Courtesy of Anheuser-Busch and Warm Springs Ranch

Budweiser Clydesdales outside Warm Springs Ranch

Budweiser Clydesdales outside Warm Springs Ranch

You’ve seen them pulling the beer wagon around the field at Busch Stadium on Opening Day and you’ve seen their home at Grant’s Farm, but have you ever seen a Budweiser Clydesdale when it’s still a (relatively) tiny baby? Make it a priority this year. If you’re looking for a fun spring break activity, consider a day trip to Warm Springs Ranch (25270 Highway 98, Boonville), the official breeding and training facility of the Budweiser Clydesdales, just outside of Columbia. There, on the picturesque property, you’ll get to peep the babies, and you’ll get to experience the big guys like you never have before—frolicking in the ranch’s pastures, a thrill for children and adults alike. Kids will also love learning about the care and feeding of the horses and the photo op, and parents can enjoy a complimentary beer. Witnessing the commitment it takes—Warm Springs Ranch employees must be on hand day or night to deliver new foals—to continue the legacy of the Budweiser Clydesdales will leave you with a new appreciation for the animals and their handlers.

Guided tours of Warm Springs Ranch start back up March 25, just in time for spring break. Make sure to book a reservation in advance online. 

Courtesy of Anheuser-Busch and Warm Springs Ranch

The barn at Warm Springs Ranch

The barn at Warm Springs Ranch

What’s the connection between Anheuser-Busch and the Clydesdale? 

Clydesdales are a breed of draft horse (meaning they can pull heavy loads) that originated in Scotland near the River Clyde, hence the name. Clydesdales are measured in “hands,” and each horse measures an average of 17–18 hands—or about 6 feet—tall and weighs about 2,000 pounds. Clydesdales eat a whopping 20 quarts of grain and 50 pounds of hay and drink 35 gallons of water daily.

The Clydesdales became a symbol of Budweiser in 1933, when August A. Busch, Jr. and Adolphus Busch III gave their father, August A. Busch, Sr., six of the horses to celebrate the end of Prohibition. The St. Louis beer family sent a second group of Clydesdales to New York to mark the occasion, and the large horses drew such a crowd as they made their way to the Empire State Building that the Busches realized the marketing power of the equines. Soon they began sending hitches to other states.

Budweiser Clydesdale prospects have to complete years of training to be eligible to join the prestigious traveling teams, called hitches. Only male horses that meet certain criteria—their blaze, coat, tail, mane, and stocking colors have to be just right—can join a hitch.

In 1950, the Dalmatian was introduced as the Clydesdales’ mascot, to mark the opening of the Anheuser-Busch Newark Brewery. The horses first appeared in the Super Bowl in 1975 and have been staples of sometimes-tear-jerking Budweiser commercials aired during the games. 

What is Warm Springs Ranch and what is a tour like? 

Located in Boonville, about a two-hour drive from St. Louis, Warm Springs Ranch is a 300-acre ranch and the official breeding and training facility for the Budweiser Clydesdales. More than 70 Clydesdales live on the property, and each spring, the farm welcomes new foals to the herd. 

There are three different tours at Warm Springs Ranch: the Guided Walking Tour, the Clydesdale VIP Tour, and the Wheels & Reins Excursion. The Guided Walking Tour starts at $15 per person, and your time at Warm Springs starts with a complimentary beer and a photo op with one of the Clydesdales. From there, you’ll see the mare/stallion barn, the foaling barn, the vet lab, the shoeing area, the antique beer wagon, the massive trailer the horses use to travel the country in style, and one of the pastures where the Clydesdales spend time in the sunshine. The highlight is definitely seeing the new baby horses with their mothers. You might even catch one or two nursing or napping. Note that this tour largely takes place under shelter. If you choose to go later in the summer, it’s a nice shield from the sun, and fans keep the barns pretty cool, too.

From there, the cost of tours ramps up considerably, but if you’re a Clydesdale nut, you might want to drop $500 for the VIP Tour for you and up to 15 of your friends. You’ll ride around on a trailer to tour the pastures, interacting with the Clydesdales along the way. The tour also includes a look at the foaling barn, a meet-and-greet with a Clydesdale handler, and a visit with a baby Clydesdale. 

Equine fanatics can spend $1,000 on the Wheels & Reins Excursion, during which you’ll help groom and harness the horses and hitch them to a training vehicle. You’ll then ride through part of the ranch and then guide the horses back to the barn. 

Four Clydesdale foals

Four brand-new Clydesdale foals

When is the best time to visit? 

In early February, Warm Springs Ranch announced that four colts (male horses) had been born, so we recommend going early in the spring while the babies are still, well, babies. When we visited in late June, however, they were still adorable and considerably smaller than the adults. At birth, baby Clydesdales weigh an average of 150 pounds, measure about 3 feet tall, and start walking just hours after being born.