This weekend’s rematch between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos has been discussed, debated and dissected from every possible perspective — except one.
Yes, both teams have real horses for one of their mascots. The Chiefs have Warpaint; the Broncos have Thunder. And if you think we’re going to neglect the equine angle in analyzing this hometown showdown, you are mistaken.
Coaches come and go, and players just run around. But horses? Now you’re talking elite athletes. Could Jamaal Charles have beaten Secretariat in a 100-yard dash? Could John Elway have topped Man o’ War in an oats-eating contest?
I think you see where we’re going. Horses are cool. And that’s why we decided to find out which horse — Warpaint or Thunder — gives its team the advantage in Sunday’s game. So join us as we take a fair and balanced look at each team’s mascot.
We’ll start with the best horse — Warpaint.
“Hello, Warpaint. Thanks for taking some time for us today.”
“You’re quite welcome. Welcome to the neighhhhh-borhood. Listen, pardon the stable. It’s a mess. With all of our wins this year I haven’t had time to clean ”
Oh, all right.You got us!
We made this conversation up. Warpaint actually has laryngitis right now and can’t talk. But we did find people to talk in his stead. We started with a Chiefs cheerleader named Susie, who prefers to go by her first name only for privacy reasons. Susie rides the 15-year-old sorrel-and-white mare down the field before games and after every Chiefs score.
Q. We’re just sure Warpaint is a better mascot than Thunder, Susie. But how can we prove it?
Well, the last two years we brought Warpaint to the Pinto World Championships in Tulsa, where she competed in a celebrity walk/trot class. And for two years in a row she’s won a belt buckle as a world champion!”
Boom! How ya like that lightning, Thunder? (Cough. Cough.) I mean congratulations.
Warpaint is a Pinto?
Actually she’s double registered as a Pinto and a Paint Horse.
So she’s a Super Horse! As in two horses in one. As in twice as good as Thunder! So tell us, what does this mega mare eat?
Alfalfa and a feed called Strategy.
So you’re saying she literally eats strategy for breakfast? As opposed to Thunder, who probably doesn’t know football from a fencepost! Am I right?
As a horse who clearly enjoys gamesmanship, is Warpaint OK with “dropping a little present” near the Denver sidelines to throw them off their game?
I think she’s only done that once on the field.
So you’re saying there’s a chance!
Wink, wink. Say no more. Wouldn’t want to give away her “strategy,” right? Moving on. Do you think Warpaint could beat Thunder in a race?
Absolutely! She’s fast, athletic and really in shape.
Not to mention five years younger, huh? So what does Warpaint do at Chiefs games?
At the start of the game we do a celebration run, and after every (score) she gallops down the field. Before the game she interacts with hundreds of fans. We also go to parades, rodeos and schools.
How long has this magnificent beast been with the Chiefs?
The original Warpaint had been gone since 1987. They brought (the new Warpaint) back in 2009 for the 50th anniversary of the Chiefs as a surprise for the fans. She got such an overwhelming response they decided to keep her.
Next we spoke with Warpaint’s trainer, Merle Arbo.
Tell us about Warpaint’s home.
Warpaint lives beside other show horses in a gray 21-stall horse barn on 70 acres in Kingsville, Missouri, about 40 minutes east of Arrowhead.
Does she have other horses as friends?
For the protection of the other horses we keep them in individual stalls. They’re not always the nicest to each other.”
So Warpaint’s got a little pepper in her gumbo, eh? Nice.
But she loves going to the stadium and being a diva. She loves the spotlight.
Just like the Chiefs players themselves. Sounds like she’s KC through and through. Which raises a question. Would she ever eat barbecue?
“I guess we could try it sometime.”
That’s the spirit! I wonder if Thunder would be willing to take a bite out of a boulder, or climb a mountain. Ha! Doubt it.
On that note, let’s learn more about “Thunder” from his co-owner, Sharon Magness Blake, by phone from Denver.
What breed is Thunder?
He’s a purebred Arabian gelding.
Well, la-di-da! Somebody thinks a lot himself! Is he, perchance, John Elway’s polo pony?
(Note to readers: While other media might take the low road here and make a joke about how everybody thinks former Broncos quarterback — and current VP of football operations — John Elway has a horse face, we’re too classy to get into that. But Google it and see what we mean. Just sayin’.)
So how old is ol’ glue stick, anyway? Er, Thunder?
Twenty. This is his 10th season.
Oh lord! How does he stand up?
Aww, we’re just horsin’ around. What color is he?
He’s white. But technically he’s referred to as a gray.
Old and gray, huh?
Nothing. So will he be coming to Kansas City for the game?
The only time we take him on the road is for a Super Bowl. We took him to two Super Bowls.
Thunder has a Super Bowl ring. Of course, I wear it. It’s very cool. It’s a small version, but it’s beautiful.
I uhhh umm SHUT UP! WE HAVE BETTER BARBECUE THAN YOU! Look, let’s change the subject. How wild is your horse, anyway?
He’s not wild. He’s probably one of the best-trained horses I’ve ever had. He’s sweet, he’s mild and he likes to play. He can pull the zipper up and down on my jacket. He just thinks he’s hilarious.
Yeah, yeah, he’s a regular Seinfeld. But if he’s not wild, then by definition he’s not a Bronco, is he?
No, he’s not a Bronco. But he is a Bronco in every other sense of the word.
Well now you’re just playing word games. Speaking of which, does Thunder like thunder?
Horses typically don’t like thunder or any type of storms.
Gee. Why didn’t you just name him Scaredy Horse?
He’s pretty well conditioned to fireworks, pyrotechnics and 76,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs.
Well whoop-de-do! Warpaint can handle the noise at Arrowhead Stadium. Perhaps you’ve heard of the place? Loudest stadium in the world? Hell-o?
Well, that about settles it. A younger, faster, smarter, world champion horse in a world-record stadium.
Now let’s see if the Chiefs can do the same.