(La Porte County, IN) - She realized her childhood dream of becoming a Budweiser Clydesdale driver. Shelby Zarobinski no longer works for the self-proclaimed “King of Beers,” but she has nearly a dozen of her own Clydesdales the public is welcome to see periodically at her family’s five-acre farm in northern LaPorte County.
Currently, she’s building a house for herself and a barn to keep her Clydesdales on 12 acres across the street from the family farm near County Road 1000 North.
Zarobinski, 31, said she hopes to begin construction in August.
If being a Budweiser Clydesdale driver wasn’t high enough on the ladder, she’s one of nine board members governing the Clydesdale Breeders of the United States.
Her path to becoming a Clydesdale driver began in 2006 when she won a 4-H essay contest. The top prize was a Clydesdale partially paid for by the LaPorte County 4-H Wagon Masters’ program.
Over time, her herd, from breeding and with help from her parents and other family members, grew to the 10 mares and one stud that presently exist.
“It’s an addiction. People are like, well, you can’t have just one,” she said.
Zarobinski said the newborns are kept to perform tasks at the farm while the rest are sold to people looking for Clydesdales to show or keep as a family pet and ride.
“The Clydesdales truly are a gentle giant. Really, really good temperament. Great to work with,” she said.
Once her Clydesdales are relocated to her property, Zarobinski said a neighbor renting the ground to raise corn and other crops will use the giant horses for plowing and other farming related chores, which was common practice in agriculture before the advent of machinery.
“We’re going to start actually using them for how they’re supposed to be used,” she said.
In 2013, Zarbobinski said becoming a Clydesdale driver was on her mind when she received her commercial driver’s license, which is required by Budweiser for the position. She then moved to Canada near Toronto with several friends and worked on a large farm for nearly a year showing Clydesdales, helping the owners with their seed business, and doing various farming-related jobs.
Zarobinski said her move back to the U.S. came after she noticed a job opening Budweiser posted for a Clydesdale driver and her application was accepted. She went to corporate headquarters in St. Louis for a few months before stationed at the beer maker’s West Coast Hitch in Ft. Collins, Colorado.
Soon, she was going to parades, festivals and activities tied to major sporting events like the World Series and Super Bowl to show the famous team of horses in the U.S. and Canada.
“We traveled everywhere west of the Mississippi,” she said.
She even traveled on a barge with the Clydesdales to Catalina Island off the southern California coast for two weeks of shows. Zarobinski said she was in her fifth year as a Clydesdale driver when forced to leave because of all the events seeking Clydesdales being canceled during the worldwide pandemic.
She returned home and became a hazardous materials tanker driver for Airgas USA where Zarobinski is now an operator.
While she was away, Zarobinski said the family farm began having open houses and other occasional events like sleigh rides for people to see and experience the horses. Once she moves across the street, Zarobinski said the openhouses will continue but she might have to reduce the size of her herd someday because of the demands of her new career.
She also wants to give her parents a chance to take a step back and spend more time with their grandchildren.
“I really thank them for the five years I was gone for continuing to breed, take care of the horses and sacrifice their time so I could live out my dream,” she said.