Gentle Giants

By Loribeth Reynolds

Loribeth Reynolds/Collegian - The Budweiser Clydesdales trot around the Kansas State Fairgrounds pulling a wagon, as huge crowds of fairgoers line the walkways.
Loribeth Reynolds/Collegian - The Budweiser Clydesdales trot around the Kansas State Fairgrounds pulling a wagon, as huge crowds of fairgoers line the walkways.

Excitement hung in the air at the Kansas State Fair, as hundreds of people gathered under the cool shade of a spacious tent on Sept. 12.

They were gazing at eight gentle giants.

Lines full of people moved slowly as they looked at the majestic Budweiser Clydesdale horses, that were resting in their stalls.

Scott Morrison, a handler from Minnesota, explains how they can tell the horses apart when they are out of their stalls.

“Many of us have worked with these horses for years, so you get to know their personalities. The lead horses are always smaller than the rest, so they are pretty easy to pick out.”

Morrison said there is a process when traveling with such giants.

“These horses are on the road 10 to 11 months out of the year,” he said.

“We came here in three 50-foot trailers, and we stop every night to make sure the horses get to rest.”

The traveling semi-trailers are lined with a special rubber flooring to absorb shock so that traveling is easy on the horses’ joints.

A team of about six handlers travels with the horses, to make sure they are well cared for.

Many fairgoers looked with amazement as the caretakers prepared the horses for a trot around the fairgrounds, which only takes place every couple years.

The handlers stood on stools to helped them reach each horse’s mane, which was braided with roses and ribbons.

Then they sprayed the horses’ coats with a citrus spray that is used to keep flies away. Finally, it was time to hitch up.

Crowds of people began to swarm as the handlers hoisted shiny, 130 lb. harnesses onto each horse.

The horses were hitched to an antique Budweiser beer wagon, that was driven by two men in green suits. The Dalmatian rode atop the wagon as well.

They made their way around the fair as smiling people watched the majestic creatures pass by.

Mandy Toedman, along with her sisters, stopped to take a selfie with one of the Clydesdales.
“I think this is a cool addition to the fair,” Toedman said.

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