‘More than just a horse’: Family reflects on life of Northeast Alabama Community College mascot

Trouper was the mascot for Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville
WAFF's Laney Mayfield reporting
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 9:00 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 5, 2023 at 6:15 AM CDT
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RAINSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - An Alabama family is reflecting on the recent loss of Trouper, a once wild mustang from Nevada turned well-known mascot in north Alabama.

Trouper was the mascot for Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville. His story all started when Amber Mathewson went to support a friend at the Extreme Horse Makeover Competition in Texas in 2007. She was amazed at the horse shows and knew it was something she wanted to do.

In 2009, Mathewson entered the competition. She was paired with a 4-year-old wild mustang from Nevada, which she later named Trouper.

“They handed me a number on which horse would be mine,” Mathewson said. “I looked across at all these little horses and this huge horse was standing in the middle of them. That’s when I realized that [is] the one that’s chosen for me to train.”

Mathewson only had 100 days to train Trouper for the competition, and she did not expect to keep him as a pet. But she fell in love with him.

After competing in the Extreme Horse Makeover Competition, Mathewson purchased him in an auction for $1,250.

Trouper’s photo was in many magazines, including “Horse & Rider.” He also had his story published in the Equine Journal and was featured on a talk show. He soon became a star in the Tennessee Valley.

Trouper’s photo was in many magazines, including “Horse & Rider.”
Trouper’s photo was in many magazines, including “Horse & Rider.”(Photo courtesy of Amber Mathewson)

The mustang has been the college mascot since the 1950s.

In 2012, he got the attention of the President of Northeast Alabama Community College, Dr. David Campbell. Dr. Campbell saw a write-up in the local newspaper about Trouper and the competition and invited them to visit campus.

“He was always very accommodating to people and would be very friendly with them,” Dr. Campbell said. “I would always go up and pet him. For being a wild mustang, he was really tame.”

In February 2023, things took a turn. Mathewson noticed Trouper wasn’t feeling like himself. Doctors discovered Trouper had liver cancer. Mathewson knew she had to make a difficult decision and put Trouper to sleep. He was 18 years old.

“As hard as it was for us as a family to have to say goodbye so quickly, I knew it was best for Trouper not to be in pain,” Mathewson said.

Trouper was buried at the school, and a statue was built of Trouper and the campus dog, Roscoe.

“There’s a sign that said, ‘Smile you’re on the Mustang Cam’ and he and I were posing by it and he decided to actually smile,” Mathewson said. “That’s the kind of personality Trouper had. He would always show up and show out at the right time and it always made everybody’s day.”

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