COLUMBIA — In the past month, Anheuser-Busch has moved nearly 100 of its world-famous Clydesdales into a state-of-the-art breeding farm 16 miles west of Columbia.
The elegant, iconic horses are now bred, cared for, groomed and trained on 350 acres of grassy pasture in the rolling hills near Boonville.
“This is a beautiful piece of property that offers privacy for our Clydesdales,” said Jim Poole, general manager of Clydesdale operations for Anheuser-Busch, during a media tour Wednesday. “It’s a nice place for mares to raise their young ones.”
The property is also a reasonable distance from company headquarters in St. Louis and on a major route for Budweiser's traveling teams of horses.
- The Budweiser Clydesdales were introduced in 1933 to commemorate the repeal of Prohibition.
- Anheuser-Busch owns 250 Clydesdale horses.
- The traveling hitches make more than 500 appearances annually.
- Ten Clydesdales travel with each hitch. Two are alternates.
- Clydesdales are given short names, such as Duke and Bud, to make commands easier for the driver.
- The first television ad featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales aired in 1956.
- The Clydesdales have been featured in 12 Super Bowl ads.
- Dalmatians have traveled with the Clydesdale hitches since the 1950s.
- Anheuser-Busch does not breed the Dalmatians.
- Each Clydesdale’s harness and collar weighs about 130 pounds.
- Clydesdale horseshoes are 20 inches from end to end and weigh about 5 pounds.
- To qualify for the elite hitch, Clydesdales must be a gelding at least four years of age,stand 6 feet or 72 inches at the shoulder when mature,weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds, be bay in color, have four white stocking feet, have a blaze of white on the face and have a black mane and tail.
- Daily diet: 20 to 25 quarts of whole grains, minerals and vitamins; 50 to 60 pounds of hay; 30 gallons of water
From the road, the farm's 15 miles of galvanized steel fencing, red outbuildings and 10 roomy paddocks look picture-perfect. Although the facility will not be open to the public, drivers along Highway 98 can often see the Clydesdales grazing on the grounds.
“Anheuser-Busch has a great commitment to the Clydesdale breed,” Poole said. “They are a corporate icon as well as an American icon.”
The main building in the complex is a 20,000-square-foot red metal barn with wide doors and green trimmings. Inside are rubber-floored stalls, high-tech monitoring equipment, a breeding area, a veterinary lab, even an apartment for celebrity visitors.
“This is a commercial building made to look like a stable,” said Michael Hemme, vice president of Coil Construction Inc. of Columbia, the company Anheuser-Busch contracted for the project.
Six oversize stalls accommodate the foaling mares, which now number 35. Cameras on the ceiling allow the staff to monitor them from every angle.
A room carpeted with sand and rubber chips is designated for natural breeding. About half of the breeding is natural, Poole said.
Hemme said the company was not equestrian-savvy before this project. An architect from Oklahoma helped prepare a design proposal for Anheuser-Busch. Coil received the go-ahead in March 2007 and construction began the following August.
The initial phase included half of the fencing, the shelters in each paddock and a hay barn. The rest of the fencing as well as the roads and the stables began in January.
The Clydesdales began arriving in early October from a company breeding farm in Menifee, Calif. Jim Breeggemann, one of four Clydesdale handlers stationed at the new farm, transported the first load. He had been a caretaker for Clydesdales assigned to the St. Louis traveling hitch.
At 6:30 a.m., Breeggemann begins to feed each Clydesdale its daily diet — 25 quarts of grain, 50 pounds of hay and 30 gallons of water. The handlers are responsible for most of the horses’ care. Anheuser-Busch contracts with farriers to shoe the horses and with veterinarians for medical needs.
The farm hopes to raise at least 50 Clydesdale foals per year, with the first birth expected there in mid-January, Poole said. Foals remain at the farm until they are 2 years old. Those that match the established look of a Budweiser Clydesdale are trained for two years before joining one of the five traveling hitches.
These horses must have a deep reddish-brown coat, black mane and tail, a blaze of white on their faces and white, feathery hair on all four legs. Typically, they measure 6 feet from hoof to wither and have good temperaments.
“Not all foals are born this color,” said Poole, who raised draft horses before joining the Anheuser-Busch staff 20 years ago. “We have a good rapport with Clydesdale breeders. A lot of time when we have foals that are not the right color, we are able to trade.”
Evaluation begins after the first year, Poole said. Sixty-five to 70 percent of the stallions are assigned to the traveling hitches. The mares are used for breeding.
Although Clydesdales were once workhorses who pulled quite heavy loads, the Budweiser horses are expected only to make appearances at parades and fairs. Those on hitches are groomed twice a day and have their 20-inch shoes reset every six weeks.
Their new home is so tailored to their needs that the ventilation system can produce a cool breeze even on a 110-degree day.
“I don’t think you’ll ever see a Clydesdale sweating in here,” Poole said.