Grown Here at Home: How Budweiser Clydesdales crew prepares horses for a show

It takes a lot of work to get the Budweiser Clydesdales ready for a show.
Published: Mar. 11, 2022 at 7:51 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Budweiser Clydesdales are the main attraction for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Roanoke. There’s a lot of work that goes into getting these horses ready for the show.

The Budweiser Clydesdales’ large stature, muscular bodies, pristine looks and gentle nature have made them world-famous. They’re showstoppers. It takes a lot of work to get these horses ready for events. There’s the prep time, hitching time, and unhitching time.

“For the prep time, every horse, once a week, gets a full body bath. They also get full haircuts. Any day that we do a show the horses get fully groomed and we always wash the long white hair on their legs. We need those to be pristine and clean,” said East Coach Hitch Handler Grant Johnson.

While the horses are enjoying their spa day, the harness is getting cleaned up.

“We always clean and shine the brass on the harness every day before we do a show. Usually we have two people in the harness truck cleaning the harness. They usually have about four hours to clean the harness before show time. There’s two individuals right now who are putting in eight man hours to shine the brass on the harness,” Johnson explained.

Now that the horses and harness are good to go. It’s time to hitch the horses. Depending on how many staff members are helping, they can do it in 30 to 45 minutes.

“That’s the horses from the horses getting the full gear on, the manes and tales being braided, getting the harness on, getting connected to the wagon, and running lines. [The lines] are what drives the horses in the directions where we go,” Johnson said.

There’s a specific order in which the horses are hitched. The strongest and biggest horses are in the back. They’re pulling the majority of the 8,000-pound wagon, controlling the speed, and doing a lot of the braking. The front horses are the smallest, and they’re the most agile and high-stepping. Each horse weighs about 2,000 pounds. Clydesdales can pull twice their body weight. It only takes two horses to pull the wagon, but it looks more impressive with eight.

The driver has to have a lot of arm strength. The tension of the horses pulling the wagon makes the lines in the driver’s hands 75 pounds.

“He’s driving every individual horse, so he has to adjust his lines individually -- making sure every single horse is doing what they’re supposed to do on the hitch,” Johnson said.

After the show is over, it takes about 30 minutes for the crew to unhitch the horses. Then lather, rinse, repeat, they’ll do it all again at their next destination.

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