Thunder adheres to in the footsteps of market Michael Hancock, NBA star Chauncey Billups and also Rin tin Tin


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Ann Judge-Wegener rides Thunder the Broncos mascot in ~ the start of the Denver Broncos Super bowl 50 success parade along 17th street on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.

The rumble of an ext than 75,000 human being fills Mile High stadium, the anticipation palpable. But inside the tunnel, the only thing Thunder is focused ~ above is his job. The waits for the cue and then he’s off, galloping ~ above the field to fulfill the fanfare.

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Thunder isn’t just a horse. He’s the Denver Broncos mascot, a Colorado symbol and, next year, he’ll it is in the national Western Stock show parade grand marshal.

The gray Arabian gelding was scheduled to be the 2017 grand marshal — until the parade was canceled due to the fact that of a looming snowstorm. However when he procedures off indigenous Union Station next year, he’ll be adhering to a route bring away by Denver market Michael Hancock, five-time NBA All-Star Chauncey Billups and Rin believe Tin X, the purported descendant of a German shepherd that found fame in Hollywood after being rescued by an American soldier during world War I.

“The nationwide Western is one iconic event for Denver and also we watch Thunder as an iconic mascot in the state,” Stock show president and also CEO Paul andrew said, adding that the horse likewise represents the top equine entries in show.


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Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 18: Young cheerleaders, right, check out Thunder the famous Denver Broncos mascot together rider Annie Judge, middle, and also owner Sharon Magness-Blake, in earlier middle, tend to the horse in the bitter cold as they gets prepared for the Broncos game against the brand-new England Patriots on December 18, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. Judge has been the main rider top top Thunder at every one of the home gamings for 19 years. Magness, who supplied to raise 900 Arabian horses, owns and also cares for Thunder. This is the 3rd Thunder in the 25 years that Magness has had actually her steeds as the Denver Broncos mascot. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

Although he’s acquired fame as Thunder, he’s known around the stalls together “Shadow,” quick for his full name Me N Myshadow. The 3rd horse to do under the Thunder phase name, Shadow has led the Broncos into the stadium and raced down the ar after every touchdown and also field score for four seasons now, owner Sharon Magness Blake said.

The original Thunder to be brave however had a sizeable ego, regularly trying to customs onto the field during games. His successor was timid and sweet, like to clock the crowd rather of the players.

This Thunder is a combination of the two, possessing the original’s bravery (sans ego) and the second’s sweetness. The stands sideways on the field, ignoring both the game and also the crowd. Instead, that opts come play through his handlers’ coat zippers or to throw his nose under their arms, Magness Blake said. Putting the simply, the likes his people.

“He’s for this reason kind and he’s so willing, however after he’s had 50 children stick your fingers up his nose, that says, ‘OK, we’re done,’ ” Magness Blake said.

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Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
Owner Sharon Magness-Blake hugs Thunder the famous Denver Broncos mascot together they wait on in the bitterness cold because that the Broncos game versus the new England Patriots top top December 18, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. Magness, who provided to advanced 900 Arabian horses, owns and cares because that Thunder. This is the 3rd Thunder in the 25 years the Magness has had actually her steeds as the Denver Broncos mascot.

Shadow communicates v Magness Blake and also his trainer Ann Judge-Wegener v eye rolls and body language, leaning versus them to either ease anxiety or come say that he’s all set to wrap increase the autographs.


Magness Blake recounted a vigorous training session Judge-Wegener placed her and also Shadow through freshly that simply wasn’t going well. ~ an hour, she lastly hopped turn off the horse.

“He gave me a large sigh and also said, ‘There you are on the ground, wherein you belong,’ ” Magness Blake stated while laughing.

This form of relationship between horses and also their handlers is crucial, particularly in big crowd situations, Judge-Wegener said. Steeds are prey animals, definition their herbal inclination once they sense danger is to run.

A group of virtually 80,000 people with a few fireworks thrown in signals a potentially dangerous case for a horse. It’s difficult to take that instinct away so Judge-Wegener has spent year training the Thunders come look to your handlers to determine if a situation is in reality dangerous.

Shadow was progressively exposed to different cases to prepare him for his role as Thunder. While still an understudy, a handler was walking Shadow approximately the field to acquire him used to the numbers. Unbeknownst come the handlers, though, the Broncos decided to shoot turn off fireworks earlier than normal.

Alarmed, Shadow began spinning in the facility of the field as plumes of fire go off.

“I think the skid marks that he made v his hind feet to be still there at the opening of the game,” Magness Blake said.

Beyond that incident, Magness Blake and also Judge-Wegener said the change from shadow to Thunder was smooth — besides a minor pooping event in the tunnel.

“I constantly like come think to myself, he goes ago and tells the various other horses, ‘You can’t think what occurred today,’ ” Magness Blake said.

Despite his fame, zero isn’t treated any type of differently than the 14 other equines at his stables, waking up for his morning hay at 7 a.m. And then security the job training as with the rest. The works 6 days a week come prepare for any type of weather, footing or to meet while also keeping in shape, Judge-Wegener said.

When it involves game day, zero will acquire a light workout beforehand. If the weather is nice, he could go ~ above a trail drive to feel the wind and take in the fresh air. Then he’s pampered come make sure his hooves are manicured and his coat is soft and shiny.

“This steed goes to the spa more than Sharon and also I do,” Judge-Wagener joked.

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Annie Judge, middle, puts a bridle ~ above Thunder the famed Denver Broncos mascot as owner Sharon Magness-Blake, right, watches together they gets all set for the Broncos game against the brand-new England Patriots top top December 18, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. Judge has been the main rider on Thunder at every one of the home gamings for 19 years. Magness, who supplied to raise 900 Arabian horses, owns and cares for Thunder. This is the 3rd Thunder in the 25 years the Magness has had her horses as the Denver Broncos mascot.

Shadow has his own “Thunder” secure at Mile High, where staff likes to spoil him through a huge basket that carrots and also apples. Back he’s no the biggest fan of apples, zero loves carrots. His handlers will certainly hide the carrots in hay so he needs to work because that the treat. They’ll do the very same with his other favorite food, alfalfa.

Thunder generally works only house games, but last year the mascot to be trailered come California for the Broncos’ Super bowl 50 win. Some steeds worry and also lose weight when they space trailered for extended periods. But not Shadow. Magness Blake stated he ate his method to Levi’s stadium in Santa Clara, gaining sufficient weight the his saddle didn’t rather fit right.

Both Magness Blake and also Judge-Wagener stated they were thrilled once they discovered out Thunder had been named the Stock display parade grand marshal. Although the parade was canceled, he’ll still make appearances at the freestyle reining compete on Sunday, during the citizen of the West occasion on Monday and also a few other occasions with kids, Magness Blake said.


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Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Wranglers store the popular and iconic Longhorn livestock from Searle Ranch corralled in a team as the national Western Stock present Parade provides its means up 17th avenue on Jan. 8, 2015, in downtown Denver.


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Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Kindergartners indigenous Polaris Elementary school watch the 107th national Western Stock show Parade ~ above Jan. 10, 2013, in downtown Denver.


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Joe Amon, The Denver Post

Longhorns relocate along 17th Street throughout the yearly National west Stock display Parade ~ above Jan. 8, 2015, in downtown Denver.


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Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Riders v the ring Up Riders the the Rockies journey in the national Western Stock show parade as they do their way up 17th Avenue because that the 109th Stock display on Jan. 8, 2015, in Denver.


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Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Stan Searle, left, leader his herd the Texas Longhorn cattle during the annual National western Stock display parade together it renders its method up 17th avenue on Jan. 7, 2016 in Denver. In addition to the livestock were horseback riders, cowboys and cowgirls, the Westernaires and also antique tractors. The parade to be led by grand Marshal wealthy Karlis, a former Denver Broncos place-kicker. The 2016 nationwide Western Stock display opens Saturday.


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Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

The 107th nationwide Western Stock display Parade proceeds ~ above Jan. 10, 2013, in downtown Denver.

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Joe Amon/The Denver Post

The yearly National west Stock show Parade has actually the complete attention the 5 year old Jamison Purser of Denver marching up 17 Street in downtown Denver January 08, 2015 Denver, CO.


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Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

The herd the Texas Longhorn cattle, belonging to the Searle Ranch, command the annual National west Stock show parade as it renders it's way up 17th way on January 7, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. Together with the cattle were horseback riders, cowboys and also cowgirls, the Westernaires, and antique tractors. The parade was led by grand Marshal rich Karlis, a previous Denver Broncos' place-kicker. The 2016 national Western Stock display opens Saturday.


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Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Abby Kurtz, right, rides through the Westernaires in the stock display parade together they do their means up 17th ave in Denver, CO to commemorate the 109th Stock present on January 8, 2015.


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Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Wranglers keep the popular and iconic Longhorn cattle from Searle Ranch corralled in a group as the national Western Stock show Parade provides its way up 17th Avenue front of the 109th edition of the stock show on Jan. 8, 2015, in downtown Denver.