As the Cal Poly Performance Horse Sale approaches, this year’s offerings of well-bred and well-started performance horses will also include two graduates of the newly-minted Cal Poly Mustang Enterprise. You may have heard the buzz surrounding the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Mustang Mascot being a living, breathing horse, bravely charging the football field at touchdowns. The recent addition of a real “Mustang” championing for the school began about two years ago with “Moonstar”, a chestnut gelding generously donated by Cal Poly Alumni Robin Baggett and his wife Michelle. If you’ve ever seen horses in a parade, you know it takes a certain horse to perform under the unique conditions of unexpected sounds, fast movements and non-horse-savvy crowds; now add stadium lights, a gigantic blow up tunnel and the entire Cal Poly Mustang Football Team running onto the field behind you, and the stakes just got raised tenfold.
Luckily, Moonstar took to it like a fish to water, and when I met up with Equine Center Adviser Pete Agalos and Mustang Enterprise Manager Kylie Fraszer last week, the chestnut gelding seemed to know I was really there to see him – he is a complete ham, pricking his ears forward and posing for every camera click. Kylie and Mr. Agalos chuckled in agreement at my observation and Pete said,
“He knows his job and he loves it. He seems to really know what he’s doing out there.”
The Making of a Mascot
Part of getting a Mustang ready to run across the field, is getting all the humans involved on the same page. This means communication with the Athletic Department, Administration, Equine Center students and teachers, grounds keeping crew members and, of course, the athletes that will be running behind the horse! “The football team loves him,” recounts Pete Agalos. “They all want to pet him and take pictures, and he just loves it.” It seems the addition of a real mustang mascot has added a new sense of camaraderie across students in the school that might not cross paths on a daily basis. As Moonstar proved to be a worthy mascot candidate with his glossy chestnut coat, four white socks and BLM freeze brand running down the left side of his neck, an idea was formed to add more Mustangs to the line-up, since one horse performing as mascot might prove taxing. After all, even Hollywood uses multiple horses for the role of one in a film. While Cal Poly is not looking for several horses that all look alike, they are aiming for horses that have a certain presence. The Mustang seems to fit the bill not only as a symbol for America, but to embody the role of a true Cal Poly “Mustang”.
It Takes a Special Horse to Play a Special Role
In “Learn by Doing” fashion, last year the school adopted two geldings from the BLM who were promptly dubbed “Cal” and “Paulie”. The two geldings had never been touched before their adoption and their addition to the school gave way for the Mustang Enterprise, since it was going to take work to get these two younger geldings up to the caliber of Moonstar. The Mustang Enterprise is comprised of 13 students that all take part in the care, grooming, feeding, and training of the 3 mustangs.
After hearing Kylie Fraszer’s detailed account of the work that goes into these horses, I marveled at the parallel between the care these horses get and the level of care a million dollar sire would get at a top-notch Stallion Station. Kylie remarked, “A white horse doesn’t stay this white without a lot of work,” in reference to “Cal” the 2012 Palomino Tobiano mustang gelding.
While Cal and Paulie did not prove to be quite the “ham’s” that Moonstar is, they did prove to be willing learning partners for the students of the Mustang Enterprise project. As a result they have turned into excellent riding horses and will be available for sale on May 31st alongside the Cal Poly bred quarter horses with all proceeds benefiting the Equine Program. All horses in the sale are clear evidence of the “Learn By Doing” motto and Mustang spirit that a Cal Poly student possesses, and of course many hours of hard work and dedication.
The Mustang Way
Don’t worry though, Moonstar won’t be championing the field alone for too long. The school has recently accepted another Mustang named “Maverick” into the program, kindly donated by Alumni Sara Kroll. Sara adopted Maverick from the BLM and performed all his early training under saddle and even taught him a few tricks like bowing! Upon meeting Maverick, I have a feeling he might have the same desire for the spotlight that Moonstar possesses. Now it’s up to the members of the Mustang Enterprise to get him ready to take the field, and I have no doubt they will succeed. It’s the Mustang way.
Story and Pictures by Elizabeth Hay