Road Stories

Cheers to Good Horses

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The Budweiser Clydesdales are held to similar expectations as working ranch horses.

By Katie Frank

090814 wichitafalls 071The Budweiser Clydesdales perform at a ranch rodeo in Wichita Falls, Texas. Photo by Ross Hecox.

On a recent trip to Missouri to gather stories and photos for the magazine, I had the good fortune to take a tour of the Anheuser-Busch headquarters, located in St. Louis. The tour was in conjunction with Purina’s VIP Professional Horse Owner’s Conference, which I attended to learn about their recent research on hay and grain nutritional content, quality and palatability, and to visit their farm.

150921 Purina VIP 13BBCC8At the St. Louis factory, Clydesdales stay in the original barn built in 1885. Stained glass paints the walls with jewel-toned colors. Photo by Katie Frank.

But let’s get back to the beer. The only thing more impressive than the gigantic drums of alcohol produced and stored within the brick factory walls were the gigantic bay Budweiser Clydesdales. I was star struck. Standing at a massive 18 hands tall, their coats glistened in the sun as they nuzzled visitors and graciously stood for countless photo ops.

Only some of the horses stay at the factory for visitors to see. The rest, particularly those in training to learn to hitch and star in commercials, are at Grant’s Farm about a half-hour west of the factory.

150921 Purina VIP 13BBCCEClydesdales relax in the historic stable in St. Louis. Photo by Katie Frank.

Seeing the iconic horses was a special treat. Each horse is held to strict standards physically and mentally, similar to the working horses found on ranches. If one doesn’t meet the requirements, it is culled and found a good home elsewhere. It’s more than looks that matters. Also considered is a disposition that contributes to safety, because the horses need to be able to stay calm, quiet and patient at the numerous fairs, parades and rodeos the team attends. Every horse has a job to do and a responsibility to perform, no matter the conditions.

Although double the size of the typical ranch horse, the two types of horses are more similar than I expected. Their levelheaded attitudes are easy to take for granted, though without that demeanor it would be dangerous. That night as I sipped my chilled beer, I made a toast to those deserving horses, both in front of the wagon and at the end of a rope.

150921 Purina VIP 13BBCC9In 1950, the Budweiser Clydesdales got their first Dalmatian. A Dalmatian travels with each of the three hitches. Clyde, shown, travels with the St. Louis hitch. Photo by Katie Frank.


150921 Purina VIP C13BBCC2The Budweiser Clydesdales made their first appearance April 7, 1933. They have been a favorite attraction at events ever since. Photo by Katie Frank.



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