Finding the perfect Clydesdale to lead the Bristol 4th of July parade

The eight gentle giants of the Bristol Fourth of July Parade are getting ready to march down Hope Street, but it takes a special horse to lead the crew.

The Clydesdales measure to be more than six feet tall at the shoulders and could weigh up to 2,500 lbs. This year, one of the two horses leading the pack is a gelding named Supreme.

Supreme will be handled forty feet back by Ned Niemiec, a horseman for Hallamore Clydesdales in Lakeville. Niemiec said because he’ll be so far away from the lead horses, it comes down to a horse he can trust to make any last minute maneuvers.

It all begins at a young age, and Niemiec has the experience to see which horse will make a good lead.

“A Sharp intelligent horse that’s bold, but not too crazy,” he said. “You start training and handling and see how they react to things, if they’re lazy or if they tend to be skittish around things.”

This year will be Supreme’s 5th parade and Niemiec’s 29th. He said attitude isn’t everything when it comes to choosing the lucky two horses.

Horsemen like Niemiec like to also see beautiful fur near the hooves, a strong gait, and a bold stature. He said if a horse has good looks it can put them out front.

It’s all because those two horses will be the first ones people see marching down the street.

“All the horses are handsome but some have a better look to them than others,” he said. “They’re a little fancier and they pick their feet up a little higher.”

But it’s not to say it all falls on Supreme. Niemiec likes to think of him as the quarterback of a football team, with the horses in the back acting as linemen.

If you’re talking football and some [players] are the quarterback and some are the running back, or the tight end, or whatever the position,” he said. “It takes a team to make the team.”

When it comes to choosing your horses, it’s all about drafting the right players and choosing the two horses you want as captains.

“It’s not exactly brain surgery or rocket science,” Niemiec said. “It’s a whole lot harder than that.”

Supreme will be leading the pack with another horse named Emperor.

The day before the parade each horse will receive a bath to get them looking pristine. Each horse’s bath takes about 40 minutes with a two to three person crew.