COLUMBIA — Warm Springs Ranch, the 300-acre home to 70 Budweiser Clydesdales, opened Saturday for its sixth tour season since it moved to Boonville.
Seven spring foals were born beginning Jan. 18. The ranch expects 25 this year.
The 2014 tour season extends from March 22 to Oct. 31. The ranch is closed to the public on Wednesdays. Guided tours are by reservation only. Tours are conducted twice daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and last about 90 minutes.
Guided tours: $10 (children 2 and under free)
VIP tours: Offered once a day at 10:30 a.m. and include a a private tour of the 300-acre farm including time in the pasture, a photo opportunity with a Clydesdale and sample of Anheuser-Busch beer. Costs $500 and accommodates up to 16 guests.
Information and reservations: warmspringsranch.com; 888-972-5933;
25270 Missouri 98, Boonville
New at the ranch is a 15-foot neon "W" from the Budweiser sign that once stood on top of the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis. The 1,600-pound sign is now on display near the ranch entrance off Highway 98.
The rest of the letters from the vintage sign will be dispersed to other Anheuser-Busch locations, said Shari Adair, a tour guide.
Tours of Warm Springs Ranch are held twice daily, except Wednesdays, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., until Oct. 31. Reservations are required, and tours cost $10; visitors ages 2 and under are free. A VIP tour is also available for groups up to 16 for a total price of $500.
The farm had more than 24,000 visitors last year, marking a 33 percent increase from the previous year, Adair said. The foals are a big draw, and the ranch keeps about 85 percent of them.
Among the Clydesdales at the ranch this year is Hope, who starred in Budweiser's 2013 Super Bowl commercial, "Brotherhood." She has another year of training before she is bred, Adair said.
The foals remain with their mothers until they are 5 months old, when the weaning process begins, she said. At 7 months, the foals are sent to Grant's Farm in St. Louis, where they learn "horse etiquette."
If the horses are born with the signature Budweiser Clydesdale markings, the geldings move back to Warm Springs to train for a hitch team while the mares return for breeding. Geldings are typically introduced to an eight-horse hitch team around 5 years old and travel 11 months of the year.
Geldings without the signature markings are sold or traded to other Clydesdale ranches around the country for breeding and show purposes, said John Soto, the ranch supervisor.
Markings include a reddish-brown coat, four white stockings, a white blaze on the face and a black mane and tail. A typical Budweiser Clydesdale stands 6 feet tall at the shoulder and weighs up to 2,300 pounds.
Three Budweiser hitches make about 300 appearances per year and participate in popular events such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York and the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif.
The hitches are housed in Fort Collins, Colo.; Merrimack, N.H.; and St. Louis.
A tour includes a close look at the horses, as well as a walk through the stalls, the breeding facility, the lab and the gift shop.