“Cavman” Takes Final Ride At Scott Stadium
December 3, 2021
Tge article’s title gave me hope that Cavman is history — unfortunately, the wrong one is history. Bummed.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.(CBS19 SPORTS) -- Not many people have a front-row seat to Virginia football like Kim Kirschnick had for two decades: on horseback. On Saturday, "Cavman" hung up his feathered cap for the final time.
"There's something about the outside of a horse that's really good for the inside of a person," said Kirschnick. "You've had a bad day, but you get on, you relax and all of a sudden, you feel that connection and you're going 'this wipes away my worries.'"
After 21 years, those worries never phased Kirschnick, proudly serving as the Mounted Cavalier.
"It's humbling every time I do it, so I'm going to remember how lucky I was to have had the horses to do it, to have fit the bill if you will, and to just bring so much joy to everybody," said Kirschnick.
As a boy from the Fry Springs area, Scott Stadium was part of the neighborhood. It was impossible to avoid getting hooked on the 'Hoos.
"We used to go to all the games when we would sneak in under the fence or climb the fence and the ushers would just look and look the other way because they were glad to have everybody that we could get to come," said Kirschnick.
Around the same time, he found another passion: Horses. He's a polo player, a fox hunter and has owned about 150 horses throughout his life.
"Really got hooked on it and I bought a truck and a trailer and horses, horses, horses, horses," said Kirschnick.
It was full circle for a lifelong Virginia fan to then be asked to be the new Cavman when the University of Virginia decided to bring back the historic mascot in 2000. He didn't expect the gig would span two decades.
"Never never never never never," said Kirschnick.
Kirschnick went to Scott Stadium with five different horses to test out which would have the best temperament for the job of Sabre. The UVA promotions department then helped Kirschnick fit the role further by outfitting him with a costume from the UVA Drama Department.
Over the 21 football seasons, four different trusted steeds have taken on the alter ego of Sabre.
"His name on game day is Sabre but around the barn, he's Big Daddy because he's the only boy horse," said Kirschnick. "But he's anything but Big Daddy cause the girls boss him around."
Kirschnick and Big Daddy, who has been the gameday horse for the past seven years, practice with the UVA marching band on Thursdays at Carr Hill to practice weaving between them.
They then survey the field at Scott Stadium to acclimate Sabre and see if there are any changes that could spook the horse, including new markings or paintings on the field. The duo then suits up and embodies the Cavalier.
"Absolutely you just feel the historical importance of it," said Kirschnick. "At first, sure there's a little bit of an ego. You're thinking this is really cool, I'm the guy. And then after a couple of years, you realize how important it is to everyone."
On Nov. 27, Kirschnick rode out of the tunnel on horseback for the final time.
"I haven't missed a game in the 21 years," he said. "I'm still going to go to games, I'm still going to be helping in any way I can. It sort of just seems it was the time to see somebody else should do it. There's a part of me that says I don't want to stop doing this. No one's pushing me out, you just go, maybe it is time."
Kirschnick was honored on the field during the game for serving as Cavman for 21 years, garnering a standing ovation from the crowd.
It was the honor of a lifetime for a rider from Charlottesville: creating connections, spreading joy and riding out one last time.
"It puts a smile on everybody's face," said Kirschnick. "You try extra hard to do everything as well as you can, and be friendly to everybody, and that's what I've always tried to do."