PORT ARTHUR- BY Leslie Rangel
If you were at the Southeast Texas Mardi Gras celebration, chances are you saw the iconic Budweiser Clydesdales leading the parade.
The horses come with an 80 year tradition dating back to 1933 when they were first introduced after prohibition.
Zachary Uding has been a Clydesdale handler for 1 year. He says working with the horses is a joy.
"We travel about 300 to 320 days a year, so we have many stops that we do," Uding tells KFDM News.
He says before the horses can begin traveling, they undergo years of training.
At 4 years old, the horses can finally become a part of the show tradition.
"For the parades, we'll braid the manes and tails and we'll braid the four tops and we'll put flowers in the manes and all the bows on the tails," Uding says.
The braiding happens right before the horses step out. Uding says the process takes about 20 minutes each.
Caring for the horses is a full time job. Each horse weighs about 2,000 lbs. and they eat about 40 lbs of hay a day to keep up that weight.
Uding says they always keep the horses active, ready for the long parade routes, "we exercise them every morning, we feed them and we prepare the stalls for them, so this is my main job, taking care of them."
The horses travel in two 18-wheeler trucks while going across the country.
The wagon and harnesses get their own truck.
"All the brass [cleaning] has to be done every time before a show, the leather has to be black. The humidity can turn the brass so quick, this is what we do before every show," Uding says.
The harness weighs 120 lbs, but Uding says the horses can carry twice their weight.
They say the strong animals are not difficult creatures. "They're really easy to be around they're real soft big gentle giants," Uding tells KFDM.
Gentle giants still carrying on an 80 year-old tradition.