Legendary Budweiser Clydesdales make big impression on Suncoast tour

Intro-Horses-in-trailer

A team comprised of eight tons of meticulously curried and combed horseflesh showed off some of its finest moves recently in front of an enthusiastic audience at Riverwalk Park in Bradenton, FL.

Clydesdale duoResplendent in patent leather harness and sparkling brass tack, the majestic Budweiser Clydesdales delighted observers by demonstrating lively sideways stepping maneuvers and a series of tight circle turns, all with the traditional crate-laden beer wagon in tow.

2013 marks the 80th anniversary of the Budweiser Clydesdales, first introduced to the public on April 7, 1933, when August Anheuser Busch, Jr. presented the hitch as a gift to his father to celebrate of the end of Prohibition. Clydesdales became the symbol of quality and tradition for Anheuser-Busch and have been used in promotion and advertising ever since.

Today, Anheuser-Busch has one of the world’s largest herds of Clydesdale horses and owns more than 220 nationwide. Three hitches of Clydesdales and their accompanying handlers tour different regions of the country 320 days out of every year.

Massive-CollarBraving blustery weather and brisk temperatures, several hundred interested onlookers gathered at the downtown Bradenton park to get a glimpse of the massive draft horses, marvel at their size and gentle temperament, and learn about their care.

While waiting for the team to be unloaded, members of the crowd talked about their enthusiasm for this year’s heart-tugging Budweiser Superbowl commercial starring a newborn baby Clydesdale. Others divulged their desire to share the experience of viewing the magnificent animals in person with their children (or grandchildren), as their own parents had done before them.

Watch the 2013 Budweiser Clydesdale Superbowl ad.

Polish-wagonThe first thing unloaded from the tour’s three 50-foot tractor-trailers was the familiar red, white and gold Budweiser wagon. Attendants were quick to wipe down all surfaces and polish its numerous brass fixtures to a gleaming shine. A full parade polish of all of the brass from start to finish could last as long as four hours, but a simple brush up takes just 30 minutes.

Surprisingly, this modern version of the Budweiser beer wagon is hollow. Because a fully loaded wagon can weigh more than 7,000 pounds, reducing its weight to 4,000 pounds means that the team of eight horses has a much easier job. “It’s not that the team couldn’t pull 7,000 pounds,” laughed one of the handlers, “they easily could. But whether or not they would want to do it, that’s another matter altogether.”

BrewerBefore being loaded into the semis, the stars of the show, the eight magnificent geldings that comprise the team, had already been washed, brushed and had their manes braided with ribbons and roses by expert groomers. After unloading, it was a 45-minute job to harness and hitch them all. The horses distinctive 130-pound flared black collars are custom-made and individually fitted to each animal. A complete set of collar and harness for eight horses costs over $70,000.

With all of the horses hitched and ready to go, the nostalgic picture was completed by the arrival of “Brewer,” the aptly-named Budweiser Dalmatian mascot, who leapt atop the wagon to take his rightful position alongside the driver.

Clydesdale-frame-DriverAfter a performance showcasing both the horses’ training and the driver’s handling skills, curious onlookers were allowed to step up for a closer look at the magnificent animals and have their questions answered by handlers. Unperturbed by the hundreds of camera flashes from a constantly milling crowd hovering mere inches from their massive frames, all of the “gentle giants” displayed the calm temperament essential in a job that involves meeting millions of enthusiastic fans each year.

Horses chosen for the Budweiser Clydesdale hitch must be geldings at least four years of age, stand approximately 18 hands (six feet) at the shoulder, and weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds. They must be bay in color, have four white stockings, a blaze of white on the face, and a black mane and tail.

During their week-long Suncoast visit, the horses were stabled in Myakka, FL. Sunday was their final appearance locally; the team’s next scheduled event is in Daytona Beach. Gold Coast Eagle Distributing sponsored the Clydesdale events on the Suncoast.

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