The Sons of Utah Pioneers welcomed guest speaker David Pike to Morgan this week. Pike also brought along his wife Debbie.
Pike was born in Petersburg Illinois. When he was 11, his father took a job working at the Budweiser Grant Farm owned by the Busch family. At age 21, he went to work for one of the Budweiser Clydesdale teams. He also worked with the Clydesdale hitches in New Hampshire, St. Louis and also at Sea World in California and in Florida.
In February 2001, Pike was in Park City with the 2001 Winter Olympics when he reconnected with his old sweetheart, Debbie. They were married later that year. He continued traveling with the Clydesdales until 2006 when he retired. They now love Morgan and call it their home.
Clydesdales were originally from Scotland, but came to the U.S. in the 1800s. In 1933, Budweiser started delivering beer in the U.S. after prohibition was over. Budweiser had six hitches or teams traveling the U.S. which they used for advertising purposes.
Pike would travel over 35,000 miles each year taking three semis to haul all of their gear, plus the horses. They would travel about 11 months out of the year, therefore they had to take everything they needed with them for at least six months at a time. He indicated that they would not go to the same location two years in a row because the people could tire of them if they repeated locations too often.
The teams were never in their harnesses for more than four hours at a time. They would never show them when it was rainy due to the leather harnesses. To get the horses ready, it would take about five hours to braid their manes, etc. Their wagons were meat wagons and weighed an average of three and a half tons each. One interesting bit of information was that they would put the largest horses nearest the wagon so that they could control the entire team, but the front horses were the show horses. Only two horses were actually needed to pull the wagon, the rest were just for show. Wherever they traveled, they always took two extra horses with them so they could rotate some of the horses every day and have a back-up in case anything happened. Each horse was about 18 hands high.
Answers to some questions from the group were addressed. Answers included: Each Clydesdale cost Budweiser about $1.3 million to purchase, train and maintain. No expenses were spared on the horses. Pike loved doing the commercials, especially the football commercials. It took about four weeks to get the horses trained and ready for the commercials. One horse was actually trained to kick the football. Horses started their training at age 2 and put into the hitch at age 6. The local Budweiser distributors would request the team. When all requests were in, the schedule would be made up. Shoes cost $24 per pair and were changed every three months. The life span of a Clydesdale is about 20 years.
He finished saying that some days the horses were very easy to drive, and on others, they were difficult to even drive in a straight line.