‘It’s been a great ride.’

Boo Major to Retire as Coach of USC Equestrian Team

BLYTHEWOOD – It was announced last week that Blythewood’s most decorated cowgirl, Boo Major, will retire as Head Coach of the University of South Carolina’s Championship Equestrian Team in July.

A Gamecock Facebook message to Major went right to the heart of the matter.

Boo Major

“No words to express the one and only Boo Major,” the message read. “We thank you for your amazing dedication to the South Carolina Equestrian Program.”

While media releases about her retirement identify Major as a native of Columbia, Blythewood folks have long claimed her as their own.

It was in Blythewood, after all, that she began riding at the age of three at the JJ Ranch, a popular dude ranch that was located behind the Blythewood fire station during the 1960’s.

“I can still remember the aged pony I rode, also named Major. Mr. Jennings would hold little rodeos at the ranch and he would set me up on that pony. The pony was so kid-safe that they had to get behind him and push him off. He would slowly walk me around the ring, and when he’d stop, they would push him off again,” Major recalled with a laugh. “We’d make it around the ring a few times like that.”

JJ Ranch owner Jim Jennings with young Boo Major.

Much of her formative years were spent on her Uncle Mac McCrory’s farm in Blythewood, riding horses and sliding down the tin roof of the barn with friends.

Major said she was about 10 when she began taking serious riding lessons under trainer Betty Beltzer. She was soon riding to the hounds as a member of the Camden Hunt Club, entering local horse show competitions and winning awards at hunter and eventing shows.

“I loved horses and I loved Blythewood. When I was in high school, my friends and I would ride all over downtown Blythewood, jumping fences and other things wherever we encountered them,” she recalled. “After horse shows at the Blythewood Community Center (the cinderblock building across from the Food Lion) we’d ride over to a great little hamburger place across Main Street from the fire station to eat. It was a carefree life, for a Blythewood horse girl. It was a wonderful world to grow up in.”

Following high school, Major attended Sweetbrier College and was a member of the Virginia school’s prestigious equestrian program. She went on to earn both bachelors and masters degrees from the University of South Carolina.

After college, she moved to the Blythewood farm and lived there until recently, when she built a house on Lake Wateree in anticipation of her retirement.

Boo Major in competition.

Over the years, Major built a solid reputation as an accomplished horsewoman, trainer and equestrian judge in Blythewood and beyond, and has contributed as much as anyone to Blythewood’s reputation as horse country.

So, it was not entirely unthinkable that, in 1997, the University of South Carolina would chose Major to be head coach of the school’s Equestrian Team, and the rest is history. (See her coaching career highlights in sidebar.)

Major said the head coaching position was everything she’d ever dreamed of. But the icing on the cake came a few years later when USC first leased, then purchased Katy and Scott Peterson’s 25-acre One Wood Farm on Syrup Mill Road in Blythewood for the equestrian team’s home base, serving as both a training and show facility. The farm was touted as one of the finest facilities in the college equestrian world, and Major was beyond proud of it, joking that she was bringing her work home.

“I was very fortunate to have this wonderful equestrian career with the university, which I love, while at the same time being able to continue to live and work in Blythewood,” Major told The Voice. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more. One Wood is a fantastic facility, and Blythewood is the logical setting for the team’s home base.”

As her career soared and her teams collected numerous major championships in the SEC and on the national level, Major, herself, received many prestigious honors for her coaching, including being twice named SEC Coach of the Year and twice named National Coach of the Year by the NCEA.

Major doused with Gatorade following a national championship win.

Blythewood was proud of Major’s accomplishments and recognized her in a number of ways, including naming her as Grand Marshall of the Blythewood Christmas Parade, giving her the Key to the Town (a first!) and spearheading the effort for the S.C. Senate to vote to post a sign on I-77 at Blythewood’s Exit 27 declaring the town, ‘Home of the University of South Carolina Equestrian Team.’

“Looking back, my horse life has been a ton of fun, and the last 26 years as head coach of the Equestrian Team fulfilled my dreams. It gave me the opportunity to be able to enjoy the things I love the most – being involved with horses, coaching a championship team, living in Blythewood and being a Gamecock. I’ve been a Gamecock since birth, really,” she said. “It’s just been a lot of fun and a lot of hard work, but it was everything I wanted.

“It’s been a really great ride.”

Coaching legend calls it a career

Kevin Miller

The following was posted on the Garnet & Cocky website in response to Boo Major’s announcement last Friday that she will retire as head coach of the USC Equestrian team.

A graduate of the University of South Carolina (class of 1981), Boo Major is an icon in the world of equestrian instruction, and for the last 26 seasons, she has served as the head coach of her hometown South Carolina Gamecocks.

Major’s accomplishments listed on her Gamecocksonline.com profile are staggering.

During her time at the helm, South Carolina equestrians won three Overall NCEA National Championships (2005, 2007, and 2015) and three NCEA Hunter Seat Medal National Championships (2005, 2006, and 2007). She also coached the IHSA Individual National Champion in 2004 when Tara Brothers won the title and the NCEA Individual Flat National Champion and NCEA Individual Equitation National Champion in 2008 when Kristen Terebesi swept the Hunt Seat titles.

Major also coached Hunt Seat MVP Kimberly McCormack, NCEA National Rider of the Year Caroline Gute, and 12 1st-team All-Americans in the past 14 seasons.

During her career, Major also became the first Gamecock head coach (regardless of sport) ever to win the SEC in back-to-back seasons in a team sport. She is now joined by South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley in reaching that milestone.

Major was a two-time SEC Coach of the Year and a two-time NCEA National Coach of the Year. She was the first Gamecock head coach (regardless of sport) to win three national titles. She is now joined by Dawn Staley in that regard, as well.

Throughout her tenure wearing garnet and black, Boo Major was a significant supporter of other South Carolina Gamecocks athletic programs and was a well-liked personality all over campus. She plans to stay around the program, athletic department, and university in her retirement.

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