Breeding an Icon — the Budweiser Clydesdale Ranch
About 2 hours west of St. Louis, in the rolling pastures of central Missouri, lies the high-tech Budweiser-owned breeding facility of its iconic Clydesdales. Tours of Warm Springs Ranch are available to the public by reservation only; plan your own visit here.
As with any good tourist attraction, you enter and exit the ranch through the gift shop!
The tour starts with an adorable video highlighting the grand tradition of the Budweiser Clydesdales, then the guides provide a brief history of how the Clydesdales came to be so closely associated with the Budweiser brand. Do you know the history of this association? August Anheuser Busch’s son presented his father with a team of Clydesdales as a “repeal of Prohibition” gift. August senior was a savvy businessman and instantly realized the marketing potential of these majestic horses. He immediately sent the horses east to deliver beer to the New York governor who played a pivotal role in the repeal of Prohibition, then down to DC to deliver beer to President FDR.
From here, the tour gets a tad more medical as it moves into the room where potential mommas undergo ultrasound to make sure they are viable candidates for pregnancy. After getting the green light, the mare is sequestered with a handsome stallion for a day or so, then she undergoes another ultrasound in several weeks to confirm pregnancy. After 11 months’ gestation, close monitoring the final 30 days, and a typically easy birth, the ranch has an adorable new baby!
Each adult eats 50 pounds of hay and drink 30 gallons of water per day. These ravenous appetites means the farm receives a tractor trailer of hay each week from an Idaho farm (is that really cost effective??). Plus, food must be transported to each location for the traveling teams on the road, arriving ahead of the horses themselves at each place they stop to rest and of, course, their final event destination.
Besides those heart-warming Super Bowl ads each year, most of the public familiarity with the Budweiser Clydesdales comes from event appearances. The Clydesdale hitches are commonly seen at fairs, parades, grand openings, even a few presidential inaugurations. Interestingly, our tour guide mentioned it is free to book the horses for an event……but I suspect the waiting list is very long with an obvious hierarchy!
I have a newfound respect for these hitch teams after this tour……whenever you see these teams at an event, think about the fact it took 6 hours to get the horses groomed and hitched up for their public appearance. That means if you see them at 9am, their groomers and handlers were already at work at 3am! And the drivers are almost as impressive as the horses….they constantly hold 40 pounds of lines that weigh upwards of 75 pounds under the tension of the pulling horses…that’s why the drivers work in teams so they can take rest turns.
The grand finale of the tour probably differs depending on whom you ask. Some may say it is a free beer, while others will say it is petting and having your photo taken with a very well-mannered Clydesdale. But, you can do these at the same time!!