- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) - The old saying is that “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.”

But in the case of the Clydesdales visiting Hoosier Park this week, the big deal really is the size of the horse.

The horses were on display in the trackside paddock Wednesday night and patrons lined up for a chance to see them up close, to touch them and to have photos taken with them. The line generally stretched the length of the grandstand and down past the east entrance to the casino.

A rough estimate is that at least 800 people went through the line for this rare opportunity. Some waited for nearly an hour before getting their chance. Some Hoosier Park veterans thought it may have been the biggest crowd ever at the Anderson track for a Wednesday evening.

At first, two horses were brought from the barn area to this meet-and-greet, Donnie and Jack. When the line showed no sign of abating after an hour of their two-hour schedule, two more horses joined them, Sparky and Fire.

This exposure isn’t out of the ordinary for these animals. “They normally do this for about an hour,” said Manny Rayber, one of the handlers and a driver for the Budweiser Clydesdales. “They will be all right for longer periods. But they might be a bit grumpy at the end.”

They showed no sign of grumpiness during the session. The patrons were mostly guided to the same side of the horses to have their photos taken while a handler was on the other side with a good grip on the horse.

“We do that for the safety of the people,” said Kat Metzger, a handler for the horses. “We don’t want them to get stepped on.”

The size of the horses (they can stand taller than 6 feet and weigh more than 2,200 pounds) makes it seem that handling them could be a chore.

“They are a draught horse and generally they have a real quiet disposition,” said Rayber, who has been with the Clydesdales for 20 years. “Luckily for us they don’t realize how big they really are.”

“They usually just go about their business,” said Metzger. “They are like other horses in that they get spooked. Our main worry is that they might run. But they look to us as leaders. They want us to convince them that shadow they just saw isn’t going to eat them.”

The horses aren’t usually introduced to a life on the road until they are about 4 years old. It takes a couple of months and they adjust.

They were brought to Hoosier Park from St. Louis in semi-trucks converted into horse trailers.

The Clydesdales will be back on display at Hoosier Park on Friday at 5 p.m.

“We will bring all eight horses out and hitch them to the wagon,” said Metzger. “They will put on an exhibition. They will do some figure-8s. Then people can get their photos taken with the horses and the wagon. But as far as getting to pet them, that was just for (Wednesday). They won’t get to do that Friday.”

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Source: The (Anderson) Herald-Bulletin, http://bit.ly/1f8ngr5

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Information from: The Herald Bulletin, http://www.theheraldbulletin.com

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