Lauren Lambeth travels all over Florida with the Budweiser Clydesdales. And everywhere she goes, people use the same word to describe the massive horses.
Lambeth certainly agrees. “They’re awe-inspiring to see,” she says.
They’re also huge, playful and able to wolf down an enormous amount of food (including 50-60 pounds of hay daily).
Lambeth should know: She works with the horses every single day.
The horse handler has spent four years traveling with the “Midwest team” for the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, the living symbols for beer makers Anheuser-Busch. The St. Louis-based team visits cities all over the Midwest United States and also Florida.
Lambeth grooms and feeds the animals, and does whatever else needs doing. She also helps answer people’s questions wherever the Clydesdales make appearances: How much do they weigh? What are their names? Why do they travel with a Dalmatian dog? Can you pet them?
You could ask her those questions yourself the next time the Clydesdales visit Florida. But if you can’t wait until then, no worries: Here’s everything you need to know about the iconic, beloved Budweiser Clydesdales.
Clydesdales are bigger than you probably think
“People don’t realize just how big they are,” Lambeth says. “You see them on TV, and you know they’re large. But when you actually get up next to them, they’re just massive.”
The horses in Lambeth’s hitch of eight horses (plus two alternates) stand 6-7 feet tall at the base of their neck. They weigh about 2,000 pounds — roughly the same as a small car.
Returning to the Super Bowl was a big deal
The Clydesdales skipped their usual Super Bowl commercial in 2021, but they returned in 2022.
That was a big deal for both Anheuser-Busch and fans of their iconic Clydesdales, Lambeth says.
“It was pretty exciting,” she says. “It’s always good to see the Clydesdales. When we don’t have them in the commercials, we really hear about it from the public quite a bit. It’s constantly like, ‘Where are the Clydesdales?’”
Lambeth’s horses haven’t appeared in a Super Bowl commercial in the four years she’s traveled with the Midwest team. Hitch horses don’t usually star in TV commercials, she says, unless the commercial needs a shot of all eight horses pulling a wagon.
“Once we’ve trained them for those commercial shots, they actually don’t want to pull the wagon anymore,” Lambeth says. “They only want to do what they’re trained for in the commercials.”
Her horses did star in a national TV ad a couple years ago, though. It was for Budweiser’s collaboration with Jim Beam on a new beer.
Lambeth was on the set for that commercial shoot and helped prepare her horses for their appearance.
“It’s exciting to see,” she says. “It was really cool, because we know all the hard work that goes into getting those shots. … It was cool to see just how good our guys looked.”
That distinctive Clydesdale look
Clydesdales are usually brown with long, feathery, white hair on their lower legs; a blaze of white on the face, and a black mane and tail. They’re big, stocky and heavily muscled.
As for their personalities, they’re generally alert, gentle and easy to control.
Clydesdales’ long, noble history
The horses once carried armored knights into battle and were used by the military during World War I. These days, they mostly pull farm equipment or (in this case) act as mascots for Anheuser-Busch.
The horses originated in the Lanarkshire area of Scotland. They were bred for heavy farm and industrial work, including logging and agriculture.
The breed resulted from the mating of two native farm mares and imported Flemish stallions in the early 18th century.
How Clydesdales became a Budweiser icon
The Budweiser tradition dates to 1933, when beermaker August A. Busch Sr.’s sons surprised him with six Clydesdale horses and a beer wagon to commemorate the end of Prohibition.
They quickly realized the marketing potential for the horses and sent a second, six-horse hitch to New York to help mark the event there, too. The horses drew a crowd of thousands on their way to the Empire State Building, according to Anheuser-Busch’s official history.
That hitch continued on a tour that went to New England, the Mid-Atlantic states and eventually Washington, D.C., where they reenacted the delivery of one of the first cases of Budweiser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
That six-horse hitch soon turned into the iconic eight-horse hitch. Now the horses make hundreds of appearances across the United States every year.
The beer wagon
The Budweiser Clydesdales pull a carefully restored, 1903 Studebaker beer wagon. The red, white and gold wagons are almost as famous as the horses, themselves.
The wagons come with two braking systems: a hydraulic pedal device that slows the vehicle for turns and downhill descents, and a hand brake that locks the rear wheels when the wagon has come to a stop.
Caring for the Clydesdales
Each team of Clydesdales comes with its own group of handlers dedicated to grooming, feeding and generally preparing them to meet their fans.
They’re almost like babies, Lambeth says. And that’s not just because they need lots of care and attention.
“They’re always trying to get into something,” she says. “They’re kind of like toddlers.”
One of her horses loves making a clicking sound with its mouth bit. Another always leans out of his stall and plays with the latch.
Some do it for attention, Lambeth says. Others are just trying to amuse themselves.
The horses can eat a massive amount of food every day: As much as 20-25 quarts of whole grains, minerals and vitamins; 50-60 pounds of hay; and (on a warm day) 30 gallons of water.
They get clipped and have a full bath once a week, and they’re groomed daily (including washing their legs to make sure they stay nice and white).
Traveling with the Clydesdales
There are three Budweiser Clydesdale teams that crisscross the country, Lambeth says.
Each team travels in three 50-foot tractor trailers loaded with the beer wagon, equipment and 10 horses — eight for the hitch and two alternates. “Just like a person, everyone needs a day off,” Lambeth says.
The trailers are equipped with an air-cushioned suspension and thick rubber flooring to make the ride comfortable for the horses, according to Anheuser-Busch. Cameras let the drivers keep an eye on their precious cargo.
The team stops each night at local stables so the horses can rest.
Breeding the horses
The Budweiser Clydesdales are bred and trained exclusively at Warm Springs Ranch, a 300-plus-acre property in Boonville, Missouri. The breeding facility was built in 2008.
About 70 Clydesdales live there, and the place is open for tours during season.
The property includes a veterinary lab, 10 pastures and mare, stallion and foaling barns.
What are the horses’ names?
Most of the Budweiser Clydesdales are given short names to make it easier for the driver to give them commands during a performance.
For the Florida team, the horses are named (in order of size): Bud, Rocco, Denver, Hansi, Jay, Jeff, Champ, Jet, Sparky and Cash.
They range in age from 6 to the oldest horse on the team, 15-year-old Sparky, Lambeth says.
The horses usually work eight to 10 years, she says. “Then they either retire to one of our facilities, or sometimes they do go home with one of the handlers.”
What’s up with that Dalmatian?
Every Clydesdale hitch travels with a Dalmatian dog — a throwback to the early days of beer brewing, when Dalmatians were bred as “coach dogs.” Those dogs were trained to guard the wagon and horses while out on beer deliveries.
The dogs have traveled with the Budweiser Clydesdales since 1950, when they were added to the hitch in commemoration of the opening of an Anheuser-Busch brewery in Newark, New Jersey. They sit next to the driver atop the wagon and act as a buddy for the horses.
How much do Clydesdales cost?
Some Clydesdales sell for as little as $1,000, according to the Clydesdale Breeders of the USA. Most sell for $2,500-$5,000, but top-level horses can fetch $10,000 or even cost as much as a luxury car.
Factors affecting that price include the horse’s bloodline, size, age, color, markings and level of training.
Some random Clydesdale facts
- Clydesdales sleep for an average of 16 hours a day. They often move their legs when they’re dreaming.
- Each handcrafted harness and collar weighs about 130 pounds.
- Their horseshoes measure more than 20 inches from end to end — about the size of a dinner plate — and weigh about 5 pounds.
Where can you learn more about Budweiser Clydesdales?
— SOURCES: Anheiser-Busch, Busch Gardens, News-Press archives, the National Museums Scotland, Clydesdale Breeders of the USA, Clydesdale Horse Society
Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnells is an arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. Email him at email@example.com or connect on Facebook (facebook.com/charles.runnells.7), Twitter (@charlesrunnells) and Instagram (@crunnells1).