From the moment you pass through the gates of Warm Springs Ranch, home of the world famous Budweiser Clydesdales, you immediately sense the special history and grandeur of the place. And there is nowhere else in the world where these stately animals are more revered.
For an obscure lineage that started from common plow animals in Scotland near the Clydes River, there couldn’t be a greater story of rags to riches. Now, to be born into the Budweiser Clydesdale family at Warm Springs Ranch, is akin to achieving blue-blood royalty for a horse.
Their place in Budweiser history began in 1933, when the Budweiser Clydesdales were first introduced to the public on April 7, 1933, to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition.
August A. Busch, Jr. presented the hitch as a gift to his father, August Anheuser Busch, Sr., who was guided outside the brewery by the ruse of being told his son had purchased him a new car, but instead was greeted by the horses, pulling a red, white and gold beer wagon they refer to as a “hitch”.
The hitch carried the first case of post-Prohibition beer from the St. Louis brewery in a special journey down Pestalozzi Street in St. Louis. August A. Bush Sr. seized upon an idea which was part promotional and part in gratitude for help received. Busch, Sr. had the team sent by rail to New York City, where it picked up two cases of Budweiser beer at New Jersey’s Newark Airport.
The first case was presented to Al Smith, former governor of New York and an instrumental force in the repeal of Prohibition. The Clydesdales then continued on a tour of New England and the Mid-Atlantic States. The journey concluded with the second case of beer being delivered to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House. President Roosevelt was a Budweiser man, after all!
August Busch apparently fell in love with the horses and even more so the marketing coup of beautiful horse drawn beer wagons! And so the tradition of the Budweiser Clydesdale was born.
The ranch is immaculate and stately, which stands in stark contrast to the usual horse ranch and stables you see elsewhere. It’s white-fenced paddocks are cut from lush wooded areas surrounding the Booneville Missouri countryside. You’re checked in at the front gate and tours are conducted in small manageable groups by reservation only.
There is ample parking in front of the main building entrance, which leads you unabashedly through their huge gift shop. The main building and stables are brightly painted in rich reds and white trim and its easy to see they spare no expense maintaining them along with the grounds.
The tour starts with the latest promo video on the Budweiser Clydesdale history and their rousing theme song: Here Comes the King, with that iconic line: “When you say Bud, you’ve said it all!” And there’s that thumping polka theme music you can’t get out of your head for days!
I have to admit, though, not being a Bud drinker myself, it makes you want to jump up and shout out: “Okay, gimme a Bud!”
The tour is interesting and zig-zags through their various examination rooms, a breeding room and grooming stations, along with information displays on the raising of young Clydesdales.
Not only are the stables kept clean, no horse apples anywhere to be seen, but surprisingly they smell really good too. We also got to meet Radar, one of their young geldings and a contender for one of the coveted Budweiser wagon hitch positions.
Check out those famous Clydesdale legs with the “feathers” covering their hooves.
They certainly earn the title of “gentle giants”. Radar stands approximately 18 hands, or 6 feet high and weighs almost 1800 pounds. He smelled fresh as a daisy too, as he was just washed, trimmed, blow-dried and pedicured.
Later we all got our pictures taken with Radar who patiently bore up to all the strangers touching and stroking him.
Next we’re taken through the birthing stalls, where the mares are kept close with their newborn foals and two we got to view were incredibly cute.
Our tour guide explained that expecting mares are moved to this area within a day or so of their delivery date and managers wear pagers connected to the mares that alert them when birthing has begun – day or nighttime.
Opening major sporting events around the US with a hitched team of Budweiser Clydesdales has become an American tradition. We are told the traveling hitches are on the road at least 10 months every year.
They are based out of St. Louis, Missouri, Merrimack, New Hampshire and Fort Collins, Colorado, traveling in their own branded semi-trailers. All this touring keeps them at a brisk pace of over 300 show presentations a year, making sure they blend in both big city and small town events.
The Clydesdales travel with their own doctors and a small platoon of handlers, drivers, groomers and of course the pick-up team, who follow along behind them and well, pick up things dropped during their shows.
Today, the Budweiser Clydesdales stand for more than just pretty horses pulling a beer wagon. They embody a part of the American spirit and bring a thrill to young and old wherever they tour.
Sure they’re funded by the largest beer company in the world, but they bring great warmth and spirit to everyone and always raise a thunderous cheer the moment they gallop into sight.
Visiting Warm Springs Ranch has been a highlight of our trip thus far and we highly recommend you stop in the next time you pass anywhere near Booneville, MO.
Oh, and did I forget to mention you get two free glasses of Budweiser on tap after the end of the tour? The Original formula and the Signature formula. Both icy cold! Thanks Blake for a great tour!