on for several months or more before the discovery of the DSLD is made. The first indication of DSLD is often pain isolated in the suspensory branches or fetlock region when a flexion test is performed. Horses with DSLD will also have a “dropped” fetlock appearance because the suspensory is the main supporting structure of the fetlock joint.  DSLD can affect the hind limbs, forelimbs or all limbs at the same time. A unique sign of DSLD is that not just one limb is affected but rather bilaterally affecting the limbs, meaning it will either affect either both forelimbs or hind limbs at the same time. It is my experience that the hind limbs are more commonly affected compared to the forelimbs. Horses will often have enlargement of the fetlock region and increased joint fluid or wind puffs. Horses will often have a straight hock or post legged hind limb appearance. Horses will often shift weight frequently in an effort to get relief from the discomfort and this can be confused with other lameness issues or foot related pain.

Diagnosis of DSLD is often made by clinical signs, breed and ultrasound findings. Ultrasound imaging of the suspensory ligaments will often show diffuse enlargement of the suspensory body and branches. The suspensory ligament will have a poor heterogeneous fiber pattern with periligamentious soft issue thickening from scar tissue deposition and edema or fluid within the tissue.  Radiographs of the lower limb may reveal abnormal bone changes in the sesamoid bones behind the fetlock joints and even osteoarthritis of the pastern and or fetlock joints. A definitive diagnosis can be made from a biopsy of a ligament in the neck called the nuchal ligament, but is not often performed because of the invasiveness of the biopsy.

Treatment is very limited and it is mostly geared towards protection of further damage by prolonged rest. Pain management is also important to attempt to keep the horse as comfortable as possible. Different shoeing techniques can be used with marginal success. In early cases of DSLD, a suspensory shoe that helps engage more work from the deep digital flexor tendon can help elevate the fetlock and offer more protection to the suspensory ligament. The devastating thing about this disease is that there is no cure and there are hardly any good options to slow the progression of the disease. DSLD carries a poor prognosis when the diagnosis is made in any breed of horse or any discipline. Although some cases can be managed better than others, it often progresses to the point of debilitating pain and discomfort to the point of humane euthanasia especially in the Peruvian Paso breed.

Read more in the February 2023 issue of Oklahoma Farm & Ranch.

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Splint Bone Injuries in the Horse



By Dr. Garret Metcalf, DVM

Splint bone issue in horses is a common problem in various ages and disciplines. These injuries can be caused by excessive work in young horses to traumatic injuries. The splint bones do play an important role in the stability of the joints that they help make up at knee or hock level. These various types of injuries will be discussed in this article as well as treatments.

The splint bones are small bones that are intimately attached to inside and outside of the cannon bone. The splint bone is divided into sections to understand which section is injured. At the top you have the head of the splint, then a mid-body section and at the bottom the button of the splint. The head of the splint bones make up part of the carpus (knee) in the forelimb and in the hind limbs the hock. There is a fair amount of research that has demonstrated the role the splint bones play in the stability of these joints. A study conducted at Colorado State College of Veterinary Medicine noted that when larger portions of the splint bone were removed rotational stability was significantly impacted within the carpus including other directional forces affected.

Diagnosing splint bone injuries are rather straight forward with radiographs, but some cases ultrasound is also helpful. Some of the bone or callus formation that occurs around these splint bone injuries can compress on the suspensory ligament leading to chronic pain and lameness issues.

Popped Splints

Splints that are popped are referring to injuries that generally occur to the younger population of horses entering training and work. Younger horses generally develop these injuries on the inside forelimb splints and they can be rather painful leading to loss of training time. The popping of a splint is the tearing of a ligament that holds the splint bone to the cannon bone called the interosseous ligament. When the ligament is torn bleeding can occur and disruption of the periosteum of the bones causing a callus or firm boney lump. These splints are more prone to injury because the medial or inside splint on the forelimb bears direct load with the second carpal bone at the head of the splint bone. This puts direct force on the splint bone where other splint bones share the load of the adjacent carpal or hock bones with the cannon bone.

Popped splint bones are often rather painful, have notable swelling associated near the splint bone and will have heat present. When palpated or squeezed a moderate amount of pain will be elicited. 

Treatments of these popped splints are often rest, systemic anti-inflammatory drugs and local anti-inflammatory treatments. Acute inflammation from a splint injury can be soothed with ice or cold therapies and bandaging. Also alternative therapies such as cold laser therapy, MagnaWave or shockwave can be incorporated to the treatment plan. In some more extreme cases surgical removal of the bone callus is necessary to prevent the callus from compressing the suspensory ligament.

Splint Bone Fractures

Fractures of a splint bone can occur at any level or in any one of the splint bones but there are some that are more commonly fractured. The lowest or distal one-third of the splint bone is commonly broken in the forelimbs. These fractures can be occasionally to forelimb suspensory related issues. The suspensory is has a small ligament attachment to the button of the splint bone and whenever the lower limb is extended heavily this can put bending forces on the lower part of the splint bones leading to fractures. In the hind limb the outside or lateral splint bone is the most commonly fractured splint bone. This splint bone is often fractured from kicking injuries. Whenever two horses don’t get along back up to each other and fire some kicks, this splint is often the one that gets broken. These injuries are particularly more problematic because of the open wounds that are heavily contaminated with manure, hair and dirt, plus injuries to flexor tendons as well.

Fractured splints near the head of the splint are also very problematic injuries that can be career ending or life threatening at times for horses. These fractures can involve the joints of the carpus or hock leading to septic arthritis, severe lameness and possibly serious instability of the corresponding joint. The rule of thumb for equine veterinaries that are familiar with surgically removing damaged or fractured splint bone is the two-thirds one –third rule. The rule is the lower two-thirds can be safely removed and try to never remove the upper one-third if at all possible. Cases of complete splint bone removal can lead to chronic lameness or worse, catastrophic joint dislocation when the horse tries to get back up from anesthesia. Instead of removal of the fractured upper one-third of the splint, the fracture can in some cases be repaired with plates and screws to maintain a stable upper part of the splint bone.

Other smaller traumatic injuries that can occur to splint bones often come from interference injuries or the horses own feet hitting the inner splint bones when working. These injuries can be avoided rather easily with splint boots placed on the lower limbs whenever working. Some lower limb boots can provide some support to the fetlock and suspensory to avoid distal splint bone fractures but overall these are not going to be very protective.

Some splint bone injuries are rather simple and common problems that a lot of horse owners are familiar with addressing. When it comes to the more serious traumatic fractures and wounds related to splint injuries it is best to contact a veterinarian and get these examined.

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