The History of Thunder
When Thunder, the Denver Broncos mascot opens each home game at Sports Authority field in Denver, Colorado, more than 76,125 fans show their Love of Thunder with resounding Mile-High cheers and applause. With each scoring drive, Thunder engages the crowd running full-stride from the south end zone down the center of the field to the north.
Three purebred Arabians have been cast in the mascot role that debuted on September 12, 1993, a Bronco victory over the San Diego Chargers. “To me,” owner Sharon Magness Blake says, “Arabians have so much presence, and when you get close to them, you can see their intelligence and kindness.”
Winning multiple show champion awards, Sharon explains that the first Thunder was a stallion. “He was smart – a lovable handful with a hilarious sense of humor.” Thunder I led the Bronco charge during the inaugural ten seasons and represented the team during Elway-led wins in Super Bowls XXXll and XXXlll. Thunder II, a gelding nicknamed “Dos”, rode as the mascot through the 2012 season. For the past three years, Thunder III also known as “Shadow” was appointed with mascot duty and has led the Broncos onto the field in Super Bowls XLVlll and 50.
WATCH THUNDER IN ACTION
Rider and trainer Ann Judge has saddled-up Thunder I, II and III. Together, adorned in blue and orange, the duo adds full-speed elegance to the hard-nosed game of football. Judge commands the scoring sprint while waving a flag and saluting the crowd…yes, all without holding onto the reigns. This ceremonial full-field run signifies a Bronco scoring drive.
Sharon Magness Blake and Ernie Blake are Chief Executive Owners and the force behind every element that continues to make the Bronco’s mascot possible for all who enthusiastically embrace the Thunder Spirit. Together, they orchestrate countless preparations behind the scenes in addition carrying out pre-game and on-field details that allow us to enjoy the NFL’s finest mascot.
Accompanied by Team Thunder, the Arabian mascot requires a support crew of professionals. “We have a great team on the field,” Ann says. “In addition to Sharon and myself, there is Sharon’s husband, Ernie who clears the pathway on the field as well as the sidelines between cameras and players.” Team Thunder is completed with Rick Holman who serves as bodyguard. Also, Rudy Mendiola and David Blake take a position on each side of Thunder’s hindquarters while in the end zone. They steady the horse, keep field staff at a distance and … "manage the shovel in case of falling ‘meadow muffins.’"
Off-the-field Community Involvement
Off the field, Thunder’s connection to the community helps support local charities. Through Sharon’s involvement in diverse nonprofit efforts, Thunder has been a special guest to benefit organizations like Children’s Hospital, Denver Rescue Mission and the American Heart Association and Western Fantasy. As co-founder, this remains the pinnacle event and Sharon’s favorite night out with Thunder. The evening begins with Denver’s most distinct opening tribute. Sharon explains it this way. “Thunder III and I ride around a hundred and twenty tables full of guests who love seeing the mascot up close and personal. We bring the American flag in to Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA. Thunder is perfect.”
Since 1994, Western Fantasy has raised one million annually for Volunteers of America. Thunder also hosts an annual Christmas party for 300 children from local Boys and Girls Club organizations, complete with a kid-style lunch, pictures with the mascot, face painting, balloon art fun and gifts from Santa.
For Our Love of Thunder …
Fans, players and game day staff alike, stand in awe watching Thunder run. For that awe-inspiring Love of Thunder, we have owner Sharon Magness Blake to thank for the gift of reveling in 23 years of special mascot moments.
On Sunday February 7, Thunder lead the Denver Broncos to victory in Superbowl 50!