by Budweiser Clydesdale Blog Staff | Jan 07, 2014
After arriving in style in the Budweiser semi-trucks and unloading the wagon, the next step is to harness the Clydesdales for their show. Harnessing on average takes about half an hour. The process requires fastening a harness on all eight horses and then hitching them to the wagon. Each handler will help with a specific part of the procedure, which changes with each show. After the horses exit the semi-trailers via ramps, a handler takes them to the grooming station where they are brushed off, have their mane and leg feathering combed out a final time, and are adorned with a decorative bow that is affixed to their tail bun.
Once they are looking their best, the Clydesdales are taken over to the harnessing area where a collar, bridle, back pad, and several other pieces of harness are placed on each horse depending on their position in the hitch. It is of crucial importance that the horses are placed in their appropriate position within the hitch. This will ensure that the horses and their handlers remain safe at all times. Since each horse team possesses different capacities and abilities, the order in which they are situated must be followed with exact precision prior to the start of any travel or show. For harnessing, the wheel team gets a britchen, while the other 3 pairs get spiders over their backs and rumps. The lead team gets to wear shiny brass martingales since they are in the front, adding a little extra style.
Typically, a set of harness for one Budweiser Clydesdale costs around 12,000 dollars and weighs about 130lbs. Sumo is being harnessed in the pictures. He will be in the lead team when hitched to the wagon. The horses are harnessed from the wheel team, which is closest to the wagon, to the body team, then the swing team, and finally the lead team. Each team has 2 lines that run to their bridle. Both horses in a team share a line that connects both their right and their left sides so that when the driver needs the horses to turn right he can take in the line in his right hand and release a little line in the left hand. With this guidance, the driver can let the horses know which path they are to follow. The driver can also relay stopping and starting with the lines along with voice commands. Harnessing 8 horses can seem like a lot of work, but when you have a great team it runs just as smooth as the Budweiser bottling lines!