They’re the most famous horses in America. The Budweiser Clydesdales symbolize the end of prohibition and The King of Beers. Most of us will only experience their majesty on television, maybe a quick glimpse during the Tournament of Roses Parade or in a Super Bowl commercial.
But in the heart of Missouri, there’s a place where you’ll not only see these beauties, but interact with them! It’s called Warm Springs Ranch. Located near Boonville, Missouri, nearly equidistant from Kansas City and St. Louis, this is where the Budweiser Clydesdales are born and raised to become part of the world-famous hitch, and that alone should be reason enough to get you to visit. Still not convinced? Here are a few more.
1. Stunning Location
Rolling green hills, large Budweiser-red barns, and a gated drive are the first sights you’ll see as you approach Warm Springs Ranch. The winding fence-lined drive takes you past the beautiful pastures where the Clydesdales graze. The ranch encompasses 340 acres, which means you may only see a few horses when you first drive in while many others could be tucked behind the hills.
Along the drive, you’ll see three giant metal letters, WSR, brought here when the Budweiser sign atop Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis was replaced. As you pull up to the barns, you realize this is a special place. The entrance is perfectly landscaped and the Clydesdales’ caretakers are there to welcome you.
2. Majestic Horses
Meeting your favorite television star can sometimes disappoint, but not here. Somewhere between 80 and 100 Clydesdales of all ages call Warm Springs Ranch home. Stallions Theo and Rock On are usually the first to greet visitors just to the right of the barns. They are the perfect examples of what makes a Clydesdale a Budweiser Clydesdale: bay color, black manes and tails, four white stocking feet, and white blazes down their faces. They’re at least six feet tall and weigh about 2,000 pounds.
The horses on the farm are a bit more natural-looking than those you’ll see in parades. They can be found enjoying themselves sans their 135-pound harnesses and the red and white ribbons braided through their manes. Most are also missing their shoes (even though there are six different sizes to choose from at the ranch).
3. Getting To See The Beautiful Foals
A highlight for any visitor is meeting the newly born foals and their mothers. A simple stroll through the pens in the barn is worth the drive and admission alone. Nowhere else can you experience this. The foals may look small next to the mares, but with a birth weight of around 150 pounds and a height measuring three feet, they come into this world living up to their grand reputations.
The foals are born starting in March and they keep their caretakers busy through mid-June, but there are always a few late-season babies for visitors to see if you choose to head to Warm Springs Ranch closer to fall. If you’ve ever wondered how a Clydesdale is named, the staff tells us it’s tradition to use the first letter of the mare’s first name when deciding what to call the newborn.
4. The Staff Is Truly Dedicated
Even with 340 acres and 80 to 100 Clydesdales to care for, the staff is relatively small. Six tour guides and seven handlers make up the group of dedicated workers at Warm Springs Ranch. Their phones ring when each foal is born and from that moment on, the workers treat them like royalty. Feeding, bathing, and cleaning everything from their harnesses to their stalls, these dedicated employees know the ins and outs of superior Clydesdale care. Warm Springs Ranch will make you question your housekeeping skills. The facility is cleaner than most people’s homes.
The crew doesn’t simply let the horses out to pasture to graze for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They make sure they have the best hay from Idaho and work with Purina to procure the perfect grain. Food and drink for the Clydesdales also involves at least 30 gallons of water per horse per day. The crew helps keep the pastures neatly trimmed and bales the grass that grows there, sending it to St. Louis to feed the goats and other animals at their sister property, Grant’s Farm.
5. You Can Have A VIP Experience
You have two options when you visit Warm Springs Ranch, a Guided Walking Tour and a VIP Tour. Both require a reservation. The TravelAwaits team recently experienced the VIP Tour and our team was in love from the moment we stepped onto our private wagon.
The VIP Tour costs $500 for up to 16 people and takes you through the pastures to experience the horses up close. We just didn’t know how close. These beautiful animals walked right up to the wagon, some sticking their heads inside for a very personal meeting. No petting zoo has prepared you for this experience. These horses are so savvy, a few even found a purse or two to root through. Note that VIP guests travel through the pastures in a wagon pulled by a John Deere tractor, so the ride can be a bit bumpy if you have any neck or back issues.
The entire trip lasts 90 minutes and completely immerses you in the history of the breed, the ranch, how the horses are trained, and what it’s like for them on the road. You’ll have a newfound respect for the handlers who travel with the hitch across the country. It takes more than five hours to get the hitch ready for the scores of appearances they make each year and when the Clydesdales are ready to delight their fans, their drivers have to manage 70 pounds of pressure at their fingertips. This is just one good reason two drivers sit atop the beer wagon at all times.
Tours take place from early spring through mid-fall and are available every day except Wednesdays.
Bonus: Free Beer
After you’ve roamed the pastures and strolled through the barns, it’s difficult to think of a better ending than a nice cold one. The beer is complimentary at the end of each tour and simply tastes better when you’re enjoying it just feet from where the iconic horses, which symbolize it, live. While enjoying your samples, you’ll have one last chance to interact with one of these beautiful animals, petting and taking photos with a fully grown Clydesdale in front of the traditional beer wagon to capture one last memory.
Ready to book your tour? Here’s our detailed account of how to visit Warm Springs Ranch.