Move over, Clydesdales. This year’s Super Bowl has another equine star.
But Thunder’s fans will get a rare chance to meet him in person this week before he heads off to the big event. Along with his rider/trainer, Ann Judge-Wegener, Thunder will be appearing at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. On Jan. 22 and 23, the pair will be at the Colorado Arabian Horse Club’s booth during the “Dancing with Horses” presentation. Visitors are welcome to stop by for autographs and to meet the stars.
According to DenverBroncos.com, the current Thunder is the second horse to serve as mascot for the team. The first was also a purebred Arabian—a stallion registered as JB Kobask—who appeared at home games, two Super Bowls and special events from 1993 through 2003. Winter Solstyce, formerly a pleasure riding horse for owner Sharon Magness Blake, took over the name and the duties of Thunder in 2004.
In an interview with Modern Arabian Horse in 2012, Judge-Wegener explained that Thunder’s early training for his role included getting through some unique challenges. At first he was afraid of the painted numbers on the field. He was nervous about cheerleaders with pom-poms. And although he’s gotten past those challenges, he is still not too sure about that mainstay of professional sports, The Wave. It makes him tense.
Still, the life of a star mascot has its perks. According to ESPN The Magazine General Editor Rebecca Nordquist, who coordinated a piece on Thunder last year, the gelding receives a big basket of carrots and apples along with a meal of alfalfa and fresh water for fueling up at every game.
See photos of Thunder in action and at home on espn.go.com.