The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU’s pampered pony

Behind the scenes into SMU’s mighty mustang
Mark Reese
Peruna dashes across the field to celebrate a Mustang touchdown.

A Renowned Reputation

Living up to Peruna’s past is a challenging feat.

Peruna IX is 12 years into his reign as SMU’s live mascot, and being ninth in line comes with quite a reputation to uphold. A deep dive into SMU’s archives revealed the monumental history of the school’s beloved pony.

Peruna I earned the “spirited” name from alcohol-laced “Peruna Tonic.” The tonic was a popular medicine in the 1930s and Dorothy Amann, an SMU librarian, pitched the idea in a contest. The name was chosen in hopes Peruna would be a good luck charm to the Mustangs, according to the Dallas Morning News.

SMU’s mascot is named after a popular 1930s medicine called ‘Peruna Tonic’. Courtesy of the Peruna team.

Continuing down the line, Peruna V nailed down its haughty reputation and was known as the deadliest mascot of its time for killing the Fordham Ram with one kick to the head. Peruna V also had elevator privileges at the lavish Stevens Hotel in Chicago.

Peruna VIII even traveled to Washington D.C. to lead the Presidential Inauguration Parade for President George W. Bush.
SMU’s current stallion has a sweet personality but is known to show another side when he knows people are watching. Peruna handler Blake Gebhardt said it’s important to remember that though he may be a small Shetland pony, Peruna packs a big personality.

“He’s a very nice horse,” Gebhardt said. “But he is still a stallion. He has a bit of a wild spirit, but it’s a good, spirited kind of feisty.”

Gameday Groove

Peruna is best known for his iconic dash across the football field when the team scores a touchdown, but his game day routine starts long before he trots through the tunnel.

He is fetched from his home by his handlers four hours before kickoff.

“We go to Peruna’s home and if he’s super dirty we will give him a bath,” veteran handler Ingrid Mayer said. “Most of the time we just brush out his mane, tail and forelock, pick his hooves and give him some carrots.”

Peruna’s game day snacks come early, due in part to an incident at the SMU vs. Navy game in 2022 when he pooped near the 40-yard line. The incident delayed the game 15 minutes as handlers scrambled to clean up. Not only did thousands of fans witness the event live, but it was also broadcast on ESPN and spread quickly on social media.

After his morning snacks, Peruna is brought to campus where he prepares for the Mustang Walk. He leads the spirit squads, Mustang Band and SMU’s football team down the Boulevard. Along the way he nods to the fans, poses for the cameras and soaks in the spotlight.

“He’s been doing this for 12 years,” Mayer said. “He knows his job really well.”

An hour before kickoff, Peruna is taken into the Gerald J. Ford Stadium where he is able to rest and prepare for the main event.

When he emerges from his garage, Peruna already knows what comes next. The sound of the football hype video floods the stadium and Peruna gets set to lead the Mustangs out of the tunnel, through the fire and across the field.

“He gets really antsy,” Gebhardt said. “Sometimes he rears and bucks and it’s really cool to watch.”

Peruna runs to celebrate every SMU touchdown, but other than that he enjoys a sideline view of the game.

After the festivities he gets loaded up and taken back to his home away from campus. His handlers give him some well-deserved treats and he settles in for some much needed rest.

Home Sweet Secret Stable

Though he is always present when the Mustangs need him and loves his job on campus, very few know anything about the life Peruna leads away from the Hilltop.

Peruna wakes up with bed head most mornings before getting groomed. Courtesy of the Peruna team.

Back at his “super secret” off-campus residence, Peruna leads a quiet life. He has friends and takes visitors from time to time—visitors meaning his handlers who often come bearing treats ready to pamper the pony to his heart’s content.

Mayer said she often goes to give him bubble baths and hang out with him in a quieter environment.

When he isn’t with his SMU squad, he can be found socializing with other animals.

“The cutest thing is when he sees his friends at home,” Mayer said. “He lets out a loud whinny and gets really excited.”
He enjoys the peace and quiet, but will always perk up for some playtime with his favorite toy.

“He has a ball that he loves to play with. He’ll kick that around and go chase it, but he’s not a trick pony,” Gebhardt said.

It’s important to note that it’s not all fun and games away from campus. Peruna does have a training regimen to maintain his physical fitness.

“Sometimes we will go over and practice with him,” Gebhardt said. “Just so we know he’s staying in shape and ready to run for gameday.”

Peruna handlers aren’t the only ones who love the pony to pieces. Students like junior Kaitlyn Polhemus say the SMU experience wouldn’t be the same without him.

“I honestly think he’s such an icon,” Polhemus said.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Caleigh Daugherty, Sports Editor I
As one of two sports editors, Caleigh coordinates and covers SMU varsity, club and intramural sports, telling readers what to expect and providing context for the major games and decisions, such as leaving the AAC for the ACC. Caleigh also keeps readers updated on trends in sports and updates SMU varsity sports scores, rosters and standings online. She works closely with the sideline photographer and other editors to coordinate online content for audience engagement.  You can reach Caleigh at [email protected].