The Clydesdale

Bloged in Clydesdale by admin Friday January 5, 2007

Over the holidays I had a chance to view the Clydesdale herd
stabled at the Anheuser-Busch estate at Grant’s Farm outside
of Saint Louis, Missouri. I confess that the only reason I
pay attention to the U.S. Super Bowl of football is to see
latest Budweiser beer commercial featuring the wonderful
Clydesdales.

My favorite all-time commercial, in fact, and one which
broke my heart to watch, was aired in 2002 after the
September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. It showed
the one of the eight-horse Clydesdale teams being hitched up
in full regalia, and driven to a spot across the Hudson
river from where the site of the World Trade center was
visible, being halted at the river’s edge, and bowing in
honor of the victims.

I understand that the New York City actually shut down the
Brooklyn Bridge so that the commercial could be filmed.
That’s the kind of treatment usually reserved or American
heroes on their way to ticker-tape parades, but I suppose
there isn’t a more beloved symbol of America than the
gentle, heroic giants of the Budweiser Clydesdale herd.

Although the official Grant’s Farm tour was closed while I
was there, I accompanied some friends on a hike along a
public bike trail which passes within ten feet of the
Clydesdales’ paddock and stabling area. We saw two
stallions in separate paddocks, about half a dozen mature
geldings–the geldings are the herd’s “performers”–and
several mares, yearlings, and younger geldings which will
begin training, according to one of my friends, when they
are four years old.

In order to qualify for a place in one of the Budweiser
hitches, a Clydesdale must be a bay at least eighteen hands
high and have the trademark white blaze and four white
stockings. The hitches are set up so that the tallest
geldings–some of them standing twenty hands–are at its
rear, with the stockier animals as the lead horses.

Each gelding is first trained to harness alone, and then
worked with a more experienced hitch horse before joining
the professional hitch. And each horse is always used in
the same position in the hitch.

According to my friends, who are regular visitors to the
facility, Grant’s farm produces about thirty Clydesdale
foals a year, and the ones which do not qualify for use in
the Budweiser hitch are kept for breeding purposes, or sold
to those Clydesdale owners who meet Anheuser-Busch’s very
high standards.

The horses we see in the Budweiser television commercials
are not the same ones who regularly perform in the hitches,
but are given special training when they are between three
and four years of age. One of my friends has a photo taken
of him and the Clydesdale gelding “Matt”, who, because of
his calm personality and perfect Clydesdale good looks, is
the poster boy of the Grant’s Farm herd.

I’ll be looking forward to the Super Bowl this year, to see
if I can catch a glimpse of “Matt” when the Budweiser
Clydesdales latest commercial is shown!

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