Mile High Mascots: Thunder, the real live Denver Bronco
Who’s your favorite living, breathing Mile High Mascot? Watch all week as we give you a behind-the scenes look at them all on Good Day Colorado at 8:45 a.m.
Tuesday: Ace, the Air Force Falcon
BENNETT, Colo. — It’s quiet out here in Bennett, which is a perfect place for this famous teenager, Thunder.
Sharon Magness-Blake has been with the Denver Broncos’ living, breathing mascot since the beginning, and originally registered his name as Winter Solstice.
“He’s my buddy,” Magness-Blake said. “He was my riding horse originally. But when he became the back-up horse for the Broncos, he came here (to Bennett) and started training for the day when he would become Thunder.”
That day came in 2004, when the original Thunder retired after 10 seasons. Getting the young horse ready for the full-time job took a lot of work. Believe it or not, preparing Thunder for the noise of Mile High — the loud speakers, the crazed fans, the cheerleaders – wasn’t the hardest part.
It was preparing him to cross over the numbers on the field.
“Because of the way they see, the numbers look like a hole to them,” Magness-Blake said. “I’d say it took a whole season to get him really comfortable.”
To expedite the process, Annie Judge-Wegener, the woman entrusted to train and ride Thunder on Sundays, brought the horse to a local high school and used volunteers to line the field, acting as cheerleaders and onlookers to get Thunder better acclimated to the clutter of game day.
“Not only did we practice going over the numbers, we also had to desensitize Thunder to the lightness and darkness on the field,” Magness-Blake said. “Those exercises at the high school helped a lot.”
Before he makes his grand entrances at Mile High, Thunder has to look good, as well. So he gets the full spa treatment.
It begins with a pedicure. Yes, a pedicure. Then he gets his nose hairs clipped and a beard trim.
After that it’s onto the eye makeup. Okay, so it’s really just Vaseline. But Judge-Wegener says it makes Thunder’s dark eyes pop a little more.
And finally, there’s a little hair spray to make sure his mane doesn’t get too tussled.
In real time, it makes all the difference as Annie and Thunder explode from the tunnel leading the team on to the field.