On big game nights, an untamed stallion gallops across the football stadium as the crowd cheers him on. Affectionately known as Musty the Mustang, the 15 year-old horse has been reestablishing this game-time tradition for the past six years. Perhaps no one knows him better than the students who care for him in class.
In addition to Musty mascot in a costume, a real horse also makes an appearance on the field on game days to get the crowd excited. This tradition started in the 1960s, but stopped for a period to avoid damage to the field. It was only recently that the tradition was reinstated as a way to help amp up the energy and get the crowd cheering. Alpha Omega Foundation owners Robin and Michelle Baggett donated the horse.
“It is pretty cool for our school to have a live mascot, I think,” animal science senior Alice Von Staven said. “You don’t see a lot of schools who have a live mascot. It also shows how agriculturally involved our school is.”
Students have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the horse, Chase, by taking care of him as a part of ASCI 490: Advanced Animal Production and Management Enterprise.
Regardless of experience, a student can become part of the team that helps take care of Chase by joining the class commonly called “Mustang Enterprise.” The class is an opportunity to get involved with the campus while learning about the care and training of horses. A course primarily offered in Summer and Fall, students can earn credit as part of the enterprise.
“The Mustang Enterprise consists of eight to twelve students, usually caring for the mascot, Chase, and also a few other horses that are used in the program,” Manager for Mustang Enterprise Lou Moore-Jacobsen said.
As an unconquered mustang, Chase runs across the field without a rider to introduce the football team during home games. To help guide Chase, students ride horses alongside him in what is known as “ponying.” This team of horses helps build up excitement and school spirit. One of the newest horses to join the team ponying Chase was donated by President Armstrong. Students worked over the summer to get him ready for the football season.
“The purpose is to represent our school spirit of the fact that mustangs are wild animals — they can’t truly be 100 percent conquered,” Von Staven said. “I think he loves his job. He is actually kind of a spooky horse, but when it comes to the football games, he loves it. He loves all the people coming up to him and running across the field. When they see that tunnel they go through that we run out of, they just take off. You barely have to do anything.”
“He loves all the people coming up to him and running across the field”
Von Staven served as student manager last year for Mustang Enterprise, which meant she was in charge of scheduling out and managing the horse’s care. This included collaborating with Cal Poly Athletics and Administration to schedule appearances and making sure Chase is well cared for and kept clean. Because Chase is seen by the thousands of people who attend the football games and also makes public appearances at other school functions, he receives a little extra grooming and attention from his caretakers to keep him ready for the spotlight. He is housed in the stables year-round and is ridden by students as part of beginning and advanced riding classes offered through the university.
“Chase is so cute, and we’ve had him for a couple of years,” kinesiology senior Kelly Terris said. “Everybody kind of sends of extra love towards Musty. He’s kind of the face of our school, so he gets a little bit of extra carrots and kisses and extra attention.”
“Something about it is so much fun and rewarding,” Terris said. “Getting to be in the parade and walking down and getting to see all these people cheering you on. And getting to be part of it and working with these large animals and how they represent our school is just so cool.”