SEYMOUR, Tenn. (WATE) — A 90-year-old veteran is hoping to get up close with the Budweiser Clydesdales and their handlers while they’re in town for the week. Howard Oliver used to work with the Clydesdales back in the late 50s and 60s when he worked for Anheuser-Busch.
“I used to work with them all up in New England, 13 states. And we had some great times and we had some sad times,” Oliver said.
He started working with the company shortly after serving overseas on the USS Valcour (AVP-55). Oliver worked his way up at the company, and after a short time, he became essentially a spokesperson for the Clydesdales when they traveled across the East Coast.
“If we were going up to, we’ll say Danbury, CT, we’d have to go up and look at those stalls and make sure they’re right, and make sure the conditions for the horses and the crew were in good shape,” Oliver said.
Oliver traveled with the horses mostly in the 13 states of New England, but he had made his way to East Tennessee a few times with the horses and once without. In 1959, Oliver said he went to Knoxville with the Clydesdales for the Dogwood Arts Festival.
“We had worried about getting up to Gay Street because of the hills, and the horses, they didn’t have Borium on their shoes…But, we slipped-slided away until we got to the Gay Street and we made it to the Dogwood Festival,” Oliver said laughing.
Oliver was also a stunt man of sorts for Budweiser in Gatlinburg once. It was at a ski race for all the ski clubs in the south.
Working with the gentle giants, as he called them, were some of the best times of his life. His favorite part about those days was meeting new people.
“The people. People inquire about the size of the horses, how much the wagon weighs, what a shoe weighs,” Oliver said.
Even at 90 years old, Oliver remembers a good bit of trivia about the horses.
“The lead horses are basically around 15-16 hundred pounds, and the wheel horses, which are basically the pull horses, they weigh anywhere, 22-23-hundred pounds,” Oliver said.
Another interesting fact, Oliver said, is that at least back when he worked for Budweiser, the reins weighed 41 pounds on the wagon in the parades.
“If you take the Thanksgiving Day parade, for example, they go better than two miles, so that driver got that weight in his hands holding them back,” Oliver said.
Oliver said throughout his career with the Clydesdales, he got to do it all, from sitting on the wagon to holding the reins.
He said the crew and horses became part of his family, so much so, they dropped off the horses and trailers at his house one night.
“My son has ridden in the truck with them, I went up on top of the wagon at the Darlington International Raceway, in Darlington, South Carolina, and we’ve had a lot of fun with them,” Oliver said.
He loved the horses so much, he even bought two for his daughter.
Oliver hasn’t seen the Budweiser Clydesdales in years. His dream is to see them again and talk with their handlers, but at 90, that’s not so easy. So, his family reached out to WATE 6 On Your Side, and the news team is working with Budweiser staff to make his wish come true.