The Clydesdale Breed: 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 1 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.
Hitch Requirements: To qualify for one of the traveling hitches, a Budweiser Clydesdale must be a gelding at least four years of age, stand 72 inches at the shoulder when fully mature, weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds, have a bay coat,four white legs,a white blaze, and a black mane and tail.
Feed: Each hitch horse will consume as much as 20 to 25 quarts of whole grains, minerals and vitamins, 50 to 60 pounds of hay, and 30 gallons of water per day.
Hitch Locations: The Budweiser Clydesdales can be viewed at the Anheuser-Busch breweries in St. Louis, Mo., Merrimack, N.H., and Ft. Collins, Colo. They also may be viewed at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis and at Warm Springs Ranch, the 300-plus acre Clydesdale breeding farm located near Boonville, Mo.
Clydesdale Operations: Based in St. Louis, Mo., Clydesdale Operations is responsible for maintaining and scheduling the traveling hitches. Thousands of requests for the “gentle giants” are received each year. Events are typically requested and sponsored in part by the local Anheuser-Busch wholesaler. Each request is evaluated on the type of event, dates, and history of appearances in that particular area.
Stables: 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.
Handlers: Expert groomers travel on the road with the hitch. They are on the road at least 10 months every year. When necessary, one handler provides around-the-clock care for the horses, ensuring their safety and comfort.
Transport: Ten horses, the famous red, white, and gold beer wagon and other essential equipment are transported in three 50-foot tractor-trailers. Cameras mounted in the trailers are connected to monitors in the cabs that 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-cushioned suspension and thick rubber flooring in the trailers ease the rigors of traveling.
Drivers: Driving the combined 12 tons of wagon and horses requires expert skill and physical strength. The 40 pounds of lines held by the driver plus the tension of the horses pulling creates a weight of over 75 pounds. Hitch drivers endure a lengthy training process before they assume the prestigious role of “Budweiser Clydesdale Hitch Driver.”
Harness: Each harness and collar weighs approximately 130 pounds. The harness is handcrafted with solid brass, patent leather, and stitched with pure linen thread. The harness is made to fit any Clydesdale; however, collars come in various sizes and must be individually fitted to the Clydesdale like a finely tailored suit.
Names: 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.
Horseshoes: Clydesdale horseshoes measure more than 20 inches from end to end and weigh about 5 pounds which is more than twice as long and five times as heavy as the shoe worn by a light 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.
Wagon: 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 downhill descents, and a hand-brake that locks the rear wheels when the wagon is at a halt.
Dalmatians: 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, proudly seated next to the driver.