Three times I have been to Orlando, Florida, home of Walt Disney World, and today I am going to write about something I saw in the Sunshine State that I could see on a bike ride from my house when I lived in St. Louis: The Budweiser Clydesdales. I am, of course, writing about SeaWorld.
Yes, the place still exists and is open for business. You might find that hard to believe if you have been following them in the news in recent years, because people have been outraged over the park’s treatment of killer whales, ever since one of the animals killed a trainer during a performance in front of an audience. But the park continues to make changes to protect both human and whale, and, after all, the theme park is not just about the killer whales.
Sometime between my visits as a child and a grown-up, Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch purchased the park, so the beer company moved some of its famous horses there. Because where else would you expect to see them!?
Since Jennifer and I toured the park in 1999, Anheuser-Busch was sold to another company, and while it still owns the Clydesdales, it no longer owns SeaWorld. So I assume the giant quadrupeds, symbols of the end of prohibition in America, are no longer hanging out with dolphins.
My St. Louis home was very near the primary location where the Clydesdales were kept and raised, at Grant’s Farm. On this trip to Florida, I had no idea I would see them there. But see them we did, at a dining spot, where–no surprise–there was beer to drink.
Now I find myself wondering what those animals were thinking. Did they know they were in an amusement park, and one primarily featuring inhabitants of the sea and shores? Did they ever wish that they were outside their stables, looking in, at humans, and wondering what we were thinking?
Maybe they just finished their $40 lunch of two hamburgers and chips, a soda pop, and a Bud, and found themselves wondering why humans would be at SeaWorld. Perhaps their next stop was that orca show; would they find it entertaining? Would they pity the whales and hope that some day those black and white fish would have adequate living space like the humans they had just left?
As they spent their morning seeing the smaller park residents, which was their favorite, the turtles? The sea lions? The rays? Did they enjoy petting the heads of dolphins, gently, with their massive, shod hooves? Did they respect the dolphins’ intelligence after watching them perform? Did they find the arctic life exhibit or the antarctic penguin habitat to be too cold, or did they even notice it was cold at all? Their plans surely would have included a ride on the water flume, Journey to Atlantis. As they experienced the drop, did they excitedly scream in their horse voices?
More shows and exhibits would have occupied their evening, until it was almost time for the park to close. I wonder if they would have enjoyed the largest roller coaster in the park. How big would those cars have to be to accommodate two Clydesdales, side-by-side!? Would they fear they were going to miss the closing fireworks display while they were on the ride? Would they like the finale–do horses even see fireworks in color, or had they been looking at creatures of black and white all day long?
Now, again, I stop wondering about their experience and remember I am a person.
Last Christmas, I bought an ornament for our tree from SeaWorld’s online gift shop. It’s a whale with a wreath around it, and I personalized it myself with the year of our visit. But now I’m thinking I could have purchased a Clydesdale ornament somewhere closer and used it to commemorate our trip, instead. Nobody complains about the Clydesdales. Well, almost nobody.