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Express Clydesdales pulling into town

Photo courtesy of Express Employment Professionals1 / 3
Two of the Express Clydesdales and the stagecoach that will be in Red Wing provided a ride to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the 2011 Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada. Photo courtesy of Express Employment Professionals2 / 3
On average, Clydesdales weigh 2,000 pounds and stand 18 hands tall. Photo by Robert Neumann3 / 3

A team of Clydesdale horses will be on show Wednesday, June 21, outside the Express Employment Professionals office at 910 Main St. Josh Minshull, team manager for the Express Clydesdales, said the hitch of large draft horses is a sight to be seen.

"People are commonly in awe seeing the sheer mass of these animals," he said.

The distinguishing black-and-white coloring of the Express Clydesdales is rare, Minshull said.

"Only about 10 percent of the breed is black and white," Minshull said. "The black gene is recessive."

Minshull said the bay, or brown, colored Clydesdales rose to popularity because of the Anheuser-Busch hitches.

"There are just not a lot of people raising black-and-white Clydesdales," he said. "That's why Bob Funk was so intrigued by them."

Funk, the co-founder and CEO of Express, first saw the distinctive Clydesdale coat in 1997 and then built a ranch for the horses in Yukon, Okla., just east of Express headquarters in Oklahoma City. Minshull said the Express Clydesdales serve as marketing ambassadors for the company.

"We've been out on the road for almost 20 years with the horses," he said. "We started off mainly competing in draft horse competitive circuits, but then grew to parades and appearances."

Gentle giants

On average, Minshull said Clydesdales weigh 2,000 pounds and stand 18 hands tall, making them about 6 1/2 feet at the top of the shoulder or withers.

He said the horses have quite an appetite.

"Sometimes it feels like that's all we're doing is feeding them," Minshull said with a laugh.

The Express Clydesdales eat 10 to 12 pounds of grain and 30 to 40 pounds of hay per day, along with drinking 10 to 20 gallons of water.

"The horses can be intimidating because of their size, but Clydesdales in particular as a breed are docile and very friendly," Minshull said. "We consider them the gentle giants. They surely enjoy the public and the attention. Their personalities really suit what we do with them."

Between competitions and parades, the horses make approximately 50 office visits a year. Throughout the United States and Canada, Express Employment Professionals has more than 750 offices.

"For us to get the horses here, it's a great honor," Red Wing Express manager Christy Rikli said.

The Clydesdales will be present in front of the Express office 3-6 p.m.

Rikli said stagecoach rides and pictures with the Clydesdales will be available, weather permitting, with a freewill donation to Children's Miracle Network. Games and activities will be available for children, and some Clydesdale souvenirs will be available for purchase.

"This is a great community event for all ages," Rikli said. "You will be able to meet the animals and interact with them and their handlers."