Even if you don’t know who Chelsi Horton is, you know who she is. She has the honor of being the Boise State University Bronco Girl and rides with Willy, a 19 year old registered paint who loves the limelight and couldn’t be happier than having his toes painted and leading the Boise State University football team out of the tunnel at every home game the past two years. Chelsi is a Boise State Junior and a two year Bronco Girl vet, but is no stranger to hanging out with Willy in the north end zone at every home game. While in high school, she helped out the previous Boise State Bronco Girl, Vanessa Lootens, and her horse in the North End Zone. Willy and Chelsi have been riding and competing together since she was 14 and is loved by aspiring cowgirls and Bronco Nation in general.
A fourth generation Kuna resident, Chelsi Horton lives on the same land that her great Grandparents homesteaded and on the original 100 of the 130 acres that they farmed and ranched on generations ago. She lives in one of three houses on the property, with her parents and her grandparents in the other two. Even at 20 years old, she understands and appreciates the proximity that she is to her loved ones and cherishes family dinners every time they happen.
With her mom being an accomplished barrel racer, it was a natural fit for Chelsi to start showing and competing with horses at the age of six in the Jr. Rodeo Association. She has acquired a plethora of crowns as a junior and senior rodeo princess and many titles as Queen, including the District 2 High School Rodeo Queen representing Kuna Hight School. Her rodeo talents took her to Idaho State University where she and Willy competed in four events as a Freshman. They ended up in the top six in the nation in barrel racing, goat tying, breakaway tying and team roping. Then she got homesick for her horses and timing was perfect for her to step up and become the next Boise State University Bronco Girl.
Although her title sounds as if she and Willy are part of the athletic department, they are not. She is Vice-President of the Boise State Rodeo Club and Willy is the unofficial live mascot of the team. Their participation at home games and Bowl games are a unique opportunity that no other University offers to it’s fans and Bronco Nation is proud to call Chelsi and Willy their own.
Chelsi has the poise of a rodeo queen and the toughness of a rodeo bull rider. She did not compete this past summer in the ICA (Idaho Cowboy’s Association) due to a broken arm, but is ready for her rookie season in 2012. In high school she blew her knew but still made it all the way through volleyball season where any “normal person” would have bowed out when the injury took place.
Willy is an athlete too. Just like one of the BSU football players, he gets amped up before running onto the field, through the smoke and into the open field in front of thirty-plus thousand fans. He just does it with a color-coordinated outfit and painted toe nails. Although some think that Willy wears contact lenses, because his eyes are so blue, it is just a coincidence and a stroke of good luck that he looks as though he was born to run on The Blue. To get Willy use to the smoke, Chelsi’s grandpa bought a smoke machine to see how he would do. We all know how that turned out.
Chelsi says if it wasn’t for her sponsors, she and Willy wouldn’t be able to do the type of appearances they do and make it to games outside of Bronco Stadium, including the December 22nd MAACO Las Vegas Bowl where number seven Boise State goes up against Arizona State University. The horse world is a close knit group and because of this, Willy has a nice place to stay very close to Sam Boyd Stadium during the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl.
Although there are a lot of rules that Chelsi and Willy have to abide by, both at Bronco Stadium and away stadiums, Chelsi says just the thrill of the game and to be a part of it, is a once in a lifetime opportunity that she does not take for granted. This former rodeo queen has helped make Boise State Football a team not to be taken lightly. People might not know anything about horses or who “Chelsi” really is, but they do know, adore and love the Boise State University Bronco Girl and her horse Willy.
Be sure to follow Chelsi and Willy on Twitter and Facebook as they head down to the December 22nd MAACO Las Vegas Bowl. Thank you Chelsi, for all the great pictures. You can see more on D&B’s Flickr site.