At least two foals will welcome guests when the Warm Springs Ranch opens its gates to tours this Saturday.
Born at the beginning of March, Carly was the first Clydesdale foal at the ranch this year. The second was born a few weeks later, and her name is Gwen.
“Like Gwen Stefani,” chuckled herd management supervisor Mark Boese. The mares at Warm Springs, located off Interstate 70 in eastern Cooper County, will probably give birth to 19 more foals this year, he said.
Carly was shy on Monday, hiding behind her mother in their stall. Gwen was more social. Enjoying the warm sun out in a paddock with her mother, Gwen confidently walked up to the fence when approached. Her mind quickly returned to food, though. She walked away and used her snout to nudge her mother for attention.
Along with the new Clydesdales, there are some fresh faces working at Warm Springs Ranch, including Boese. He came to Boonville from Merrimack, New Hampshire, where the Clydesdales used to train.
Starting this year, the famous Budweiser Clydesdales train at Warm Springs Ranch, where they’ve been born for more than a decade. With Boese and two other new people on board, the ranch has seven people on staff to care for about 60 horses. They’ll train between six and 10 horses each year, Boese said.
One reason for moving training to Missouri was to start earlier, Boese said. At the Boonville ranch, they can start working with the horses pretty much as soon as they’re born. When the foals are weaned away from their mothers, they’re sent to “prep school,” at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis, he said.
The Clydesdales stay in St. Louis until they’re about 3 years old, getting more comfortable around humans as they interact with all the visitors to Grant’s Farm. Then, they’ll head back to Boonville, where the training really begins.
While they make it look natural in Super Bowl commercials and parades, the Clydesdales were thoroughly trained to form the eight-horse hitch and start pulling a beer wagon. The training process lets the horses gradually adjust to their ultimate goal of pulling a wagon with a full hitch. Warm Springs staff closely track and chart each trainee’s progress, Boese said.
First, the horses get used to a harness and pulling. Then they’re hitched to two other horses to practice pulling with horses ahead and behind. Then, they hook the trainee up with five other horses to practice on the left and right side. Finally, the horse is ready to run in a full eight-horse hitch, Boese said.
As the company tells it, the first ride of the Budweiser Clydesdales in 1933 was a six-horse hitch that took a case of Budweiser to New York Gov. Alfred Smith to celebrate the end of prohibition. They’ve been a staple in Super Bowl commercials since 1986.
Budweiser has three hitches that travel 10 months out of every year, appearing at several events each month. The hitches are headquartered in New Hampshire, St. Louis and Ft. Collins, Colorado. With hitches around the country, having a training location in the middle was ideal, another reason training moved to Boonville this year, Boese said.
The ranch will open for tours starting this Saturday. Tours are available every day except Wednesday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can sign up to take a tour on the Warm Springs Ranch website.