Life as a Budweiser Clydesdale is pretty darn sweet. The magnificent horses, who are in Houston this week for appearances at the Astros season opener on Tuesday and a Dynamo game on Saturday, have become a beloved symbol of the Anheuser-Busch brand.
Photographer Michelle Watson captured a glimpse of their good life after they arrived in Houston and prepared to meet the public.
The Clydesdales are so important to the company's image that it has three traveling teams, based in St. Louis, New Hampshire and Colorado, that are on the road up to 330 days a year. The team, which includes 10 horses and one Dalmatian along with the traveling human staff, drove from from Fort Collins, Col., for the Houston events. Overall there are about 180 Clydesdales with 40 mares in foal this year.
The hitch team spends about five hours on each Clydesdale before a show, prepping and pampering the horses so they will look their best.
The horses, along with the famous red, white and gold beer wagon and other essential equipment, are transported in three 50-foot tractor-trailers. Seven expert handlers normally travel with the hitch, and each hitch team is on the road at least 10 months every year, with jobs ranging from driving to grooming the Clydesdales.
Along with the 10 Clydesdales is Chip, a cute two-year old Dalmation pup. Dalmatians have traveled with the Clydesdale hitch since the 1950s, as their breed has been associated with horses and valued for their speed, endurance and dependable nature. Chip is often perched atop the wagon, proudly seated next to Doug, the driver.
The horses are outfitted in only the best leather harnesses. A full set of harnesses costs more than $100,000. Each set weighs 110-140 pounds.
The Anheuser-Busch seal is embossed on the Martingale brass piece of the harness.
To make the cut for one of the traveling hitches, a Budweiser Clydesdale must be a gelding at least four years of age, stand 72 inches at the shoulder when fully mature, weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds, have a bay coat, four white legs, a white blaze and a black mane and tail. Each horse undergoes a year of training to make the team.
A human hand pales in comparison to the size of a Clydesdale's hoof. The horseshoe weighs 5 pounds and starts with a 22-inch piece of steel.
One important member of the Clydesdale team who made the trek to Houston is Fez (pictured here), who is 10 years old and weighs about 2,200 pounds.
After frolicking in the grass, Chip takes a well-deserved break.
To feed the Clydesdales, the team goes through a ton-and-a-half of hay a week and 60 pounds of grain a day.
While in Houston, the Clydesdales' accommodations are pretty darn plush.
Before the Astros season opener, the Clydesdales along with their hitch team will deliver the ceremonial first pitch to Texas baseball legend Nolan Ryan. The Clydesdale team will be at the intersection of Avenidas de las Americas and Texas Avenue beginning at 4 p.m. Tuesday for fans to make an up-close and personal visit.
On Friday from 7-9 p.m., the Clydesdale wagon will deliver beer to a number of Midtown bars.
On Saturday, the Clydesdales will be at Compass Stadium of the Dynamo game from 4-7 p.m.