Half of his bottom teeth have been gone for as long as anyone can remember, for a reason nobody can remember, causing his tongue to perpetually poke out of one side of his mouth. He has soft soles that require orthopedic shoes. His hair grows out so ratty that it has to be shaved before he can be taken anywhere nice. And he has a still relatively mysterious ailment that causes what his boss calls “this weird twitching.”
And yet, women across the Southeastern Conference cross their fingers in hopes of being matched up with him on spring weekends.
Say hello to Reggie, USC’s least likely athletics standout, a 10-year-old paint sorrel tobiano horse who was just named the NCEA Horse of the Month, and that was just the most recent accolade.
Reggie is one of 25 horses South Carolina owns and houses for its equestrian team. His specialty is “horsemanship,” which requires riders to guide the horse through a preset pattern all the while looking as pretty as possible, USC equestrian rider Madison Thiel said.
Despite all his tics, Reggie can do pretty.
“Horsemanship is all about being pretty, so when you’re on Reggie you can really make that happen,” Thiel said. “I would always say if Reggie was a person, he would be the jock, the quarterback of the high school football team. Absolutely, I think Reggie knows he’s the one to look at.”
His show name is “Here’s My Number.” No kidding.
Attitude is everything, indeed. Aptitude doesn’t hurt either. Since being donated to the school by David Tammon five years ago, Reggie has been selected to ride in the SEC and national championship events every year he’s been eligible, and when he shows up, he’s been voted among the top 10 horses at the event by the riders there.
Thiel has seen riders from other schools hoping on social media that they get matched with Reggie when they ride at USC. In horsemanship, five riders from each school ride five horses provided by the home team and are judged on their performance. Everyone wants to ride Reggie.
“It’s a lot of leg and a lot of voice and Reggie is just so responsive,” Thiel said. “He does everything so beautifully. You want to draw Reggie because you can make it fancy. If you’re on Reggie, you can make it fancy.”
The Gamecocks equestrian team lost 12-7 to top-ranked Georgia on Saturday to fall to 2-6 this year. USC has another home meet on March 9 and then will host the SEC Championships on March 30 and 31 at its Blythewood facility.
Reggie has been diagnosed with equine diabetes – mostly through a process of elimination because they couldn’t find anything else to account for the twitching, USC equestrian coach Boo Major said.
“We had him tested for everything known to man,” Major said.
Reggie’s mane is shaved down to nothing before every competition because it looks so bad when it’s grown out, but Reggie holds his head high and acts like he’s the belle of the ball. More than that, Thiel said, he acts like it’s his ball.
“Reggie likes to kind of have his own face. He likes to stick his nose out there and make his own style out of it,” she said. “He doesn’t like when you’re in his way, but he will definitely listen to you if you ride, but you have to ride every step.”
When Reggie has decided he’s had enough of the spotlight, or USC decides he’s no longer worthy of it, it will be time for him to leave Major’s barn, just like all the rest. They aren’t running a retirement center here. When horses no longer seem to be willing or able to compete, Major finds them a less demanding home.
“We get some, mentally, that you can tell are just tired of it. Some of them, physically, you can tell that they’ve had enough,” she said. “We try to keep them as long as we feel like they are happy and they’re serving their purpose for us. We like to keep them as long as we can.”
Reggie already has a scenario in which he can ride off into the sunset. There’s a Gamecock Club member who’s looking to get back into riding after a back injury.
“She really needs a horse who can take care of her,” Major said, “and I said, ‘I’ve got just the horse for you.’ ”