They’re some of the largest and most famous horses in the world and, recently, Budweiser’s Clydesdales visited Fort Stewart.
All hitched up to the equally famous beer wagon, the giant horses paraded up and down Sixth Street for two hours Thursday for soldiers and their families to enjoy.
Prior to their public showing, the horses were stabled at Stewart’s Bits & Bridles Horse Stables. Stable manager Glenda Watts said the team visiting Stewart was from St. Louis and included 10 Clydesdales and their dalmatian mascot, Clyde. Watts, who works part-time as a volunteer, said the 14 members who use the installation’s stables are active-duty and retired military or family members.
John Nisley, assistant team leader for the Clydesdale team visiting Stewart, said he’s worked with Budweiser’s famous horses for five years, but has spent most of his life working with horses.
“I grew up with horses,” Nisley said. “My dad had Belgian draft horses. They’re about the same size (as Clydesdales) but require less maintenance.”
Nisley said his team travels more than nine months a year, showing off the horses at special events like the Daytona 500 and Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. He said the other two teams are headquartered in Merrimack, N.H., and Fort Collins, Colo. Budweiser also has a breeding stable in Booneville, Mo., which produces more than 30 foals a year that are sold, traded or trained to become part of a team.
Nisley said Budweiser owns more than 200 Clydesdales. The horses made their first appearance in 1933 to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition.
To be part of a Budweiser team, Clydesdales must have four white feet and a full white blaze stocking on the face, Nisley said. The average Clydesdale weighs more than 2,000 pounds and stands more than 6 feet tall. Each horse eats 15-20 quarts of mixed grain and 60 pounds of hay, and drinks more than 30 gallons of water a day.
“Right now, we have a pretty good deal with Purina to provide the grain and a good deal with Stan Lee Hay Company for hay, which they deliver to wherever we are,” he said. “Clydesdales are very docile horses. They’re very laid-back and easy to work with.”
As he talked about the horses, trainer Kat Cockrell brushed down a gentle giant called Elite. Nearby, trainer Mark Fisher stood on a tall stool and scrubbed down another giant called Levi. Both horses seemed to enjoy their baths and the attention. They made no effort to pull away from the trainers.
Inside the stable, Sidney Hagood, 12, and Kaitlin Fox, 14, admired the horses, including a particularly friendly one called Jack. They spent most of their time though playing with Clyde the puppy, who seemed only interested in a morning nap. Both girls’ families stable horse at Bits & Bridles.
Three tractor trailers were used to transport eight Clydesdales to Sixth Street, which was blocked off at Gulick Avenue and Bundy Street. The grassy field next to Newman Fitness Center was filled with children’s inflatables and tents that provided free samples of grilled bratwursts, courtesy of Budweiser.
The horses soon were hitched up to the beer wagon, loaded down with crates of beer. The team then paraded down the street, which was lined with soldiers and their families, snapping photos and taking videos as the giant horses passed. The same team will perform for soldiers and families today at Hunter Army Airfield.
Nisley said the horses will remain stabled at Bits & Bridles through the weekend, and the public is invited to come by and see them. Bits & Bridles is on Highway 144 near the entrance gate to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team cantonment area.