Traditions at SMU are held closely to every Mustang’s heart. From boulevarding, to the Celebration of Lights, to the Pony Battle Cry, traditions run rampant throughout the Hilltop. But among these traditions, one stands out as the omnipresent symbol of spirit – Peruna the Pony.
Peruna first came on the scene in 1932, almost ten years after the Mustang was named SMU’s official mascot. Cy Barcus, who graduated from the Perkins School of Theology in 1929, introduced the black Shetland pony as the mascot during his time as the director of the Mustang Band.
A Shetland pony was chosen because of its longevity, living up to ten years longer than a quarter horse. There has been a total of eight Perunas given to the school by the Culwell family of Culwell and Sons men’s clothing.
Peruna VIII was inducted as the next pony in 1997 at the Spirit and Traditions pep rally and certainly carried the feisty traits of his predecessors. This Peruna has a few major accomplishments to his name – he was the first mascot to usher in the football team to the new Gerald J. Ford stadium and also led the Mustang Band in President George W. Bush’s inauguration parade.
But now Peruna has to learn to share the spirit spotlight. On November 7, 2009, during halftime of the SMU game versus Navy, Madeleine and T. Boone Pickens donated two mustangs to SMU to raise awareness about the mistreatment of America’s wild horses in support the National Wild Horse Foundation. The members of the Student Senate, staff representatives, and members of the SMU football team came together in weeks leading up to the weekend festivities to decide on the duties of the new mustangs. Before every home game, the mustangs will lead the team from the Mustangs statue at the north end of Mustang Plaza through the Doak Walker Plaza and into Gerald J. Ford stadium.
Pete Fleps, a football player for SMU, contributed to the efforts of defining the new mustangs’ role. He said, “Myself and the team included love the new mustangs. They’re beautiful animals that symbolize both the strength and character of the university and the football program. Also, in the past we used to have a mustang along side Peruna, and it’s fitting to have that tradition resurrected just as the football program has been.”
Jake Torres, one of the four Peruna handlers and a member of the Student Senate, offered a different perspective of the additions. “Peruna is one of the greatest traditions of our university. I do worry that the introduction of the new mustangs will take away from Peruna in that they will be viewed as the mascots of SMU,” he said. “The mustangs are very beautiful animals but the fact that they have riders goes against the wild spirit that the mustang is supposed to symbolize. I know that he may not appear very intimidating but I think it isn’t the size of the horse but the size of the spirit in the horse that matters.”
The students are divided on their opinion of the new mustangs as well. Caitlin Paulette, a member of SMU’s equestrian team, said, “The mustangs represent a good cause. Peruna is cute, but I think SMU should pick one mascot and stick to it.”
Jack Dawson, who is on the Union, also commented on the subject. “I think the mustangs would be cooler if they did something other than just stand there in the corner of the stadium,” he said. “Until then, Peruna is my mascot.”
Peruna’s traditional duties of leading the team from the locker room to the field, running across the field every time SMU scores, and assuming his position at the end of the field where the SMU offense is headed will continue on at every home game without conflict from the new mustangs.