The Trojan Family has always been proud of its traditions, especially when it comes to football. One of the most well-known football traditions comes after every touchdown or Trojan victory at the Coliseum: Conquest plays as Tommy Trojan rides out of the tunnel on the back of the white stallion, Traveler, and wields his sword prompting enthusiastic roars from the crowd.
As Trojans packed into the stadium last weekend for the game against Notre Dame, USC's mascot Traveler VII prepared to gallop around the field at the Coliseum for one of the last times. The pure Spanish Andalusian has celebrated all the touchdowns and victories USC has acquired at home games over the last 14 years, but at age 25, it's time for the beloved horse to retire.
Since 1961 when the program started, seven different Traveler horses and Tommy Trojans have trotted around the field to the Trojan victory song. The current Tommy Trojan Hector Aguilar has been riding Traveler VII for the majority of the horse's career. Aguilar says that Traveler VII really has a passion for the job.
"He's 25 years old but when he hears conquest he thinks he's 8 years old. It's unbelievable the transformation and the excitement he gets when he hears the band play," Aguilar said.
Traveler VII owner and trainerJoanne Asman told the Los Angeles Times in 2006 that she chose Traveler VII because he exhibited important traits for a Traveler mascot to have as, "a horse that's willing to come to you, that's curious."
The USC mascot program is celebrating its 55th anniversary. For Asman, Traveler isn't just a fixture at sporting events, but an important part of the campus culture.
"The Traveler tradition is something beyond anything I've ever seen," Asman said.
But with such a great tradition also comes a lot of preparation and training. Asman and her staff had to prepare Traveler VII for anything he might witness on the field including, fireworks, pompoms and other school's mascots. Asman said, "It's a lot of work. You know people think, 'Oh gee she just comes out here and does it.'"
On game days, Asman got up more then eight hours before kick off. His rider, Aguilar, took Traveler VII for a warm up run before he was bathed and brought to the stadium. Once at the Coliseum, the horse took pictures with fans and then headed onto the field to do a practice run before every game.
Despite the hard work, Traveler VII could not wait to step out on the field in front of the crowd. "He just thinks that the 90,000 people in the stadium are there to see him," says Asman.
Even though it will be sad to see Traveler VII go, Asman must keep the tradition alive. According to the proud trainer, a new horse, Traveler IX, has been preparing for the position for the past year and a half. Traveler IX made his debut last spring and will officially start the job next season.
Reach Staff Reporter Addison Stafford here.
Staff Reporter Lauren Dunn contributed reporting.