Drivers along U.S. Highway 93 might feel like they’re watching a real-life Budweiser Super Bowl commercial playing out along the Stillwater River.
A new guest ranch, Clydesdale Outpost, located eight miles northwest of Whitefish, is home to a herd of the iconic large draft horses that can be spotted frolicking majestically in the snow outside their newly constructed barn. One of the mares, Rain, has a direct connection to the famous Anheuser-Busch horses, having been bred at Warm Springs Ranch, the home of the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Rain is one of six Clydesdales at the boutique guest ranch owned by Matt and Benjamin Arnold-Ladensack. The Outpost is set to open this summer with six cabins, a check-in center with a coffee and cocktail bar and acres of space to enjoy side-by-side with a herd of horses.
Ben’s fascination with Clydesdales started at a young age on his family’s farm in Fernwald, Germany.
“My grandfather was a big horse person, and he had a book with all kinds of horse breeds,” he said. “There was one page with a Clydesdale and that page of the book was so worn out and creased because it was the page I always looked at as a kid.”
When he was a teenager, Ben and his father began breeding Shires, an English breed similar to Clydesdales, and eventually they turned to breeding show-quality Clydesdales.
His passion continued to grow when he visited the National Clydesdale Show in Wisconsin in 2009, and soon after purchased three horses that he flew back to Germany.
“Breeding and having Clydesdales has just been in my blood I guess,” Ben said. “I’ve always been taken by the majesticness of them, and how calm you feel around them. They’re so large but so gentle”
Matt was working as a film director in L.A. when he met Ben during a production shoot in Michigan. The couple married in 2015, but after living in L.A. for a few years, decided to move out of the city.
The couple bought a small piece of property in Washington and renovated a 100-year-old farmhouse on the site which let them bring one of Ben’s family Clydesdales, Isabelle, over from Germany. They began breeding their own herd as Far Forest Ranch, keeping the German line intact, and started showing the horses across America.
On their Washington property, the couple built three little guest cabins and operated as a small-scale guest ranch, but there wasn’t enough space to allow for guests to go on rides.
“Guests were just staying and enjoying the company of the horses, looking at them from their decks while having their cocktails,” Ben said. “We wanted to incorporate sleigh rides and carriage rides and have a bigger property to use.”
After spending time visiting Whitefish over the years, the couple knew it would be the perfect place to scale up their operation and they purchased 92 acres northwest of Whitefish last summer.
The first phase of the Clydesdale Outpost will be operational by June, when the first guests arrive, with six luxury two-bedroom cabins, a coffee and cocktail bar and a small caretaker’s house.
Each cabin is positioned for prime panoramic window views of the Stillwater River and the Salish Mountains and each bathroom will have a cedar hot tub.
The second phase will include expanding to 24 cabins as well as an event barn to host weddings year-round.
Matt says the goal this time is more of an adventure tourism experience with a bigger focus on the Clydesdales.
“The horses are just massive, but you stand next to them and they’re so gentle and just want hugs and kisses,” Matt said. “They love human companionship and there’s just this mystique that surrounds them.”
Matt says there will also be an emphasis on making the Outpost part of the Whitefish community. He’s planning to host events for locals including haunted hayrides around Halloween and sleigh rides during the winter with the goal of becoming a destination for locals as well as tourists.
“We just get so much joy out of seeing how much guests enjoy just being around the horses,” Matt said. “Even if they don’t ride them or have a crazy adventure with them, just being around Clydesdales is super magical.”
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