Not too long ago, high in the Rocky Mountains, an amazing thing occurred in the great history of Broncos football. It was a snowy Sunday evening -- January 31, 1999, to be exact -- when a big flash of lightning split the blue and orange sunset sky. Thunder rolled all across the foothills of Colorado…but went all but unnoticed. For that night, Broncos fans all across the world were too busy cheering on the best team in the nation to their second consecutive Super Bowl title in Miami, Florida.
What happened that was so amazing, you ask? Well, in that great flash of heat and electricity was born the most amazing and dedicated Broncos fan ever, Miles. Only Miles didn't know the great things that were in store for him at this point. It would be almost two years later before Denver fans would be able to see this amazing creation.
For the next year, Miles lived high in the Rockies with all of the other wild animals. He was raised by a herd of wild horses and taught how to survive the cold climate and high altitude. The horses were, not surprisingly, huge Broncos fans. They taught Miles all about the great Broncos traditions and the great players who had carried the team to numerous wins and two world championships.
After two years, Miles felt his place wasn't in the mountains any longer. He longed for greener pastures; in fact, Miles wanted the greenest turf he could find. From high in the mountains he dreamed of a place to graze where the grass stayed green year round. Then one day he spotted such a field from high in the mountains, way down in the city of Denver. He decided that was where he needed to be. When he arrived, he was shocked and delighted to find that the grass he had seen was that of the greatest stadium in the world and the home of his beloved Broncos, Sports Authority Field at Mile High!
Miles loves his new home, and the turf management folks appreciate the help he provides keeping the turf nicely trimmed. What Miles loves most of all are the days when the Broncos are playing at the stadium, because then he gets to cheer on his favorite team and meet all his fellow fans!
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There's Thunder in the Rockies!
And there's Thunder at Sports Authority Field at Mile High! We mean, "Thunder", the Denver Broncos Mascot.
Thunder is an 11-year-old Arabian gelding and 2005 is his second season as the Broncos' mascot. The current Thunder took over for Thunder, Sr., who was retired after the 2003 football season. The original Thunder is also an Arabian, and he served for ten season until he turned 21 years of age.
Thunder is owned by Sharon Magness Black and is trained and ridden by Ann Judge-Wegener. You may ask, "How do you prepare a horse to perform at the game with all the noise and activity?” The answer is, there is no way to really duplicate at the training center the sound of 76,000 fans or the size of Sports Authority Field. So, Thunder's training schedule is quite varied. He does all sorts of different things so that he learns to really trust and listen to his rider. On some days, he goes out for a trail ride where he might see wildlife, traffic and barking dogs. Other days he goes to a cattle ranch where he moves among what he thinks are very unusual animals. Still other days will find him jogging over poles and through obstacles to help him better maneuver through crowds.
For those of you who attend the games and see Thunder on the field, here are some things you might have noticed. Thunder likes to face the crowd. He doesn't like to watch the game. He likes to see what all those noisy humans are doing! He goes through 10-15 bottles of water each game, but he doesn't really drink it. He likes to bite down on the bottle and squeeze all the water out of the top. Once he has all the water out, he likes to flatten the bottle with his teeth. Then he starts looking for another bottle! You may wonder why he leaves the field two minutes before the end of the first half and two minutes before the end of the game. He leaves before the half is over so that if any halftime entertainment has to go through the tunnel to get onto the field, we don't get in each other's way. At halftime, Thunder eats hay and carrots. He has to leave before the end of the game so that the team buses can get back down into the tunnel, where the horse trailer is parked during the game, to take the opposing teams back to their hotel or airport.
Thunder is quite an ambassador and loves to participate in philanthropic endeavors. He stands on the streets of Denver in front of the Denver Rescue Mission before Thanksgiving to help raise awareness and funds for the center. He is ridden by his owner, Sharon, at the yearly VOA fundraising event, "Western Fantasy,” around a darkened room with a thousand people seated at tables. He even rode the elevator at Sports Authority Field up to a fundraising event for physically challenged athletes.
His trainer, Ann Judge-Wegener, rode Thunder, Sr., for five years at the Broncos games and has been preparing the current Thunder for the job since 2001.
(Information courtesy of Ann Judge-Wegener)