Green Laker Reporter Joe Schulz pets one of Larson’s Famous Clydesdales after a guided tour. submitted photo
by Joe Schulz
When I first got the job as the Green Laker reporter, one of the first things I did was a Google search of “things to do in Green Lake.”
The first link I clicked on took me to www.visitgreenlake.com. The site featured a list of things to do, one of which included Larson’s Famous Clydesdales.
At the time I, foolishly, thought to myself, “What could be ‘cool’ about a bunch of horses?” And I continued to scroll down the page.
Months later, I decided to find the answer to that question.
Calvin (Cal) and Judy Larson give tours of their property Mondays through Saturdays at 1 p.m., from mid-May to Mid-October. The gates open at 12:55.
I pulled up to Larson’s about 10 minutes before the gates were set to open, and there were two cars already in line waiting.
At 12:55 on the dot, Judy arrived at the gates telling tourists where to park.
After paying, we walked onto their property. Carnival music was playing in the background and families were petting a group of Clydesdales that had assembled along a fence.
After the last of the tourists came in, Judy arrived to explain that the horses have been trained to come to the fence when the music begins to play.
She then told the story of Larsons’ famous six-horse hitch, which has beat teams from large companies like Budweiser at fairs across the country.
The Larsons have been raising and showing Clydesdales for 37 years; this year they competed at the Wisconsin State Fair with a 4-horse hitch.
The day I went to check out their farm, Aug. 15, was their first day back from going to the Illinois State Fair.
After giving the crowd a bit of background on their operation, Judy and Cal unveiled a room full of newspaper clippings and medals.
Judy Larson shows off a room displaying various awards the Larsons have won and newspaper clippings about them. Joe Schulz photo
Judy explained the couple’s four children grew up around horses and competed in shows over the years as well.
She pointed to a clipping from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, published in the 1990s. The headline read, “Family of Champions.”
“We’re the only family where all four kids retired as national champion cart drivers,” Judy said.
She then directed us to the barn, where she put a harness on one of her lead show horses; Joey. As Judy and Cal got Joey harnessed, Judy told us the about finding Joey and his partner, Force.
The Larsons found Joey in Utah and they immediately knew they needed to find him a partner. They began looking for a partner who could keep up with Joey’s strength and stamina.
They were surprised to find Force in Canada; Judy noted the Larsons knew right away they had made the right decision.
They purchased another Clydesdale from the same farm in Canada, named “Luke.”
“I guess they were big Star Wars fans,” Judy said jokingly.
That’s a small taste of Judy’s humor. She tells the story of the Larson’s ranch in a fun and entertaining way as she guides visitors through.
After getting Joey harnessed, Judy escorted us to the grandstand where we watched Joey and Cal perform a brief show for the crowd.
Judy told a few more stories before letting folks explore the farm.
I went back to the fence from the beginning of the tour and petted a pair of Clydesdales.
Clydesdales are big horses. They can weigh between 1,800 to 2,000 pounds, so petting one was special. I was grinning from ear to ear. Being that close to such an impressive animal is truly amazing.
My mom used to say parenting is a full-time job. Judy and Cal not only raised four children; they also act as parents to their horses.
They have 15 horses, one of which is a baby Clydesdale.
Even with their kids out of the house, 15 lives still depend on the Larsons.
Larson’s Famous Clydesdales more than deserves its spot on the list of things to do in Green Lake.