Clydesdale's are noble, majestic animals and have become very famous. They are also known as the 'Budweiser' horse, and are featured in commercials, parades, and other events.
Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budweiser_ClydesdalesThere are a total of six teams of horses, with 5 of those traveling throughout the United States. Last fall my sister won a trip to a local farm where we got to meet the team that travels in the southeast. I couldn't believe their enormous size but gentle nature. The horses we met were very friendly. Most of the clydesdale's owned by Anheuser-Busch are raised in Missouri. The horses were first brought before the public in 1933 when prohibition was repealed. They pulled a red, white, and gold beer wagon and were given as a gift from August Busch Jr. to his father. His father decided the horses would be great for advertising. Since then the horses have played an important role in advertisements for the Anheuser-Busch company.
In order to be considered for the team, the horse must be even tempered and strong, be at least 4 years old, stand at least 18 hands, weigh between 1800-2300 pounds, must have a reddish-brown coat with black mane and tail, blaze of white on face, and four white stocking feet. They also have long hair around their ankles, which is thought to have developed to keep them warm.
In the beginning the teams were shipped by train. In 1940 they began to be hauled by trucks, and travel about ten months of the year. It takes three 50 foot semi trucks to haul the horses, wagon, harnesses, and other equipment. They have appeared in parades for two U.S. presidents, Harry Truman and Bill Clinton. Groomers and handlers travel on the road with the horses. It takes five people about 4 hours to groom eight horses and costs around $6,000 a day. They stop each night at local stables so the horses can rest. The horses are also famous for their appearance in super bowl ads, and appear in many parades and rodeos. They travel thousands of miles each year. There are 10 horses on each team, with 8 driven at one time and the other 2 for backup when needed.
Some commercials they have appeared in required training. For one commercial, the horses needed to stop at a certain point on the football field. In order to train them to stop, the trainer laid two by four planks across the pasture and placed grain on the boards. The horses began to associate the line with food, and would stop at that line even if there was no food. This year's superbowl ad was titled 'Return of the King', which featured the horses delivering a case of beer to a prohibition town. 18 horses were used, and two months were spent on training. Other commercials include a 2006 ad showing older clydesdales giving a youngster a gentle push, a snowball fight between the horses, or Hank who wasn't chosen as a hitch horse and gets 'Rocky Balboa' training from the dalmation. Superbowl fans look forward to the Budweiser commercials featuring the horses each year. One year the company's scheduled commercial was not going to have the horses in it, but were later added after thousands of fan requests.
The harnesses for the Clydesdale's are large and heavy. Each harness weighs about 130 lbs, and made from brass and leather. Harnesses will fit any of the horses, but the collars must be made to fit each individual horse. A set of eight is worth over $70,000. Their horseshoes are a little over 20 inches and weigh around five lbs. The pair of horses immediately in front of the wagon tend to be the strongest because they have to be able to start the wagon's movement and slow it down. The second and third pair of horses are chosen due to agility and the ability to turn the wagon. The front pair of horses must also be agile and be the fastest. Originally the horses were trained in Fort Collins, but were recently moved to Merrimack, New Hampshire.
The hitch drivers must also go through training to learn how to drive and maneuver the 12 tons of horses and wagon. They hold 40 pounds of line plus the tension from the horses, which creates a weight of over 75 pounds. The horses are given short and simple names like 'Bud' to make it easier for the drivers to remember.
The wagons are styled after the old Studebaker that were converted in the early 1900's to deliver beer. The wagon features two brakes, one hydraulic to slow it down for turns and downhill slopes, and one foot brake to lock the wagon in place when stopped. Dalmations were used to protect the horses and guard the beer while the driver made deliveries.
Clydesdale's are capable of pulling a 1 ton load at 5 miles per hour, and were developed for farm work. Each horse eats 20 - 25 quarts of grain, 50 to 60 lbs of hay, and 30 gallons of water per day! They were first brought to America in the mid 1800's. Clydesdale's were used as a draft horse, and were also in the war. They are mostly used today in shows or for breeding. The horses are bred on a farm outside of St. Louis on Warm springs ranch. The birth of more than 30 foals are expected this year, between the months of February through June. The ranch just opened up for public tours where visitors can interact with the horses. They typically retire around 14 to 15 years. In 1975 the breed became nearly extinct with only about 80 horses, but today is back up to over 5,000.
Some of the clydesdale farms are open to visitors. These are one of the most beautiful animals I have ever seen. Pictures are no comparison to standing next to these lovely creatures. Be sure to check Anheuser Busch's website to see when they will be coming near you.