Clydesdales race to Darlington

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Two legendary brands of horsepower will join forces on Mother's Day weekend as the world famous Budweiser Clydesdales, the symbol of quality and tradition for Anheuser-Busch since 1933, temporarily make their home in Darlington as part of Dodge Charger 500 race week activities. The "Gentle Giants," as they are often called, will participate in the official Dodge Charger 500 festivities on Saturday, May 13 by making a pre-race parade lap around the track "Too Tough To Tame." The Clydesdales will be stabled at the track beginning Tuesday, May 9, and the public is welcome to stop by for a visit. Admission is free. The Clydesdales' appearance at Darlington is one of 300 made annually by the five traveling hitches. Canadians of Scottish descent brought the first Clydesdales to America in the mid-1800s. Today the giant draft horses are used primarily for breeding and show. The Dodge Charger 500 weekend includes final practice and qualifying for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series on Friday, May 12, followed by the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 that evening. Matt Kenseth won the event in 2005. On Saturday, May 13, Darlington Raceway will host Cup Series racing for the 57th consecutive year. The Dodge Charger 500 will be run under the lights in its entirety. Greg Biffle is the defending champion. For tickets or more information, call the Raceway ticket hotline toll-free at 866.459.RACE (7223), or visit www.racetickets.com. Clydesdale fun facts Horses chosen for the Budweiser Clydesdale hitch must be geldings at least four years of age, stand approximately 18 hands (six feet) at the shoulder, and weigh an average of 2000 pounds. They must be bay in color with a black mane and tail, have four white stockings and a blaze of white on the face. A gentle temperament is very important, as hitch horses often meet millions of people each year. A single Clydesdale hitch horse will consume as much as 20-25 quarts of feed, 50-60 pounds of hay and 30 gallons of water each day. Each harness and collar weighs 130 pounds. The harness is handcrafted from brass and leather. Pure linen thread is used for the stitching. The harness is made to fit any horse, but the collars come in different sizes and must be individually fitted like a suit of clothes. The Clydesdales' names are kept short to make it easier for the driver to give commands to the horses during performances. Typical names include Mark, Duke, Bud and Captain. Clydesdale horseshoes measure more than 20 inches from end to end and weigh about five pounds - more than twice as long and five times as heavy as the shoe worn by a riding horse. A horse's hoof is made of a nerveless, horn-like substance similar to the human fingernail, so being fitted for shoes affects the animal no more than a manicure affects people. Dalmatians have traveled with the Clydesdale hitches since the 1950s. The Dalmatian breed has long been associated with horses, and is valued for its speed, endurance and dependable nature. Dalmatians were known as coach dogs because they ran between the wheels of coaches or carriages and were companions to the horses. Today, the Dalmatians travel perched on top of the wagon, seated next to the driver.

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