Meet the people who keep the Budweiser Clydesdales looking their best as they travel across Northeast Mississippi

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – The famous Budweiser Clydesdales are making their way through North East Mississippi for the 2021 holiday season.

The eight-horse hitch team will ride through Starkville Friday and then Columbus on Sunday.

But to make all that happen, there has to be a team behind the team.

“With the Clydesdales, there is a very, very long history of tradition,” says handler Larry Manypenny. “We spend more time with them than we do our own families, so they are our family and we’re going to take care of them like that.”

Manypenny is part of the team of handlers for the Budweiser Clydesdales who travel with them across the country.

“It really is the horses out in the limelight,” he says. “We’re just the behind-the-scenes people getting her done.”

Manypenny has been a Clydesdale handler for more than 30 years and says he and his colleagues all understand the responsibility that comes with caring for these beloved pop culture icons.

“Every day we come to work, we know that we’re working with an animal, of course, that is very, very special,” Manypenny says. “And we also know that there’s a lot of people out there that like to look at these horses, see them in action, and we’re pulling the wagons during parades.”

But there is a lot that goes into making sure these 2,000-pound horses are happy, healthy and at their best.

“We’ll start the day out with their feeding and cleaning of the stalls, move on to cleaning the horses, exercising the horses,” Manypenny says.

On average, each horse eats about 20 to 25 quarts of feed, 40 to 50 pounds of hay and 30 gallons of water every day.

To prepare for parades like the one in Starkville Friday, it takes at least four more hours for five to seven handlers to get the Clydesdales ready for showtime.

“We’ll split it up,” Manypenny says. “Some will work with the horses, some will polish the harnesses.”

The handlers have a special bond with the Clydesdales and the horses aren’t shy about showing them affection.

“They know that what we’re giving them is very positive, so they reciprocate that by being lovable to us as well,” Manypenny says.

Manypenny says every time he sees that eight-horse hitch gallop off with their red beer wagon, he knows it’s all worth the labor of love.

“Once they’re all hitched together, walking down the parade route and I turn around and look, it’s just always exciting,” he says. “And to know that you’re a part of it, you’ve been a part of it, no matter whether it’s the first month you’re on the job or 30 years later, it just does not get old.”

The Clydesdale showcase parade in Starkville starts at 5 p.m. Friday, with the wagon making beer deliveries down Main Street and throughout the Cotton District.

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