Published November 15, 2013
Budweiser doesn’t mind being upstaged by its own Clydesdales.
At Anheuser-Busch they take as much pride in their horses as they do in their beer. The Clydesdales became a recognizable icon in 1933 when they delivered the first case of post-prohibition beer to the White House. The horses have been the main face of Budweiser ever since.
Life for a Budweiser Clydesdale begins at the breeding stables at Warm Springs Ranch in Missouri. This state-of-the art breeding facility houses up to 100 Clydesdales, from foals to stallions.
However, not every Clydesdale born in the stable is guaranteed a spot on the Clydesdale driving team. For a Budweiser horse, the vetting process begins at birth. Clydesdales can be born with a variety of markings but the horses chosen to be a part of the Budweiser team must have the consistent markings: four white hoofs, a dark chestnut coloring on the body, and a white blaze down the nose.
The lucky few who make the cut are then shipped off to a training facility at the Anheuser-Busch training stables in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Here the horses go through months of training that help them develop the skills necessary to make the Clydesdale driving team.
The stables are located on the same property as the Anhueser-Busch brewing headquarters. Visitors looking for the full Budweiser experience can venture to the stables after a beer tasting and tour.
“The young colts come in untrained and don’t know much. And a year later when we are able to send them to one of the teams, they are well-mannered, good trained, adult horses ready to go. We have a lot of pride in that and we like to watch how they do on the teams,” says stable supervisor Lester Nisley.
At the training facilities the trainers help the horses prepare for what they might experience on the road. For a Budweiser Clydesdale this means staying calm under pressure, not spooking easily, and working well with the other horses on the team.
The kid-friendly tour of the stables offers an up close look at the Clydesdales daily routine, a tour of the facilities, and of course memorable photo opportunity with the Clydesdales, who aren't camera shy.
A typical day for a horse at the Merrimack stables begins with a breakfast of grains. The horse’s intake is closely monitored to make sure they are getting enough nutrients. Nisley says a horse eats close to 50 pounds of hay a day and around 10 to 20 pounds of grain. After breakfast the horses go out for exercise. The Clydesdales work through several types of training.
“Originally when they come here they have no prior exercise other than running around in a field and have not been used to wearing a harness and aren’t used to being around too many people. First we have to gentle them and get them to trust us, introduce the harness to them and let them know its okay to wear that.” Nisely says that one of the toughest workouts for the horses involves pulling a sled along the ground with no added help from wheels.
After exercise, the horses go back to the stables and get some type of grooming. Whether it’s a full bath, or just a vacuum, the horses are pampered after their hard work. By the afternoon it's time for the horses to be horses. Some take a nap while others relax and prepare for the next day of training. Nisley says they need this down time to recuperate, hang out and just be horses.
Once the horses graduate from the training facilities at Merrimack, they are then placed on one of the Budweiser driving teams. “Once they go out and we see them out on a team, doing a stadium run around the ballpark, or a parade…we really like to see how well they’re doing."
The Budweiser stables in Merrimack, N.H. are open for visitors daily June through December and are open Thursday through Monday from January through May. Normal visiting hours are from 10 am to 4 pm. Visit the Budweiser tour website for updated information.