What happens when childhood dreams dont come true? For some, like Amy Trout, the alternate path turns out to be even better.
Trout, who wanted to be a vet as a kid growing up on a farm out East, now cant imagine a better job than what she has -- supervisor of the Grants Farm Clydesdale Hamlet.
The Clydesdale Hamlet, where about 50 Budweiser Clydesdales currently live, is part prep school, part retirement home, she explained. And for Trout, its a labor of love.
The resident Clydesdales, an Anheuser-Busch trademark, include a mixture of young horses that may have a future role on one of the companys famous eight-horse hitches along with older horses that have completed their years at the hitch and now are afforded a well-deserved rest.
We have everything from weanlings about six months old to 15 to 18 year old retirees, she said. They may not be my personal horses, but I treat them all like they are.
Perhaps the most popular of the farms Clydesdales at the moment is also one of its youngest residents - eight-month old weanling Stan The Man, named in a Twitter contest last winter after the famed late Cardinal Hall of Famer Stan Musial.
The colt Stan, who came to live at the Clydesdale Hamlet a couple of months ago, is on the fast track to the hitch, according to Trout.
She sees this in his sociable but laid-back demeanor, perfect markings, impressive size (already taller than many full-grown quarter horses), impeccable lineage and positive reaction to initial training - along with sentiment attached to The Man Stan for whom hes named.
Since I came to St. Louis, Ive learned that two things people here really care about are the St. Louis Cardinals and the Budweiser Clydesdales. Stan The Man brings the two of them together in a unique and special way. Trout said all the young Clydesdales are so full of energy and fun to watch. She enjoys sorting out whos who with the young horses.
However, she admits having a real soft spot in my heart for the old guys, the retirees who are coming back here after years on the road.
Clydesdales typically serve about 10 years on the hitch, from around age five to about 15, and live into their 20s.
A career with Clydesdales
Trout nixed her vet plans in college after realizing she wanted to work mostly with healthy animals, not sick ones. But translating that to a job was more difficult.
A couple of years after earning a bachelors degree in animal science, she jumped at an opportunity to work with the Budweiser Clydesdales and I havent looked back.
Trout spent eight years on the road with Clydesdale hitches before moving to her Grants Farm position three years ago.
Now, when she sees young horses leaving for jobs at the hitch, its like sending your children out to (do what they were meant to do). Its a reward for all the hard work.
A lot of elbow grease
Trouts job does entail a lot of hard work. With the help of just three assistants, she feeds and grooms all the Clydesdales, as well as attending to other needs, trains the younger horses -even accompanies any going outside the compound. In addition, she is responsible for the upkeep of stables, grounds and equipment, and, of course, conducts all of this business in the public eye.
The young horses benefit from the constant public contact, she said.
Living here, they get used to crowd noise, kids with balloons, all kinds of things that can scare horses. The more we can expose them to here, the more they will be comfortable with when they get out on the road.
The highest standards of care
Clydesdales, draft horses that originated in Scotland, are known for their size -- over six feet tall at the shoulder and around 2,000 pounds, easily twice the size of a quarter horse, and their natural pride and grace.
Associated with Anheuser-Busch since the early 1930s, the Budweiser Clydesdales are also known for their exceptional level of care. They are always immaculately groomed and have the best in everything, from nutrition to medical care.
Theyre the envy of the equine world, she stressed. The quality of care is second to none; Im very proud to be a part of that.