Horse ranch up north provides healing through equine therapy

By Pamela French
Chris Reder kisses one of the horses. This one is named Valor.

A place for hope and healing

BAGLEY — For many of us, it takes a few hard knocks before we wake up to the truth and His greater plan for our lives.

This was the case for Chris Reder, founder of DTOM Veterans Ranch south of Bagley. DTOM is a military acronym for “don’t tread on me.” The ranch provides equine therapy for veterans recovering from PTSD, addiction, etc.

Reder was in the Navy seven years before a life-changing motorcycle accident redirected the course of his life.

While stationed in California, instead of Spain, where his orders had him going, Reder was riding his motorcycle home when a motorist pulled out in front of him. He sustained numerous injuries including a traumatic brain injury. He was released medically from the Navy in 1999.  One minute you have all the support and structure from the Navy, and suddenly it’s all gone.

One of the horses at the ranch.

For the longest time, Reder was angry at God and lived a life of “extremely” risky behavior.  Though he was not suicidal, death did not scare or deter him.

Nearly everything in his life involved alcohol. For years he floundered from job to job, finding success in many places, but when promotion opportunities came up, he shipped out. He rarely had a job longer than a couple years.

In 2015, a friend suggested he try volunteering or find something of interest that involved veterans, with hopes that would help him with his struggles. After some research, Reder decided on helping a few organizations. He signed up for the Operation New Trails, a 75-mile hike in the Rocky Mountains to raise funds to build a handicap-accessible house for a severely injured veteran.

He signed up to march in the 22Kill 22K Ruck March in Dallas to raise awareness of the 22 veterans lost each day to suicide. He held a fund-raising concert to benefit K9s for Warriors, a project that trains and donates service dogs to veterans in hopes of reducing suicide.

Reder enrolled and participated in various Team Rubicon events. He participated in various Mission Continues events — all of which led him to the same conclusion: not enough being done on a daily basis to reduce veteran suicides.

He did manage to hold a job as a long-haul truck driver for a while out of Colorado, a “million miler.” This gave Reder plenty of quiet and alone time to think and process,

Eventually he came up with DTOM 22/0 Foundation. After the formation of the nonprofit, fundraising and help was slow. About this time, his thoughts turned to God and began asking if he should give up, move on or just keep driving trucks with a comfortable salary.

Additionally, he was being evicted from his home for no reason, making him basically homeless, buying an RV to live in at campgrounds in the mountains.

One day in May 2018, he was driving in rainy weather; no weather alerts to cause any concern. He looked to his side-view mirror and noticed the trailer rising up off the ground. Suddenly, his truck was being picked up as well.

The next thing he remembers was his truck slamming to the ground on the passenger side.  Finding himself dangling from his seat belt, looking out the broken windshield.

Reder was able to undo the seatbelt and walk through that window, without a scratch.  It was at this moment he realized God had a greater purpose for his life. But being hard-headed, he attempted to continue to drive trucks until August when he moved.

He moved to northeast South Dakota, where he drove for an agricultural company for about a year. He chose to resign from this job as he was attending school to become a Draper Equine sensory method therapist.

“Draper Therapy is an innovative and worldwide unique methodology, based on scientific principles of the brain-body connection and a well-defined series of equine-mounted activities. It supports and enhances participants’ abilities to think more rationally, make more socially acceptable decisions and receive hope for a successful and better life” according to Horseback Miracles.

This was the biggest step for Reder in the process that DTOM would become the DTOM 22/0 Veterans Ranch north of Warner, S.D. Initially, they were able to build an outside arena, then a barn over the arena. The first horse was Max. Growth continued and they were able to assist veterans at no cost. It was at this time he knew he was fully committed and never looked back.

Chris Reder stands beside a pickup at DTOM Veterans Ranch.

A nearly 10-acre ranch was purchased, where they worked until they ran out of room. After an exhaustive search for land, a 40-acre ranch was found south of Bagley. They moved to Bagley the summer of 2023.

The ranch currently has 10 horses.  Along with the therapy horses, arenas and barns, the ranch will allow them to raise beef to give to veterans. They currently rely on donations of beef to give to veterans.

Currently, they give away emergency, monthly, Thanksgiving and Christmas food boxes to veterans — no questions, no judgement, just honoring the oath to take care of each other.

The other services DTOM Veterans Ranch is offering are: emergency assistance, job placement assistance, shelter assistance, transportation assistance, clothing assistance, mentorship, coordinating volunteerism, veteran handmade quilts, veteran pheasant hunt.

Coming in 2024: The equine assistance resumes after the new Ralph Baringer Memorial Arena (Minnesota WWII MIA/KIA hero) is built, the David Lemer Memorial Military Museum and a veteran fishing program.

Also on the property of the DTOM Veterans Ranch is the “Bradley Jobe Memorial Garden,” a peaceful, serene, quiet space for visitors to mediate, reflect and be one with their surroundings.

“This space is very sacred to us and our supporters, as well as to Brad’s family. Brad took his own life a few years ago,” Reder said. “His memory lives on.”

The DTOM 22/0 Ranch does not receive funding from state or federal agencies. The funding is strictly donations and grants, and a couple fundraising raffles per year that are listed on their website or Facebook  page.  Veterans are never charged a penny for any of their services.

Reder lives by the Pericles saying, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments but what is woven into the lives of others.”

To reach Reder or the ranch, call 605-725-3866. Donations can be made at

The ranch is the recipient of the 2022 National American Legion Auxiliary Public Spirit Award.