A horse named Warpaint has earned honors from the American Paint Horse Association after her home game appearances this season.
The fastest and most colorful run down the football field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City this season cannot be claimed by any NFL gridiron star. Instead, that honor goes exclusively to the flashy horse-and-rider team of Chiefs Warpaint and Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleader Susie Derouchey.
To the thundering applause of about 70,000 Kansas City fans at each home game, Derouchey and “Warpaint” sprinted down the middle of Arrowhead Stadium after every Chiefs touchdown and successful field goal kick. In all, more than 540,000 people at the stadium witnessed their celebratory rides for the 2009-2010 season.
Warpaint is a registered American Paint Horse and Derouchey is an active APHA member who has a long history of owning and showing Paints. In appreciation of the stellar performances by the duo, the American Paint Horse Foundation awarded its “Legendary Achievement Award” to Warpaint and Derouchey before the start of the Chiefs last home game of the season at Arrowhead Stadium.
Derouchey and Warpaint received the award at Arrowhead’s “Fan Zone,” while their faithful followers cheered and applauded the well-deserved honor. The Foundation also presented a silver APHA commemorative belt buckle to Derouchey.
“I felt like that whole day was just a dream come true,” said Derouchey. “I will forever cherish the award, the buckle and all the memories.”
It turned out also to be a busy day, with Derouchey and Warpaint making six scoring celebration runs, plus the grand entrance, for a total of seven sprints down the football field. Derouchey said she looks forward to every score, not only because it means the Chiefs are doing well, but because she can spend more time riding Warpaint.
Reviving a tradition
The appearance of Warpaint actually follows a long Kansas City Chiefs tradition of bringing a Paint Horse on the field for scoring celebrations. In decades past, a different American Paint Horse nicknamed “Warpaint,” played a similar role.
Although the most recent Warpaint was retired in 1989, he made a guest appearance during an old-timers game, according to reports, and received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd at Arrowhead.
The Chiefs decided to revive the tradition of the horse-and-rider scoring celebration in 2009—the 50th anniversary of the Chiefs’ beginning in the American Football League as the Dallas Texans. Formed in 1959 by AFL founder Lamar Hunt, the team made the move from Dallas to Kansas City in 1963.
Leading today’s charge
With this season’s revival of the tradition of running a Paint Horse down the field after successful scoring drives, fans are once again treated to the thrill that comes from seeing a dynamic horse-and-rider team perform.
Derouchey and Warpaint make their appearance before the crowd at the start of every home game when the “Warpaint” chant begins. Rushing directly onto the field from an entrance known as “the tunnel” come cheerleaders, flag bearers, and drummers. Then out of the shadows of the tunnel emerge the Chiefs’ American Paint Horse, Warpaint, and Derouchey.
“It’s the biggest adrenaline rush you could ever imagine,” said Derouchey. “It’s absolutely surreal. To have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to incorporate my love for cheerleading and performing in front of a crowd with my passion for horses is such a unique opportunity. I thanked God every time I got to run this year.”
The cheerleader is confident that Warpaint enjoys the runs as well.
“You can just tell when a horse is content and happy and she definitely is. When she comes out during the Warpaint chant, she’s just fun to watch. Her ears are always forward. She’s excited. She knows her job, and she just does it.”
Training camp for an NFL horse
The two people entrusted with ensuring that Warpaint knew her job this year were Brian Flynn and Kenny Fisher, both of Grandview, Mo.
Flynn said he searched far and wide for the proper horse when he was contacted by the Chiefs to revive the role of Warpaint.
“I wanted a registered Paint. That was a given,” said Flynn, who reasoned he would be more successful in finding a horse with the right conformation, attitude and proven abilities, if he started his search among registered horses.
“I was looking for a horse that had a lot of experience and had been around a lot—cutting, barrel racing, team roping, show experience, and being around crowds. The horse we found had done it all,” said Flynn, adding that the horse had also participated in parades and gymkhanas.
Out of 30 prospects, the one Flynn finally decided on got the job after a tryout on the turf of Arrowhead Stadium itself.
The 11-year-old mare performed admirably, said Flynn. They accustomed the horse to cheerleaders kicking and waving pom-poms, marching bands on the field and more.
“What we couldn’t practice was how she’d be in front of 80,000 people,” said Flynn. “But the Chiefs gave us CDs of crowd noise, and we’d take her out back of our property and crank up the sound. We even shot guns off of her. She was great,” said Flynn.
“She really has been a jewel of a find for us.”
After finding the horse in May 2009 and having only about four months to prepare the mare for her Sept. 20 game debut, Flynn sought the help of Fisher, a friend who had ridden and trained cutting horses for 30 years.
Fisher said his secret to success in training Warpaint was simple, “I spent a lot of time in the saddle with her.”
That time included trail riding, an activity that Fisher said cleared the horse’s mind and settled her down.
“I’ve been training since ’71,” said Fisher, “and I know that nothing beats just spending a lot of time with a horse.”
Chiefs Warpaint was ridden every day during the football season at Kenny Fisher Cutting Horses ranch, by Fisher himself. In addition, Derouchey rode the horse three times a week, in addition to her daily practice sessions with the cheerleaders.
“Susie’s show experience really helps in this deal,” said Fisher. “She knows how to ride and react to whatever comes at her. She’s a good hand and makes me look good.”
The American Paint Horse Association and its Foundation echoed the same sentiments about the rider and the special horse with whom she performs.
“When it comes to showcasing the beauty and talent of the American Paint Horse and spirit of our members, we couldn’t think of anyone more deserving than Susie and Warpaint,” said American Paint Horse Foundation Director Jerry Circelli.
“We’ve seen Paint Horses at a lot of show venues over the years, but witnessing this special horse and this talented rider race down the football field before the roaring approval of tens of thousands of fans was both inspirational and historic.
“I suspect a lot of Paint Horse owners will become Kansas City Chiefs fans when they see that an APHA member and an American Paint Horse play such key roles on the team.”
Belinda Post, of Topeka, has been named a member of the Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleader squad.
Post, who is the daughter of Beverly Bernardi Post, attended workshops offered by the Kansas City Chiefs cheerleaders two weeks ago.
“All of the years of ballet, tap and jazz were beneficial,” Bernardi Post wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.
Post, 21, survived the first round of eliminations and then took part in a production show, where applicants had to compete in cocktail dress and dance routines.
“Earlier, they had private interviews,” Bernardi Post wrote. “After that evening, they made another cut. I anxiously awaited her call, several hours after the predicted time. It seems it took longer to tabulate than they had anticipated. She made that cut. So now approximately 50 to 60 went into finals. Belinda said ‘Mom, at least I have a shirt that says ‘I’m a KC Chiefs Cheerleader Finalist.’ ”
The last day was the most grueling for Post, her mother said, because about 24 of last year’s 28 cheerleaders tried out again.
On Wednesday, Post was notified that she has been named one of the cheerleaders.
Post graduated from Washburn Rural High School. She is a 2009 graduate of Kansas State University, where she was a twirler. She received a bachelor’s degree in theater/dance option.
The Kansas City Chiefs Web site, www.kcchiefs.com, has an introduction section featuring the 2010-2011 cheerleaders. It shows two pictures of Post.
Her mother owns Beverly Bernardi Post Conservatory of Dance and Pom, 5938 S.W. 17th. Post teaches several classes at the studio.
NFL.com has new photos from Week 14 of the 2009-10 football season. With Christmas coming up next week, several NFL teams brought the santa’s helper outfits out of storage. I’ve never seen the Raiderettes dress for the holidays before. Sweet!
Yesterday, I posted that the Rocky Mountain RockStarz had auditioned for America’s Best Dance Crew Season 5 and incorrectly identified the group as former Nuggets Dancers.
I’ve got the straight scoop today along with a pair of never-before-seen photos of the RockStarz.
Photo by Don Cudney
Founded by Kristin Engler Brooks in 2007, the Rocky Mountain RockStarz is an elite group of former professional cheerleaders and dancers with credentials including the Los Angeles Lakers, St. Louis Rams, Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, Kansas City Chiefs and many other teams.
RockStarz is a performance group that maintains their remarkable dance style through exclusive performances. As professional dancers, RockStarz share their talent through youth dance clinics, seminars, performing and other community service. Community outreach is the RockStarz number one commitment.
The Rocky Mountain RockStarz are committed to helping various local and national charity organizations. Whether it is running a dance clinic, giving motivational speeches, encouraging fitness/healthy lifestyle, or performing, the RockStarz leave a lasting impression on those they work with.
The RockStarz are currently co-directed between Megan Savage, a highly accredited dancer/performer, and Kristin Engler Brooks (“KE”). Sarah Schachterle (“Shack”) is the official choreographer for the RockStarz. Shack is one of the leading choreographers in the industry and has been working with the RockStarz for the last three seasons.
Mary Verbeck’s attraction to the Kansas City Chiefs cheerleading squad started with the dancing, the sequins and flashy outfits. But it’s not what has kept her there.
The 2002 St. Joseph Central High School graduate auditioned for the Chiefs squad during her senior year at Northwest Missouri State University.
She made the 2006 squad but had to give it up the following year to focus on graduate school. But she wasn’t away for long — she completed her master’s degree in physiology in less than two years and is back with the squad, now in her third season.
“It’s not all about your dance skills or looks,” she said, adding that they participate in more youth programs than dance routines. “You talk to hundreds and hundreds of people and invest in their lives and you have to really care.”
ESPN recently chose her as its NFL cheerleader of the week, a distinction that shocked the former Central pom pom girl.
“It’s just nice to see the cheerleaders recognized,” she said of ESPN’s weekly distinction. “I feel like we’re just now coming around to getting recognition.”
The cheerleader’s mission is to teach youth groups something called “Heart Habits” where it’s all about “how you think, look, act, and perform,” Ms. Verbeck said. “It all centers around having a positive attitude. Not being selfish.”
Ms. Verbeck started dancing at Darcee’s School of Dance in her early teens. Apart from her family, which help her get ready on game days, she gives much of the credit for her success to the owner, Darcee Pierce-Blanchard.
Ms. Pierce-Blanchard said Ms. Verbeck is extremely humble.
“She’s one of those people who is gorgeous and has no idea of how pretty and talented they are,” said Ms. Pierce-Blanchard, adding that she developed a more confident air when she made the Chief’s squad. “She tumbles and dances and has a stage presence, a charisma that is just enticing.”
NFL.com has posted a new collection of cheerleader photos for week #13. This week, they showcase cheerleaders from the Bills, Dolphins, Chiefs, Redskins, Jaguars, Colts, Panthers, Falcons, and the Bengals. The Ben-Gals, by the by, are the first team to bust out the snow bunny gear for the holidays. Click here to go to the gallery.
This week NFL.com showcases cheerleaders from the Texans, Rams, Bucs, Chiefs, Patriots, Ravens, Raiders, Jaguars, Cowboys, Vikings, Panthers, and Broncos. (They also have a couple photos of the “Packers Cheerleaders,” but it’s just not the same thing.)
Where do we begin with this week’s NFL cheerleader gallery on SportsIllustrated.com? There was a lot going on last weekend. The Bucs and Pats Cheerleaders were in London. Back here in the States, there were all kinds of specialty performances for Halloween, Military Awareness Day, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This week’s gallery includes teams from the Bengals, Chiefs, Dolphins, Buccaneers, Patriots, Texans, Rams, and Panthers (who debuted a new look on the field.) Click here to go there now.
It will be so weird next week, when everything is back to normal.
There are loads of new photos from week 7 on NFL.com. This week, they have the Rams, Raiders, Cowboys, Bucs, Jets, Texans, Chiefs, Dolphins, and Redskins Cheerleaders. It was a fun week, with special performances for Military Awareness Day, Halloween, and Breast Cancer Awareness month. Click here and have a look.