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Unleashed: Gentle Giants

Unleashed: Gentle Giants

At Warm Springs Ranch, guests experience the Budweiser Clydesdales up close.

In 1933, to celebrate the end of prohibition, August Busch Jr. gave his father six Clydesdales. Overcome with happiness and gratitude, August Busch Sr. cried into his beer. This event gave us the cheeky phrase, “Don’t cry in your beer,” and the gesture prompted the Busch family to share the joy of the Clydesdales with their customers.

Decades later, Clydesdales are still synonymous with the Anheuser-Busch brand. Clydesdales tour America year-round to the delight and adoration of people of all ages. There are three ranches around the country that train and house these horse celebrities, and one happens to be Columbia’s neighbor.

Since 2008, the hilly, 300-plus acre Warm Springs Ranch in Boonville has been home to future Budweiser Clydesdales. The ranch features a mare and stallion barn and a foaling barn, a veterinary lab, and 10 pastures, each with a customized, walk-in shelter. The ranch can house more than 70 Clydesdales of all ages.

The training facility was moved to Boonville due to the town’s central location in the state and country. Over 300 years ago, the giant beauties were bred for farm work and hauling in the county of Clydesdale, Scotland. Now, the horses are more likely to act as entertainment.

World’s Biggest Dogs
Mark Boese, Warm Springs Ranch supervisor of herd management, says his favorite part about working with Clydesdales is their unique personalities. However, the first trait most visitors notice is their height. The friendly creatures are a staggering 18 hands, or 72 inches, tall. A full-grown Clydesdale weighs around 1,800 pounds.

Despite their size, Clydesdales may remind you of your household dog. They have an overlapping trait among them to please and respond to their human owners. They’re docile animals with a curiosity streak. They will approach the visitors gawking at their fence without hesitation, reaching out their impressive snouts for affection and spare carrots.

Mark says when people first see a Clydesdale, they usually show a lot of happiness. Visitors are often in awe that the horse really is that big, he says. Super Bowl ads will never be the same.

The Life of a Budweiser Clydesdale
In mid-March, the ranch welcomed their first foal of the year, Carly, into the world. Each foal shares the same first letter of their name with their birth mother. Carly weighed about 150 pounds a week after birth; she could walk after only a few hours of life.

Carly is a lucky Clydesdale. She meets the strict appearance markers needed to be a Budweiser Clydesdale, such as a bay-colored top hair coat and white hair below the knees. (Horses that do not have the same features are traded out to other Clydesdale breeders.) Since Carly is a female horse, though, she will spend her life at the ranch, as only neutered male Clydesdales are trained for touring. Carly will start to breed at age 3, but that’s a long way off for the young foal. She will spend the first six months of her life near her mother until she is moved outside to graze and gallop across the ranch.

It’s an entirely different experience for her colt counterparts. After six months, the male horses that met appearance requirements are weaned from their mothers and moved to Grant’s Farm, outside of St. Louis. At the farm, new Clydesdales will become accustomed to larger crowds and learn how to have their hair cut and how to be bathed. At age 3, the horses will return to Warm Springs Ranch to start wagon-pulling training.

After about a year of training, Clydesdales will have accomplished their training goals. Each horse will then go on circuit for 10 to 12 years.

If you’d like to see the Clydesdales, Warm Springs Ranch offers two regular tours and one VIP tour each day through November 3. Don’t miss the chance to see a little (or big) snippet of history for yourself.

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