Heart of Louisiana: Honey Island Clydesdales

Updated: May. 12, 2020 at 9:45 PM CDT
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PEARL RIVER, La. (WVUE) - When it comes to raising horses, a Pearl River man likes his horses to be big, really big.

His Clydesdales may be the only team of its kind in the south.

When you think of Clydesdales, you likely associate them with a major beer company. But these Clydesdales live on the edge of the Honey Island Swamp at Pearl River. They belong to Clay Harper.

“I rode my first horse in a Mardi Gras parade when I was 10-years-old. And I’ve always liked horses,” says Harper.

Some of the Clydesdales are rescue horses. Harper began acquiring them eight years ago and he’s been parading them ever since.

“They’re more of a cooler climate horse, so we do not work our horses during the Summer. Their job here is to stay cool. So we work out horses from Christmas to Mardi Gras. And we’re the only operating Clydesdale hitch team in the entire southern United States that I know of,” says Harper.

It takes a full time staff to groom and feed the horses everyday. They get special attention on their feathers, the Clydesdale’s trademark long white hair that drapes over the hoofs.

“Imagine dragging your hair through a stall or through the mud. So we condition them and groom them and keep them up and as well as the rest of the horse,” says Harper.

These animals are huge. Harper says they weigh over 2000 pounds a piece. How much do these animals eat in a day?

“Each horse is fed approximately four gallons of pristine feed and each horse consumes approximately one bale of hay a day,” says Harper.

Harper likes big horses and he has a big wagon that barely fits in his modified car carrier.

“The wagon is 10 feet, three inches tall. It’s wider, longer and taller that any wagon that we know of in the continental United States.”

Only a week before the governor ordered a shutdown on any large gatherings, the Honey Island Clydesdales were in their final parade of the season, a St. Patrick’s Parade in Slidell.

“You have a great horse and you don’t have to really worry about them being in a crowd of millions of people. You want a horse that’s gonna stand there and look at the kid or look at the drunk and not move.”

In fact, Harper and his team of handlers make sure that children have a chance to touch one of the giant horses during stops in the parade.

“And to see the smile on that kid’s face, it’s worth it for me right there. They will always remember that.”

It’s clear that Harper enjoys the attention as he tower above his four horse team.

“It’s amazing you know, to have that much horsepower in your hands and to have such a beautiful animal. Just lover to show them off.”

And it’s an amazing sight for those who get an up close look at these impressive southern Clydesdales.

In addition to parading during the cooler months, the Honey Island Clydesdales are occasionally used for weddings and funerals.

For more information, visit the Honey Island Clydesdale’s Facebook page.

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