Close to a hundred people gathered in Buzzards Bay Park Wednesday afternoon, August 20, to get an up-close and personal look at some icons of American culture. At six feet tall and weighing roughly a ton, they towered over some of the youngsters in the crowd. Folks were acquainted with the main attractions from their appearances in numerous Christmas commercials and Super Bowl ads, but this was a chance to see them in the “horse-flesh.”
The Budweiser Clydesdales arrived in Bourne Tuesday afternoon and will be here until Monday, August 25. Their weeklong stay is a coordinated effort between the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce and Anheuser-Busch distributor L. Knife & Son, Incorporated of Kingston.
Victor F. Lahteine, off-premise sales supervisor for L. Knife & Son, said that the Clydesdale team is in the area to be in a parade August 23 celebrating Sandwich’s 375th anniversary and to be on display for the public. Mr. Lahteine said the horses are on the road, making appearances, about 300 days throughout the year. In the past 10 years, they have been here three times, taking part in Plymouth’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
“But that’s November, and the company always says they’d really like to visit in the summer,” he said, adding that the last time the team was here during the summer months was 1999.
Mr. Lahteine said it was Anheuser-Busch that approached L. Knife & Son about an appearance by the Clydesdales on Cape Cod this summer. The team has been on display from 11 AM to 7 PM every day since its arrival, but people have been arriving three to four hours early to get a look. He said that some people have said they wanted to see the Clydesdales because of their size and how beautiful they are, or they saw them at the horses’ training facility in Merrimack, New Hampshire, and wanted to see them again. Some people have even made repeat visits, showing up every day to see the horses.
“They can’t get enough of them,” he said.
The Clydesdales became a part of the Anheuser-Busch legacy in 1933, shortly after Prohibition was repealed. Sons August and Adolphus Busch presented a hitch of the horses to their father to commemorate the first bottle of post-Prohibition beer brewed in St. Louis.
Soon after, the company sent a second team, as a promotional gimmick, by train to New York City, where a case of Budweiser beer was delivered to then-Governor Alfred E. Smith, a chief proponent in the movement to repeal the Volstead Act. The team went on a tour of New England and the Mid-Atlantic State, even delivering a case of beer to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House.
Larry K. Manypenny, a Clydesdale handler for Anheuser-Busch, concurred that the horses’ attraction is they are “very majestic looking.” He said that with their white legs and feathering, and the high step they have when they walk, “there’s just that presence they bring to the public.”
Mr. Manypenny explained there are three Clydesdale teams, one out of Merrimack, New Hampshire, one out of St. Louis, Missouri, and one out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Each team is assigned to cover a north-south region of the country for appearances. Many of the horses are bred at Warm Springs Ranch in Booneville, Missouri, although some come from horse sales held around the country. All of the horses are trained in Merrimack, New Hampshire, before being shipped out to a hitch team.
Mr. Manypenny said that horses on a Clydesdale team are chosen very carefully, making sure that each animal has the high quality look the company wants. That includes four white stockings and a white blaze down its nose. He said the horse will show the proper characteristics from birth.
“Without those visual markings, you know those are not going to make the team, and we find homes for them,” he said.
The right look is only part of whether a horse makes a team, he said. There is also the physical work involved in being hooked up to a hitch, he said. Horses have to be able to pull the wagon and work well with the other horses on the team. They must also show that they are not frightened by loud noises, and can easily avoid obstacles in the road, such railroad tracks.
“They go through a big training program to get used to such things to see if they have what it takes,” he said.
For all that work, the horses are well-fed, he said. The Clydesdales are fed 10 to 15 pounds of grain every day, spread out over two feedings. The amount is dependent on each horse’s individual metabolism and health.
“Everything we do for the horses is individualized,” he said.
Because they are grazers, they also have hay available to them throughout the day and consume about 40 to 50 pounds of that, he said. In addition, they drink up to 30 gallons of water.
On Saturday, August 23, the Clydesdales will lead the BASH parade in honor of Sandwich’s 375th anniversary. The parade starts at 11 AM at the Henry T. Wing School and travels through Sandwich Village. They will return to Buzzards Bay Park for public viewing from 3 to 7 PM. They will also be on display for the public from 11 AM to 7 PM on Sunday, August 24 before they leave the next day.