Fourth of July: Beer for Your Horses? A Patriotic and Healthy Tradition for Man and Beast

Beer is the official drink of the Fourth of July. You’re supposed to have salmon and fresh peas…or maybe a barbecue, depending on where you live…and lots of cold beer. It’s an American tradition. But what about, as the song says, beer for my horses? Do the Budweiser Clydesdales just pull the wagons or do they ever get to enjoy a cold one back behind the barn?

People have been recommending beer for horses for its health benefits as long as written records have been kept. Most recently, famed Thoroughbred trainer Michael Dickinson brought Guinness to popularity in the 1980s when he detailed how he fed his Breeders Cup runners Guinness Stout and raw organic eggs. Last year, Kentucky Derby contender Musket Man was known to enjoy a pint as well, courtesy of his Irish trainer, Derek Ryan.

This is not just a gimmick, but an actual health supplement, the trainers insist. And it’s hard to argue with success. Dickinson’s Da Hoss won the Breeders Cup Mile twice, and Ryan’s Musket Man is still in training at four; he ran second to Quality Road in a very fast Met Mile at Belmont last month, so don’t laugh at the Guinness!

Dr. Joyce Harman wrote about the benefits of supplementing a horse’s diet with alcohol in an article from the archives of

It’s five o’clock somewhere…and if your pony knows how to get you to the pub and back, you’re all set. But what if your trusty steed wants to come in the pub? And demands his favorite micro-brew this Fourth of July?

Horse and Country TV, a British equestrian-content network I wish we could tune into here, once ran a contest for viewers to send in details of their favorite horse-friendly pubs. That’s right: pubs where horses are welcome, inside or out.

But it was this newspaper article in the Daily Mail that has me thinking that maybe the Brits really do have a different attitude toward horses altogether. In America we have that famous image of the horses tied outside the western saloon, but in Britain, do they just bring them inside? This Dales pony named Peggy bellied up to the bar for years until the owner redecorated and decided that the beer-loving horse had to go. (Note the horse’s tongue extended to the pint being offered to it!)

I think there is a warning for moderation that should go with this; remember the drunken horse in the great western film, Cat Ballou? That was a pretty good horse trainer who orchestrated that performance!

And when it comes to beer, the Brits don’t have a corner on the market. Let’s not forget “Beer for My Horses”. You’ve got to love Willie Nelson as a cop! There actually are some horses at the end of this video. I chose this one not just because beer is the official drink of Fourth of July weekend, but because Toby Keith is here in Boston this weekend and will be singing on the Esplanade of the Charles River tonight in front of about 800,000 people for our city’s spectacular Pops orchestra salute to the Fourth, along with one of the greatest fireworks displays in the nation.

I hope he sings this song!

And finally, the closer goes to horse-friendly Guinness, in what may be the most famous horse commercial in the world, and one that has won more awards and more YouTube views than any other. It’s not very American, but it’s very summer, and it’s such a subtle ad for beer it may leave you wondering what it’s all about. I think that’s the point. I like to call this commercial “Spanish Riding School Stallions on Vacation”. Student filmmakers study this commercial and analyze it to death. I just like to watch it!





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