Clydesdales driving team under pressure

6:21 AM, Jun 21, 2012   |    comments
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Budweiser Clydesdales

By Heidi Glaus

St. Louis (KSDK) --  The Clydesdales are hard to miss on opening day at Busch Stadium and in parades.  NewsChannel 5 viewer Ann Mestres wanted to know how hard it is to drive them, so NewsChannel 5's Heidi Glaus found out the answer in this week's Hey Heidi! report.

They are big, beautiful, and thanks to Budweiser, probably the most famous horses in the world. Although the drivers make it look easy, driving this team of eight is not.

"Well it's very complex to drive the team," explains Jeff Knapper, General Manager of Clydesdale Operations.

Simply put, driving the team is pressure driven.

"It's pressure back and forth.  As that horse goes forward, they put pressure on that line that's attached to their bit. They feel the pressure going to the left, or to the right, or if they're going too fast, they feel more pressure evenly on both sides, of both horses, and it slows them down," Knapper goes on to say.

That also puts pressure on the driver.

"At any time, there could be up to 70 pounds of pressure on the drivers, and that's why we have two drivers up there because some of the parades are extremely long," Knapper adds.

As are the reigns, 75 feet give or take an inch. So the lead driver can hand the reigns to the assistant driver at any time.

But what's probably most interesting, is how the horses get their positions.

"The wheel horses, the horses closest to the wagon, are the bigger horses. They're the horses that really need to start and stop the wagon, so they need the bigger size," Knapper points out.

The lead horses are smaller.

"They're a lot more agile, they've got a lot more spirit," he says.

Then you have the swing horses, and the body horses, plus they always travel with a couple of spares, so to speak.

"Quite frankly, they're a lot like people they all have different personalities they have different needs and we tailor accordingly," Knapper says.

So the next time you see this iconic team coming, be sure to raise a glass both for the horses and the drivers.

If you have a Hey Heidi! question, email Heidi at


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