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How It’s Done: Behind-the-Scenes Facts About the Budweiser Clydesdales Featured in this Year’s Super Bowl Commercial

Bill, Percy and Friends Trained in Wyoming for Two Months

ST. LOUIS (Feb. 6, 2012) – Yesterday the Budweiser Clydesdales were featured in a Super Bowl ad, recreating a moment in 1933 following the repeal of Prohibition as a town celebrates its first beer delivery. The spot marked the 22nd time the iconic horses have appeared in a Super Bowl advertisement.

Jeff Knapper, general manager of Budweiser Clydesdale operations for Anheuser-Busch, said the Clydesdales first appeared in a Super Bowl advertisement in 1986. He shared a few facts about the equine stars.

Q: Where was the commercial filmed? And why was it about Prohibition?

Knapper: We filmed late last year at the Universal Studios complex in LA for a few days and also filmed at an off-site location outside of LA, New Hall Ranch in Pico Canyon, Calif.

In 1933, after beer became legal again, the Clydesdales delivered the first case of Budweiser to the White House and to officials who were part of seeing the law changed. The original horses were a gift from August Busch Jr. to his father, and since then they’ve been a symbol of Budweiser’s heritage. The symbol has become synonymous with Budweiser — the quality that goes into the beer, as well as the time, energy and passion we put into taking care of the horses.

Q: Tell us about the horses in this year’s commercial.

Knapper: The rearing horses were 9-year-old Bill and 4-year-old Percy, who earned their starring roles during training. The other six horses in the final shot were 10-year-old Dick, 9-year-old Carter, 8-year-old Fez, 11-year-old Jake, 9-year-old Magee and 12-year-old Mike. They’re beautiful animals, aren’t they?

Q: They’re big, too. How big?

Knapper: The combined weight of the horses is 16,000 pounds. That’s 8 tons. As you can imagine they also have big appetites and can consume as much as 25 quarts of whole grains, 60 pounds of hay and 30 gallons of water per day.

Q: Human actors rehearse performances. Do the Clydesdales have to rehearse for these ads?

Knapper: Yes. We had eight horses in Wyoming for two months of training for the rearing and final shots. The other 10 are the West Coast travel team, which is based in Ft. Collins, and spent two weeks prior to the shoot on-site. So we utilized all 18 horses for different parts of the commercial. Since there were so many shots we rotated all the horses in and out.

Q: We’ve heard rumors that actors can sometimes be difficult to work with. How are the Clydesdales on a set are they easy to work with?

Knapper: Clydesdales are pretty gentle by nature, which is helpful considering how big they are. We have more than 40 of the world’s best Clydesdale mares in our breeding herd at Warm Springs Ranch in Boonville, Mo. We are very focused on having the best quality and colored geldings that we can for the hitches and with the right temperament.  Their training starts at a very young age. Once they hit 3-years-old, they have the manners they need!

Q: Is the beer wagon in the ad original or a reproduction?

Knapper: You bet it’s an original. In fact we used two wagons — one for the beer delivery shots and another for the running shots. They were built in the early 1900s, weigh 7,000 lbs and can carry approximately 375 cases of Budweiser. The first case of legal beer was delivered to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 on a wagon exactly like this.

Q: Are those actors driving the hitch in the commercial?

Knapper: No, they’re part of the Clydesdale team. It takes a lot of skill and training to drive the hitch. The lead driver featured in the commercial was Doug Bousselot, a 24-year Budweiseremployee, and Roman Raber, a 12-year veteran.

Q. That Dalmatian riding on the beer wagon is cute. Details, please.

Knapper: That’s 6-year-old Brady. We filmed several scenes without him on the wagon for the angles in which you wouldn’t see him. He was not happy about the hitch driving around without him on the wagon! He was a big fan of the production crew for the shoot. The Dalmatian, by the way, has been a faithful companion to the Budweiser Clydesdales since 1950, when it first appeared with the hitch at the groundbreaking of the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Newark.

Q. Why a Dalmatian?

Knapper: Dalmatians were bred and trained to protect the horses and guard the wagon when the driver went inside to make deliveries.  The spotted dogs were swift enough to keep up with the wagons, and their light-colored bodies made them easier to see during twilight.

Q: If someone wanted to see the Clydesdales in person, how would they do so?

Knapper: Their appearance schedule is posted on Budweiser.com. You can also see them on visits to our brewery tour centers in Merrimack, New Hampshire and St. Louis.  In Fort Collins, Colorado, the Anheuser-Busch Brewery is the home base of the West Coast traveling team and the horses are available for visitors when they are not on the road. We also have tours available by appointment at Warm Springs Ranch in Booneville, Mo. from April through October.

Q: Any other fun facts about the commercial?

Knapper: We had 18 horses, 6 semis, 10 handlers and 2 trainers on site for the shoot. We spent two months planning, training, and prepping for the shoot. It took weeks after the filming to get all the horses, equipment and handlers back to their home locations. The week of the filming the crew started at 3 a.m. each morning to meet the directors call time.  But it was a lot of fun and we’re really proud of this year’s commercial and being able to showcase these majestic horses.

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(Editor’s note: Click here for more information about the Budweiser Clydesdales.)

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