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UT veterinarian helps care for Budweiser Clydesdales

11:51 AM, May 23, 2013   |    comments
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As the face of one of the most recognizable brands in the world, the Budweiser Clydesdales are a busy group.

They star in Super Bowl commercials, parades, and travel the world to promote Budweiser products. To keep the horses working and healthy at that pace, Anheuser-Busch has recruited an entire team of specialists.

One of them calls Knoxville, Tennessee home.

Dr. Steve Adair is a board-certified veterinary surgeon at the University of Tennessee. For about the past year, his resume has also included "Anheuser-Busch."

"They're gentle giants, they're phenomenal horses to work with," Adair said about his new patients.

"They each have their own little personalities, and I'm still trying to get in tune with each one of them."

Adair serves as a herd health adviser for the Clydesdales, an unbiased consultant that visits periodically to check on the horses and update the herd's administrators on equine issues around the country. The job takes him to St. Louis, Missouri, as well as other hitch locations around the country. On occasion, the horses have come to him in Knoxville.

"Whenever you've got an individual that does the work they do, you've got to make sure they're in good health," he explained.

The University of Tennessee first partnered with Anheuser-Busch in the early 1980s, when the brewing company solicited proposals for herd health consultation. Adair said three men, Dr. Dallas Goble, Dr. Dennis Geiser, and Dr. John Hinton, were a part of the original UT herd health advising team.

Adair took over the role when his long-time mentor, Goble, retired.

"It really is a cool job, I mean, wonderful people to work with."

The Budweiser Clydesdales have a long history with Anheuser-Busch, starting with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. August Busch, Jr. gave his father, August Busch, Sr. a team of Clydesdales to commemorate the occasion. The horses delivered the first case of post-Prohibition Budweiser to the White House.

"They continued to travel by rail back then, traveled around the United States. And they've been traveling, delivering Budweiser ever since," explained Jeff Knapper, general manager of Clydesdale Operations. "They are American icons."

According to Knapper, Budweiser owns 170 Clydesdales around the United States. The horses chosen to join one of Budweiser's hitch teams must meet certain qualifications: a white blaze on their nose, a black mane and tail, the correct bay coloring, and four white feet.

Between breeding, traveling, and caring for the horses, it's a big investment. The herd's very specific diet provides an example of that.

"We look at them and make sure they're not too light, not too heavy, and we make adjustments on each diet individually based on that individuals need," Adair said.

Budweiser partners with a special hay producer to manage diet consistency and health. Each week, the food is shipped directly to wherever the Clydesdales are working.

"It will be the same hay they would have if they were in, say Oklahoma. And if the next week they would travel to Louisiana, it would be the same exact hay from week to week to week," Knapper said. "That's been very beneficial for the health of our horses, and we've seen great results from that."

Adair said he enjoys his time traveling the country to visit the Clydedales, and champions Budweiser for the company's commitment to the herd's health.

Above all, he loves the horses.

"It's phenomenal being able to work with them, I'm very privileged, and honored."

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