UC Davis and Cal Poly Football Rivalry Continues in the 2022 Battle for the Golden Horseshoe Game


By Riley Szenasi

DAVIS, CA– On Saturday, Oct. 29, UC Davis and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo football teams met head to head in the 18th annual Battle for the Golden Horseshoe rivalry game, ending in an Aggies win.


While the two college football teams have played each other since 1939, this annual rivalry game did not begin until 2004. The rivalry title, “Battle for the Golden Horseshoe” was inspired by the two equine mascots, UC Davis’ “Gunrock the Mustang” and Cal Poly’s “Musty the Mustang”.


Davis’ Gunrock was named after a male thoroughbred race horse that was donated by his owner to the Cavalry Remount Service and eventually donated to UC Davis in 1921. He was relocated to the campus farm in the hope that the veterinary team would be able to breed him to improve American horse stocks. 


The horses in this program were an integral part of advancements in farming and veterinary care developed at UC Davis and other land-grant colleges. Both teams are part of the Big Sky Conference, a collegiate athletic conference associated with the NCAA’S Division I football subdivision. 


In UC Davis’ announcement of their initiation into the conference, the conference commissioner comments on the outstanding reputations of both teams describing their decision to join as an “addition of two great institutions” which will give the conference “more depth to compete for additional playoff berths and enhances our profile throughout California”.


Despite the rivalry, they have formed a unique relationship rooted in good sportsmanship and mutual respect between the teams. The Battle for the Golden Horseshoe is an opportunity for each team to demonstrate their strengths and team spirit.


The Mustangs’ former coach, Rich Ellerson comments on the rivalry saying, “We had a rivalry at Cal Poly with UC Davis, and I always would try to invoke the kind of rivalry we had with the Army-Navy rivalry…a rivalry that’s founded on respect, you know, as opposed to disdain”. The interview refers to the rivalry as a healthy competition and a lesson in comradery.


The rivalry was initially out of comradery and positivity, as Cal Poly’s spirit club initiated the formal rivalry to “honor schools with agricultural influence”


The inaugural game happened at Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Oct. 30, 2004 in San Luis Obispo. Due to miscommunication, the two schools each designed a trophy to bring to the game as the winning prize. The schools decided the winner of the first game would determine the official award.


The Aggie football team kicked off the rivalry winning 36-33. As a result, the UC Davis trophy is to be used as the official trophy of the match-up.



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