Famed Clydesdales make downtown beer run

Appreciative crowd claps for the clip-clopping ‘gentle giants’ of horsedom

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An eight-horsepower delivery vehicle dropped off cases of fresh, 2-day-old beer at seven downtown Bend establishments Friday evening, and drew crowds, cameras and applause while doing so.

Of course, it was the renowned Budweiser Clydesdales, which have clip-clopped their big white feet into the American consciousness ever since Anheuser-Busch made them a beloved bit of crafty public relations more than seven decades ago.

High Desert Beverage Distributors brought the Menifee, Calif. -based hitch (team), one of six around the country, to Bend on Friday and Sunriver’s Chili Cook-Off on Saturday, after their spot in Portland’s Grand Floral Parade the previous weekend. They were boarded at Eagle Crest Resort, which puts on a big draft horse show in mid-July, including the Express Personnel Clydesdales.

“It’s been a little while since we’ve done a fresh beer delivery,” said Jeff, one of the many handlers of the traveling Clydesdales. A lot of families came downtown to see the rare sight, including 6-year-old Katie Huddleston, who had to think for a moment, tapping her foot, when asked her reaction to the eight-horse team.

“I think they are big,” she said, thoughtfully.

Indeed, a Budweiser (www.budweiser.com) Clydesdale must be a gelding at least 4 years old, and stand 6 feet at the shoulder, weighing 1,800 to 2,300 pounds. Each horse puts down 20 to 25 quarts of feed, 50 to 60 pounds of hay and 30 gallons of water a day.

For the Bend ceremonial beer run, Turbo and Thunder led the way, followed by Peter and Steve, Ted and Johnny, and Roman and Flash. as a rolling police blockade cleared some rush-hour traffic. But the well-trained horses at other times had cars passing right by, such as when they turned onto Oregon Avenue, past U.S. Bank, to pull up in front of the Pine Tavern Restaurant.

Up Bond Street and down Wall Street, the horses strode, making deliveries. Then they made the circuit again, prompting one wiseacre to crack, “Maybe they’re goin’ round to pick up the empties.”

“Why to do they have metal shoes?” a little girl asked, staring down at the horseshoes that measure more than 20 inches from end to end, and weigh about five pounds – much larger and heavier than the ones worn by a typical riding horse.

Gus, the Dalmatian – a traditional part of the teams for a half-century – sat patiently between the two drivers atop the red, white and gold beer wagon, Lloyd Ferguson and Doug Bousselot. In the early days of brewing, company official say, Dalmatians were bred and trained to protect the horses and guard the wagon while the driver went inside to make deliveries.

Three 50-foot tractor trailers transport 10 horses, the beer wagon and other gear. Cameras in the trailers and monitors in the cabs allow the drivers to keep watch on the precious cargo. The horses spend each night at local stables, and air-cushion suspension and thick rubber flooring inside the trailers ease the rigors of travel for the four-legged stars.

Once back at Troy Field, a crowd got up close and personal, but weren’t allowed to pet (or feed) the Clydesdales. “Someone might get stepped on, or hit with their bit,” Jeff explained.

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About Barney Lerten

Barney Lerten is the face of KTVZ.COM and has been seen often on KTVZ and KFXO in the past, offering his unique perspective in commentaries entitled "Leave it to Barney." Barney serves as Assignment Manager and Digital Content Director for KTVZ.COM. He joined NewsChannel 21 in February 2005. Barney has been a journalist since the second grade (a product called the "Room 210 Tooter,") a professional reporter for over 30 years and a Central Oregon newsman since 1991. Barney, a graduate of Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, spent 14 years with United Press International in Portland and San Francisco, then nine years with The Bulletin before a unique 5-year stint reporting for Bend.com and The Bend Bugle. He lives in Bend with his wife Debbie. You can reach Barney at barney.lerten@ktvz.com.