Arkansas has Tusk. Texas has Bevo. Oklahoma has Boomer, Sooner and a schooner.
The Sooner Schooner and the Welsh ponies that pull it make for an iconic mascot that is uniquely Oklahoman. The schooner, a three-quarter-scale replica of the Conestoga wagons used around the time of the 1889 land run, was introduced in 1964 when brothers Dr. M.S. Bartlett and Charles “Buzz” Bartlett donated the first wagon and set of ponies to pull it. That gift to the university started a tradition that still reigns today with Boomer and Sooner V.
“I believe they are extremely valuable to the OU tradition, not just in form but also in function,” says Bobby Nash, one of this season’s RUF/NEK Schooner drivers. “The ponies and schooner not only represent our university, but they are a huge representation of the birth of our great state and settlement of the American West.”
For several years, the ponies were kept and maintained by The Bartlett Foundation, but in 2011 the university took over their care. During game day, however, those responsibilities go to OU’s all-male spirit team. “During the games, the RUF/NEKS take the majority of the responsibilities of care for the ponies; however, we do have two handlers and a veterinarian on site to assist us,” says Nash. After the games and during the offseason, the ponies stay on a farm in Norman.
The current team of ponies debuted in 2008. Their immediate predecessors, Boomer and Sooner IV, pulled the Schooner for 13 seasons before they retired and a new team was chosen. “I have heard that the selection process can be difficult, as finding two white ponies young enough to be trained is quite rare,” Nash says.
Boomer, Sooner, and the schooner are certainly a crucial part of the tradition, spirit and pride that fill the stadium. “After every OU score the schooner and the ponies both come racing onto the field in a celebratory lap around the field,” Nash says. “Without it, OU game days would not be the same.”