Boonville, Mo., May 17 — Nestled in the gently rolling hills of the fertile Missouri farmlands, near the Missouri River bottoms, lies a 300-acre ranch dedicated to the breeding of the most famous Clydesdale horses in the world. Anheuser-Busch’s Warm Springs Ranch is the birthplace and home for up to 120 Budweiser Clydesdales. Located about 100 miles east of Kansas City, and about 150 miles west of St. Louis, Warm Springs Ranch, near historic Boonville, Missouri, is a wonderful day-trip opportunity.
Missouri State Highway 98’s hills and curves closely follow the contours of the countryside east of Boonville. Highway 98 dips within 200 feet of the straight-arrow shot of concrete through the topography, and the continuous flow of commerce that is Interstate 70. After less than a mile, Exit 111 at I-70 is but a recent memory while you are riding 98.
White powder-coated steel fencing is your first visual clue that the pastures behind the fencing are something special. The massive stone and steel entry announces that you have arrived at Warm Springs Ranch. A half-mile up the entry lane and on the horizon, you can see the magnificent Budweiser red barn, with contrasting dark green roof; home of the Clydesdales you are heading to visit.
Saturday afternoon, 40 members of the Riders of America’s Roads (ROAR) Motorcycle Group from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, took the tour, visited the Clydesdales and enjoyed cold complimentary Budweiser at Warm Springs Ranch. The ranch hosts twice-daily tours for visitors every day at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. from April through October, except for Wednesdays. The tour costs only $10 per person and lasts about 90 minutes. And yes, you may get up close and personal with a Clydesdale. And yes, you get to enjoy a cold Bud—if you are 21 or over.
Shani, Rebecca and Natalie were the tour guides for the Saturday afternoon tour of the 25,000-square-foot breeding barn and surrounding paddocks. Interestingly, the tours begin in the Breeding Room. (Appropriate, huh?) Much knowledge about horses, Clydesdales, and especially Budweiser Clydesdales, was propagated to the tour participants. Amazingly, Shani, Rebecca and Natalie had an answer for every question posed during the tour of the facilities and grounds.
Some brief Reader’s Digest or CliffsNotes facts regarding Warm Springs Ranch and Budweiser’s Clydesdales include: a foal is a young horse of either sex under the age of one year, a colt is a young male horse under three years of age, a filly is a young female horse under three years of age, a brood mare is a mature female horse three years of age or older. Warm Springs currently breeds about 40 brood mares each year and their gestation period is 11 months. Six stallions, mature 3-year-old uncastrated male horses, have stud duty at the ranch. Warm Springs tends to keep about 85 percent of their foals. The foals that don’t have the correct markings are marketed to reputable breeders that have good long-term working relationships with Warm Springs Ranch.
To qualify for one of the traveling hitches, according to the Anheuser-Busch Budweiser Clydesdale facts, a Budweiser Clydesdale must be a gelding (a castrated male horse) at least four years of age, stand 72″ (18 hands) at the shoulder (withers) when fully mature, weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds, have a bay coat, four white legs (high white stockings), a white blaze on the face, and a black mane and tail.
Duke, the ranch’s “meet and greet” horse, was on duty next to the 1903 Studebaker-built beer wagon and the Budweiser tap at the conclusion of the guided tour. Duke is a 12-year-old Clydesdale that was retired after nine years of duty in the body spot on a hitch team. Each hitch team is comprised of two wheel, two body, two swing and two lead horses. The horses are arranged according to size, with the largest horses in the wheel spot next to the wagon, and the smaller (comparatively speaking) horses in the lead.
Duke displayed the amazing gentle temperament that Clydesdales are known for, giving credence to the fact that they are recognized as “gentle giants.” After experiencing nine years of multitudes of crowds, parades and other extravaganzas, a group of 40 bikers petting all over your body is hardly enough to bat an eyelash over. Besides, having to only work about a third of your life and then having all of your wants and needs taken care of doesn’t seem like too bad of a deal.
Touring Warm Springs Ranch is definitely well worth your time and effort. When riding to Boonville from Kansas City you can follow US Highway 24 along the south side of the Missouri River; or traveling from St. Louis you can ride Missouri State Highway 94 along the north side of the Missouri River. Missouri has plenty of scenic secondary roads to choose from for a pleasurable motorcycle journey to Boonville. Just be sure to make your reservations for a tour of Warm Springs Ranch well in advance, because the word is out and they always seem to be fully booked weeks ahead. (Actually, ROAR founder John Hurlock began making plans last November for the ROAR Motorcycle Group to tour Warm Springs Ranch. Initially ROAR had reserved all 65 spaces for the Saturday afternoon tour.) Reserve a tour spot at www.warmspringsranch.com and have a nose-to-nose encounter with a Budweiser Clydesdale.
(This article Clydesdales—The Original Horsepower was published in the July 2014 issue of Thunder Press, North edition.)