Traveler celebrates fiftieth year

Crowds of excited students have cheered for Traveler’s jaunt around the Coliseum for 50 years.

During the years, students at the USC have watched with pride as the pure white horse galloped across the Coliseum after every touchdown. This Saturday marks the start of Traveler’s fiftieth year at USC.

Past and Present · Current handler Hector Aguilar rides Traveler VII, a pure Spanish Andalusian purebreed. The current mascot turned 20 this year. - Daily Trojan File Photo

The tradition of bringing a horse to football games began in 1927, when Louis Shield, a USC student, started riding a white horse at home football games, according to Traveler’s official website.

Whenever USC scores during a football game, Traveler and his current rider, Hector Aguilar, ride around the Coliseum while the band plays “Conquest,” USC’s regal processional march.

“Traveler embodies the Spirit of Troy,” said Jeff Brown, vice president of Trojan Knights.

Several Trojan Knights are members of the Traveler support group, which helps guarantee Traveler’s comfort, making sure the game runs smoothly and that the horse has enough space to run.

In 1954, Arthur J. Gontier III, a Trojan Knight, rented a white horse, and while wearing a traditional Trojan costume previously used by actor Jeff Chandler, rode the horse inside the stadium before the kickoff of a USC-Pittsburgh game, according to Andy Greos, Trojan Knight activity director.

Traveler I officially started galloping around the stadium with rider Richard Saukko in 1961, said Joanne Asman, Traveler VII’s owner and trainer.

In the last 50 years, there have been seven different Travelers. The original horse was a white Arabian-Tennessee Walker, but Traveler VII is of pure Spanish Andalusian breed.

Asman has owned horse Traveler VII for 16 years, but she took over the program to officially train Traveler for USC football games and school-related activities in 2003.

“[Traveler] is my soul mate,” Asman said. “This horse and I have a very special connection, from the first time I ever saw him. We totally understand each other.”

What makes Traveler such an USC iconic mascot is his character, Asman said.

“He has to like people, he has to be willing and want to please and he has to be trusting,” Asman said. “It takes a certain kind of temperament and personality to have a horse that will put up with 90,000 people.”

Traveler VII, who turned 20 years old this year, will continue riding at USC games until he decides he’s ready to retire, Asman said.

In preparation for Traveler VII’s retirement, Asman is currently training Traveler VIII. This involves activities like showing the horse different objects present at football games — including mascots that might be on the field — so Traveler VIII can become acclimated to the stadium atmosphere, according to his trainer.

The training timeline differs depending on the horse, but Traveler VIII has already started to get a feel for game days.

“Traveler VIII has snuck in there a few times and people didn’t even notice we switched horses,” Asman said.

The statue of Traveler on campus across from Tommy Trojan is modeled after Traveler VII, and Asman said she was sure the tradition of Traveler will live on.