By Dinah Rogers, Mid-City Messenger
Like a bunch of restless teenagers, the giant Budweiser Clydesdale draft horses nipped and chased each other around the paddock at the NOPD stables in City Park Friday (Feb. 11) after arriving in town for Carnival. While half of the 10-horse team exercised, handlers washed, brushed and shaved the others in preparation for their coming public appearances.
It’s not all sunshine and green grass for the celebrity equines. They work hard for the 50 pounds of hay and 6 pounds of grain they each eat every day.
“We’re on the road an average of 300 days a year,” Budweiser Clydesdale handler Grant Johnson said. “We do shows at grocery stores, bar crawls, shopping centers and state fairs in a different city every week, except for Mardi Gras, which is a three-week visit. Our standard show time is two hours, except for parades.”
A team of eight horses will pull the distinctive Budweiser beer wagon in eight parades this Carnival season. Starting with Excaliber on Friday (Feb. 18), they will roll with Nemesis on Saturday, Carrollton on Sunday, Druids on Wednesday, D’etat on Friday, Endymion on Saturday and Bacchus on Sunday. Only eight of the 10 are in harness at a time, with two taking the day off.
Before parades, the gentle giants will be the stars at the 12th annual “Horses, Hops and Cops” fundraiser to benefit the NOPD Mounted Division on Wednesday (Feb. 16) at the stable on Harrison Avenue. The free, family-friendly event is hosted by the New Orleans Police Department, Louisiana Hospitality Foundation and Southern Eagle.
Besides meeting the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales, guests will be treated to tours of the horse stables, an equestrian soccer game between horses from the NOPD and the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office mounted units, live local entertainment, arts and crafts, plus food and beverages for sale.
Artist Beck Fos produced a painting called “Best Buds” in honor of the Budweiser Clydesdales’ return to Mardi Gras. Proceeds from the sale of the lithographs will go to the NOPD Mounted Division.
“The Mounted Unit is a pivotal tool in the New Orleans Police Department’s toolbox, especially during large scale events such as Mardi Gras,” NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said in a press release. “The unit provides high-visibility patrol and plays an important role in our crime-fighting efforts. ‘Horses, Hops and Cops’ is an important event that ensures we are able to continue providing the best care for our horses and best protection for our citizens.”
The event schedule is listed below. For more information plus a parking/shuttle map visit NOPD News
3:30 pm VIP Tour (tickets required, link below)
5-8 pm General admission (free)
5 pm Horse stables open for self-guided tours
5 pm Street Lyfe Band (Budweiser Stage)
5:30 pm Equine Soccer Game featuring NOPD Mounted Unit and Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office horses (Horse Arena)
6:15 pm See the Budweiser Clydesdales (Horse Arena)
6:30 pm Preservation Brass (Budweiser Stage)
7:55 pm Raffle Drawing (Budweiser Stage)
The Clydesdale is a heavy draft horse breed developed in Scotland during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and introduced in America in 1842. Warm Springs Ranch near Boonville, Missouri, is the official breeding facility of the Budweiser Clydesdales, where 20 to 25 foals are born each year.
Of the 100 to 130 horses owned by Budweiser, three 10-horse herds, all geldings, travel year round. The females all stay home to breed. For more information on the Warm Springs Ranch, visit their website.