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Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Budweiser Clydesdales

The Budweiser Clydesdales were here today so we went down to see them. I was amazed at how big they were. The boys enjoyed seeing them. We were there at the end and watched them unhitch the horses and put them in their trailers. Before they put the last horse in they let those of us watching come up and pet him and get our pictures. It was neat. The boys really loved that part. I asked the boys what the horse felt like and Brian said it felt, "like hair." Andrew said it, "felt furry." They are so descriptive!

Here are some interesting facts about the horses:

Farmers living in the 19th century along the banks of the River Clyde in Lanarkshire, Scotland, bred the Great Flemish Horse, the forerunner of the Clydesdale. These first draft horses pulled loads of more than one ton at a walking speed of five miles per hour. Soon their reputation spread beyond the Scottish borders.
In the mid-1800s, Canadians of Scottish descent brought the first Clydesdales to the United States where the draft horses resumed their existence on farms. Today, the Clydesdales are used primarily for breeding and show.

They were formally introduced to August A. Busch Sr. and Anheuser-Busch on April 7, 1933, to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition. August A. Busch Jr. wanted to commemorate the special day. To his father's delight, the hitch thundered down Pestalozzi Street carrying the first case of post-Prohibition beer from the St. Louis brewery.

To qualify for one of the six hitches (five traveling and one stationary), a Budweiser Clydesdale must be a gelding at least four years of age. He must stand 72 inches, or 6 feet, at the shoulder when fully mature, weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds, be bay in color, have four white stocking feet, a blaze of white on the face, and a black mane and tail.

Each hitch horse will consume as much as 20 to 25 quarts of feed, 50 to 60 pounds of hay and 30 gallons of water per day.

Five traveling Budweiser Clydesdale hitches are based in St. Louis, Missouri; Menifee, California; San Diego, California; Merrimack, New Hampshire; and San Antonio, Texas. The Budweiser Clydesdales can be viewed at the Anheuser‑Busch breweries in St. Louis, Merrimack and Ft. Collins, Colorado.
The Budweiser Clydesdales also may be viewed at Grant's Farm, the 281-acre ancestral home of the Busch family, in St. Louis and at the following Anheuser-Busch theme parks: Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, and Tampa, Florida, and at the Sea World theme parks in Orlando, Florida; San Diego, California; and San Antonio, Texas.

Based in St. Louis, Clydesdale Operations is responsible for maintaining and scheduling the five traveling hitches. They receive thousands of requests for the "gentle giants" every year. Each request is evaluated on the type of event, dates, history of appearances in that particular area and other input from Anheuser-Busch management representatives.

The official home of the Budweiser Clydesdales is an ornate brick and stained-glass stable built in 1885 on the historic 100-acre Anheuser-Busch brewery complex in St. Louis. The building is one of three located on the brewery grounds that are registered as historic landmarks by the federal government.

Expert grooms travel on the road with the hitch. They are on the road at least 10 months every year. When necessary, one handler has night duty to provide round-the-clock care for the horses, ensuring their safety and comfort.

Ten horses, the famous red, white and gold beer wagon and other essential equipment are transported in three 50-foot tractor trailers, which weigh 24 tons when fully loaded. Cameras in the trailers (with monitors in the cabs) enable the drivers to keep a watchful eye on their precious cargo during transport. The team stops each night at local stables so the "gentle giants" can rest. Air-cushion suspension and thick rubber flooring in the trailers ease the rigors of traveling.

Driving the 12 tons of wagon and horses requires quite a bit of strength and skill. The 40 pounds of reins the driver holds, plus the tension of the reins, equals 75 pounds. All hitch drivers are put through a rigorous training period before they are given the reins.

Each harness and collar weighs 130 pounds. The harness is handcrafted from brass and leather. Pure linen thread is used for the stitching. The harness is made to fit any horse, but the collars come in different sizes and must be individually fitted like a suit of clothes.

Duke, Captain, Mark and Bud are just a few of the names given to the Budweiser Clydesdales. Names are kept short to make it easier for the driver to give commands to the horses during a performance.

Clydesdale horseshoes measure more than 20 inches from end to end and weigh about five pounds -- more than twice as long and five times as heavy as the shoe worn by a riding horse. A horse's hoof is made of a nerveless, horn-like substance similar to the human fingernail, so being fitted for shoes affects the animal no more than a manicure affects people.

Turn-of-the-century beer wagons have been meticulously restored and are kept in excellent repair. The wagons are equipped with two braking systems: a hydraulic pedal device that slows the vehicle for turns and descents down hills, and a hand brake that locks the rear wheels when the wagon is at a halt.

Dalmatians have traveled with the Clydesdale hitch since the 1950s. The Dalmatian breed long has been associated with horses and valued for their speed, endurance and dependable nature. Dalmatians were known as coach dogs, because they ran between the wheels of coaches or carriages and were companions to the horses. Today, the Dalmatians are perched atop the wagon, seated next to the driver.

1 comment:

Suzie-Q said...

I have seen them before too!!
Dusty and I got to see them in Orlando at SEaworld about 7 yrs ago when we went.
they are BIG and they make neat nosie when they walk!!
Glad that you had somethiing fun to do.