Farm Horizons, February 2007

Dassel Saddle Club makes it their business to horse around

A diverse group of people with a wide range of equine interests make up the 80-member-strong Dassel Saddle Club.

The club was started in 1980 by several families including the Larsons, the Schmidts, the Mollets, and Gordy and Veronica Caswell.

The Dassel Saddle Club is one of the 250-plus Western Saddle Club Association (WSCA) clubs, and it participates in just about every type of horse show, near and far.

A saddle club must belong to a larger club like the WSCA to accumulate points at smaller shows in order to qualify for larger competitions.

“You work towards the big shows, so first, you compete in the smaller shows to get points. You must belong to a club to communicate the points. You have to have points to compete at the larger shows,” explained Gary Larson, co-founder of the club, trail rider, and owner of Cowboy Action Photos.

The club hosts two official shows per year and one or more fun shows. “We play wilder games and kind of anything goes at the fun shows,” Larson said.

All club members do not compete at shows. Some members rather participate in other venues the club offers like trail riding.

Trail riding consists of groups of two to 12 families exploring parks, including river areas, and camping for a weekend, according to Larson.

“It’s generally easy riding. We are very family-oriented,” Larson said.

This summer, several club members are traveling to Gettysburg, Penn. to go trail riding on the battlefields.

“We’re going to ride through the battlefield. You get much closer to the action on horse than you would on roads,” Larson explained.

Besides trail riding, members may choose to participate in a parade. The club attends about five parades per year.

“We don’t have an official parade unit. We ride for the fun of it, we don’t ride in a strict line like some. We find that people on the ground really get a thrill out of petting a horse, so we go on the sidelines and let the people pet the horses,” Larson said.

Horse education

In addition to all the activities the club promotes, education on all aspects of horsemanship is strong in the club.

“We host clinics for our club members from how to start training their colts, to improving horsemanship skills, to learning new or improved methods of doing things,” said Sue Ahlgren, club member, and barrel racer.

“We bring speakers in that discuss caring for and nutrition of horses, as well as equine chiropractic, horse massage, saddle fittings, bits, and more,” she said.

“We’re always offering ways for people to learn more. Problems encountered with horses are usually not horse problems – they’re people problems. Horses are more willing to do what we ask when we ask them in a way they understand,” Ahlgren explained.

“Horses are living way longer now than they used to because we are doing better at maintaining their teeth, their immunizations, we’re feeding them better, and we’re sharing with each other things that work and things that don’t,” Ahlgren said.

Club royalty

The club also has royalty which consists of two princesses and a queen. The 2006-07 queen is Kasey Nelson of Grove City, and the two princesses are Ellen Engebretson of Cokato and Jordan Schilling of Litchfield.

The club’s royalty represent their fellow horse enthusiasts at events such as the Aquatennial, the Winter Carnival, and parades, and they assist at the Special Olympics, and so on.

The queen of the Dassel Saddle Club is elected by the club, whereas the queen of the WSCA is chosen in a full riding competition in speed events at the state fair.

Last year’s queen of the Dassel Saddle Club, Heidi Froemming, is this year’s Ms. WSCA queen, which makes the club very proud, noted Larson and Ahlgren.

An Old West show

Several club members participate in The Wild West Roundup. Many Old West reenactment groups and volunteers host this Wild West show, complete with demonstrations of frontier life, as well as music, food, and crafts in Dundas, Minn.

Held at the roundup, the Jesse James show is unique in that it recreates the scenes of the true story of how Jesse James robbed the bank in Northfield, Minn. and then crossed the river at Dundas before heading west, according to Larson.

Anyone can attend the show, and people can come with or without a horse. The show is said to be similar to Buffalo Bill’s shows in the late 1800s.

The Third Annual Wild West Roundup will be June 9 - 10 at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines grounds two miles south of Northfield in Dundas.

Final notes about the club

“We are unique because we do such a variety of items. We have so many people in so many different directions,” Larson said.

“I love to promote horses because it’s such a great way to raise teenagers. You can’t believe the mischief they can’t get into if they’re handling a horse,” he said.

“We have a diverse group of people. We try to offer a little something for everyone. We have endurance riders, trail riders, barrel racers, speed events, and pleasure riders,” Ahlgren noted.

“Horses are pretty amazing creatures. When a day comes that I rode and I didn’t learn something, then that’s the day I should quit,” she said.

To view more photos of the Dassel Saddle Club’s events, visit

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