Gypsy, the quarter horse, and her new Auntie Sue

August 18, 2008

Susan de Laittre of Montrose is chosen for trainer’s challenge

By Jen Bakken
Staff Writer

Even as a 5-year-old girl, Susan de Laittre knew she loved horses, and that they would be a big part of her life.

She began with hunt seat when she was 11 years old, a style of forward seat riding. Then, she did dressage, a style that teaches responsiveness and athleticism to the horse and rider using choreography and exercises.

This horse lover has been riding since the age of 5, teaching riding lessons since the age of 15, and went to college for animal science.

“I have 47 years in horses,” said de Laittre. “I always knew horses were it for me.”

Three years ago, de Laittre and her significant other, Steve Wieland, purchased the old 27-acre Bell Arabian Farm on Highway 12, just west of Highway 25.

She calls her business Astound Training Center, and many customers call her “Auntie Sue.”

There are 23 horses on the farm, with some being her own, and some with her for training, body work, and regrouping or boarding.

A visit to the farm also reveals many dogs. With two grown children, she feels lucky to have four grandchildren who call her “Oma.”

“They love the horses and the dogs,” she smiled. “They call, but don’t usually ask how I am. They just want to know about the dogs and the horses.”

The Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation put a call out to trainers and issued them a challenge. Called the Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted, the trainers applied for the opportunity to take a horse without training, that no one wants, and show what 100 days of training can do.

Trainers submitted applications for the first-ever Trainer’s Challenge, and out of the 20 applicants, 12 were chosen, including de Laittre.

The chosen trainers were assigned, by a lottery, a horse under the care of the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue.

Foaled in 2005, a grade quarter horse named Gypsy, with three white socks and a blaze, was assigned to de Laittre.

“She’s a real cutie,” said de Laittre, who works with Gypsy, on average an hour or more each day. “She’s a smaller size, and her personality has really come out.”

Horses of different training levels will be taken into account by judges during a before-and-after evaluation.

The basic skills horses are to learn include standing for a farrier and veterinarian, load and unload nicely into a trailer, standing for tack and untacking, and being ridden on the rail and trail.

Judging will take place the weekend of Sept. 13 at the Louise Leatherdale Center at the University of Minnesota. The 12 trainers will demonstrate what they have accomplished with their horses, and the first place winner will receive $4,000. The runner-up will take home $1,500.

“The main benefit for me is teaching a horse to be productive,” she said, “whether win or lose.”

After the event, an auction will take place in which the 12 horses, with their training completed, will go home with a qualified highest bidder.

For more information on the event or to check on Auntie Sue and Gypsy’s progress, visit www.mnhoovedanimalrescue.org.

To find out more about Susan de Laittre’s Astound Training Center, call (612) 759-3622.

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