Letter to Dennis,
My daughter found Dennis Auslam online when looking for a trainer for her Friesen Sport horse. We drove down from the Twin Cities area to drop off Haven, my daughter’s horse and had Dennis evaluate my Quarter Horse Gelding that I was having some trouble with. Dennis told me that my gelding was a good honest horse and I took him back home. After another month went by of working with my gelding, I decided it just wasn’t a good match and decided to sell him. I had a couple of incidents with him that had really shaken my confidence and left me with some anxiety I just couldn’t shake. I took my gelding down to Dennis to sell for me. He found him a wonderful home in just a little over a week. He was a good horse, just not the horse for me.
Dennis said he would help me find the right horse, but I was impatient and found a gelding that I bought a few weeks later. Unfortunately I was told some things about the horse that I later found out weren’t true, as is often the case when buying horses. I worked with the horse for a couple months and on our first ride out of the arena with other horses, he got real excited and started dancing around, which just intensified my anxiety, which increased his anxiety and I baled off. Again…..this wasn’t the horse for me. I had Dennis evaluate this horse for the possibility that he would sell this one for me. Dennis gave me his “honest” opinion and declined. He told me the kind of horse that his clients are looking for, which is the exact same kind of horse I was looking for and it wasn’t this horse. I put the horse up for sale and with the help of a friend; I was able to sell him.
Dennis again said he would help me find a horse. He brought me a gelding to try out and I decided to buy him. I worked with him and we had our ups and downs. I tried for 10 months to build a relationship with this little gelding, but it just wasn’t working. My frustration, anxiety and lack of hope of ever finding the “right horse” were mounting. Yet again, I made the call to Dennis and told him it wasn’t working out. He told me to bring him down and he would find him a home and find me the right horse. As in every relationship it takes two, and all of these horses weren’t bad horses, but they weren’t the right horse for me and my anxiety issues. You see, I am a 58 yr. old woman and I have a 28 yr. old mare that is the love of my life, but she can’t be ridden like she used to be. She has some arthritis and I was in search to find another horse to carry on in her place that I could ride. After blowing through three horses in a year’s time, while on that quest, I was within inches of giving up my dream and throwing in the towel and being done with horses.
Dennis being the man that he is, the friend he is, said he had another horse for me to consider. This time it was a mare, in fact a mare that he owned and was considering selling. I came down and looked at her and on my first impression I liked her. I also liked the fact she was a mare, I guess I just feel that I click with them better, especially after having three geldings. I came back and worked with her a couple weeks later. Dennis helped me with my confidence and I went home to think about it again, no pressure. I called him a few days later and told him I wasn’t ready to give up on my dream yet and that I wanted her. Because of the EHV-1 outbreak this spring, I wasn’t able to bring her home right away. I made the trek down to Redwood Stables again to work with her. I was finally able to bring her home the end of April. I have had her almost a month and I must say that I am head over heels in love with this mare. She has been wonderful, we are learning to trust each other and it will only get better as time goes on.
The point of this letter is to share my experiences that I have had with Dennis Auslam. To tell you he is an honest man, one that stands behind his word, no excuses. He told me early on, that people weren’t just clients to him, that they were friends and that means a lot to him. I learned firsthand that he is a man of his word. He is encouraging, helpful and respectful of what people are going through and where they are in their horse journey. He never said “buck up” and get over it, but on the other hand he stands firm in his convictions of how we need to form and keep relationships with horses. He has always told me he is just a phone call away and that if I need help or have a question to call him. I have called and he has helped me, just as he said he would. Dennis is an invaluable asset in the horse world, especially when there are people in horses that don’t always speak the truth and are in it just to make a buck. It is because of Dennis that I will continue to live my dream of having horses in my life and for that I am forever grateful. “Baby steps, just take baby steps, is what he told me.”
Thank you Dennis,
Big Lake, MN
Oh and by the way…….he also has a line of “Special Show Kitties” that hang out in his barn. At least that is what he told my 4 yr. old granddaughter and we will be bringing one of those show kitties home soon, her name will be “Orangie”!
Testimonials from our 2013 Bridle Up Experience
I went to the Bridle Up Experience with my 8 year old draft cross mare. I knew that I needed help to further her training as well as help me with my own confidence. I have struggled regaining my seat as an adult and had become frustrated when it came to riding. I knew that my mare was even tempered and eager to please but was not able to move past some of our issues. I thought I would take a gamble and take her to the Bridle Up Experience. I felt that the reputation of Dennis and the description of the program made it worth the risk.
I would like to say first and foremost that Dennis and his staff enable you to learn so easily from them. They are hospitable from the moment that you pull in the drive. Dennis gave his time and knowledge to us all day with kindness and humor. At anytime that I was unsure or hesitant to move forward, Dennis provided me with knowledge and support. He guided me in teaching my mare and assisting me with my horsemanship. I wanted so badly to find some of the joy in riding that I had lost. Dennis reassured me that my mare was a horse that could be what I wanted with the work ethic and softness that I desired. He and his staff provided me with a foundation that will aid me in achieving this.
Dennis not only has the knowledge to help you and your horse but he has a wonderful group of people to help him. I was very pleased with the amount of attention we received each day with not only Dennis but everyone at the stables. I was told more than once that it was my week and they wanted to ensure that I received what I wanted out of it.
As a result of attending this week with Dennis, I am more comfortable riding my mare than I have ever been before. I am excited about continuing the softening exercises and achieving the horse that I have always wanted. I will be looking for other opportunities to learn from Dennis in the future and would recommend this experience to anyone.
I have been trying to figure out how to say “Thank you” to someone who has turned a dream into a reality for me. There are really no words that can express how my experience at Redwood Stables with Dennis, his family and great crew has changed both my horse and myself.
I had purchased a gelding who had no respect and very head strong. I had been told by many people to just sell him but I seen something in this gelding and had to give him a chance, but I needed help and found Dennis. Dennis asked me to bring him down so he could run him thru a course to see what was going on. Watching Dennis run him thru the course I figured he too would tell me to sell him, but what he said was “let me work with him for 2 weeks and than see where hes at”. I went back 2 weeks later to get the verdict and instead got the surprise of my life. There was my gelding working thru the course with ease. His disrespect was gone and he seemed to really want to learn and please. I asked Dennis to keep him and finish him out. In the next course of the training I also got to work right along side Dennis with my horse. He taught me with patience and time Buddy and I would get along great. At 56 I had the fear of getting hurt and that was holding me back but with time and the patience Dennis had with me I was working thru that fear. Than came the time to take him home and I had fear in the back of my mind. Can I do this on my own?. Well with a few words of advise from Dennis I headed home and thought ok I have to do this as I am on my own now. But I was so wrong. The next day I was saddling my horse and my phone rang. Yes it was Dennis checking to see how things were going. I had a couple questions and he was more than willing to take time answering them and than told me to make sure if I had any questions or problems to call him right away.
My experience at Redwood Stables was one that will last a lifetime. Not only did I gain a great horse and experience but also met some very wonderful people.
A big “THANK YOU” to Dennis , wife Michelle, daughter Emma and his wonderful crew for sharing your time , knowledge and your friendship. And a Big Thanks to Nathan for spending the extra time with buddy.
I do know I will be back again to attend one of the clinics. I would recommend to anyone having problems with a horse or anyone needing some reassurance as I did …Redwood Stables is the place to go.!
Pat Yeo and Buddy
It’s been a week since I finished the Bridle Up clinic. Now that the dust has settled I wanted to take a minute to tell you what an awesome experience it was for me. I am not one of those mushy gushy testimonial writing people, I swear, but once in a while, something is worth that effort, my week at Redwood Stables was one of those things.
I think you know better than anyone how terrified I was on that first day! It had taken me a while to decide to go to the clinic in the first place. I was worried about every thing and had myself worked into a panic before I even got there. I had convinced myself I didn’t have the skills, it was too expensive, I was too old, it was too far away, I didn’t have the right horse, tack, trailer, sunglasses, you name it. I had a million reasons not to go.
But every now and then I would think, what if? What if I really could get past my fear and learn something and get back to doing something I loved. So, I took a leap of faith and signed up with a friend from work for the week long clinic.
Neither of us knew what to expect, but I can truthfully say, for me, the panic began to subside the minute we pulled into Redwood Stables. I can’t explain it other than to say there was a sense of calm. To tell a short story about a long week…..on Monday morning before I even got on my horse I was shaking so bad and so scared I spent half the time in the bathroom…….. on Friday afternoon, before leaving, I rode that big old horse on a relaxing trail ride through the woods and hills of a nearby state park with about a dozen other riders. Who would have thought I would get that far? Not me, but Dennis, you and your staff did. That unshakable faith took me a long ways!!
We were taken care of from the minute we got to your place to the minute we left. We were greeted at the trailer, assisted with unloading and stalling the horses and at the end, as we were getting ready to leave, you checked tires and trailer lights just before waving us down the road. During the clinic we were well cared for, excellent food, hospitality and assistance from everyone there. Always someone willing to help, with technical assistance i.e. demonstrating on my horse step by step, sharing personal experience or simply handing me a bottle of water and saying “find some shade.”
I can’t say enough good things about you and your crew. Your skills and competence with horses doesn’t even need mentioning, your reputation precedes you. Your greater talent is with people who have lost the confidence to do something they love. I was given endless reassurance and support the entire time I was there. I never felt like my problem of lacking confidence was looked down on or minimized.
I gained a much better understanding of the way a horse thinks and reacts and how my actions will affect what he does. I gained a new affection for my horse. I was afraid I would be told he was too much horse or that he was too big for me etc. instead I was told he is a good horse that will take care of you if you let him and learn to trust him. I appreciated the intense level of instruction I was given. When not working one to one with you, I was working with one of your crew. All skilled and supportive as well. You are fortunate to have such an excellent crew.
Throughout the clinic there were some laughs and certainly some tears. Mine, because I was afraid or frustrated with myself, maybe yours, wondering if I would ever get it!!!!!! You are a patient, patient man!
Overall I increased my skill and level of confidence in both groundwork and horsemanship and that was valuable and helpful. But the most important thing I came away with was the ability to push back the fear and break things down into manageable steps and move forward. My initial fear level went from a true panic state down to something close to reasonable and normal. I am not going to say that I don’t have any fear, I learned that some fear is good and it keeps you safe, but it is not something that will keep me from doing what I want to do with my horse.
Even my horse, Smitty appreciated the clinic. When we first started I called him Old Stink Eye on a pretty regular basis. I was over that by Friday!
Again it was an awesome experience, I had decided the first day when I hobbled back to my hotel room, that it was worth every penny, every tear and every aching muscle I could put into it. By the end of the clinic I had decided I would do it again next year!
Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and the support and encouragement from you and your team.
October reminds me of the first clinic I attended, 3 years ago, with Dennis Auslam at his stable in Morton, MN, Redwood Stables. I had bought a mule in May of ’07 at Timberlakes Mules in Illinois. I had stayed there for a week doing my homework on observing this mule, watching the owner catch her, brush and tack her up, and finally ride her. I then rode Ruby, that was her name, with my own tack. We went up and down the hills to see if i could get along with this mule. There was never a problem. She was what I had always wanted, so I bought her. But that brings us back to the fall and the clinic with Dennis. By the time August rolled around Ruby’s attitude and demeanor started to change. She was not trusting me and she was becoming more defiant, to the point that she finally refused to go downhills. She never bucked and never gave me any of the red flag signals, but she started turning her head when I wanted to bridle her up and she was always in a hurry to go home, even when the rest of the group headed a different way. She started pinning her ears back at the other animals and was, in general, displaying an ornery attitude. My farrier suggested a clinic at Redwood Stables with Dennis Auslam and so I registered for the next clinic that was coming up. That is when I met the Auslam family. Dennis, Michele and their daughter, Emma. They made me feel very welcome and offered to help in anyway. The clinic was a Desensitizing and Confidence Clinic and in those two days Ruby and I learned what respect is, the mechanics of the horse, timing and positioning and balance of the equine. We started out with saddle fitting. Larry Norton, a saddle-maker, was present to show us the importance of having your saddle fit properly. He went through parts of the saddle, where and how the saddle should fit, how the bars of a saddle shouldn’t hit the scapula bone (shoulder) of the animal and bridging, which occurs when their is space between the bars of the saddle tree and the horses back. It should lie flat and be supported from tip to tip. He also showed how you should turn you saddle over to the sheepskin side, looking for nails poking through and checking the latigoe straps for leather rot and how to do basic cleaning. Then Dennis showed us were some areas on the horse that can cause trouble, locating and showing us the pressure point locations for teeth, sand colic, ribs being out at the shoulders, and checking the ribs on the rib cage for sensation (palpating ). After this demonstration we headed to the arena for ground work. When we felt comfortable with our horses showing us respect on the ground, putting their feet and shoulders where we wanted, getting them to stop with one word (whoa), having them respect our space going through gates, desensitizing and a number of other techniques we practiced, we then advanced to the trail course for more obstacles and more groundwork. The 2nd day we had our tack laid out for Dennis and Larry to check. They would put the saddle on the horse without the pad, and paying close attention, check the fit. We were taught to check and how to feel with our hands to see if the bar of the saddle tree was hitting or on top of the shoulder bone. Then they looked for bridging and showed how you would know if their was a problem and if the saddle you had wasn’t a good fit, they, with honesty, told us how to find a different saddle and why we needed a different saddle (because physical and mental problems would eventually show up). If their was a problem Dennis would offered his tack to the client for the day. When everyone was tacked up we started with more groundwork with tarps, flags, leaf-blowers. We guided our horses through barrels that were stacked up to be knocked over, flexing them through and around the barrels getting forward motion, stopping on our cue and backing up. At this point we mounted for bridle work. Dennis demonstrated, on his horse, how to get your horse soft through flexing laterally, and release the pressure (reward the horse) once the horse gave to the bit. He taught us how to use the barrels to get them to bend with inside rein and outside leg pressure. Dennis also showed us how to achieve vertical flexion to facilitate a stop, getting the horse to flex at the poll, using your legs to lift the ribcage and backing up. Our last lesson was to put this all in motion on the trail course and, at the end, with cattle in the arena. Dennis, through all of the two days of training, which was for not only the horse but the rider, always reminded us about safety. He acclimated the horses on the ground 1st for those of us that had not been around cattle. The calves were then turned loose and we were divided into teams and given tasks to do as a team. This taught us to not only communicate with our horses, but as riders we had to communicate with each other and learn how to work together in moving the cattle to get the task accomplished. After the clinic I tried to apply the new concepts I had learned, but Ruby still didn’t seem happy. Dennis offered to have me come back and work on my skills, he never turned me away once. When I would call, he would say “When are you coming up?” He always made time for me and seemed to set his busy schedule aside to help me. There were things Dennis picked up on that I have never even known about. I am not going to candy coat anything here either, Dennis is very honest about what he sees happening and it may not be what you want to hear. He doesn’t judge you, but you might anticipate the possibility of some heartaches or disappointments. He is willing to show you the things you ask about, and if you are willing to learn and open your mind to different ideas, you can get to the next level. So, I decided to get Ruby to bond with me. That meant I started coming back to his clinics over the years, putting in extra time with her and learning patience. The problem wasn’t all the mules fault, but mine as well. Dennis said people create a lot of horse problems and usually there is a reason horses act cranky. What I ended up finding out was that Ruby was trying to tell me that my bad back was a problem, not a bad saddle fit, which is what I thought. I had no idea my muscle memory was so off, so after I had her teeth floated, chiro treatments done on a daily basis for 2 years, so many saddles that I lost track of them, leg problems, which my farrier went above and beyond from his normal routine, the only other thing left was me. I was so flexed and rotated at the pelvis and shoulders that this caused my back to hurt and I was doing a death grip on my stirrups, plus I always felt like i was leaning forward, over her shoulders, so I started over compensating by leaning back to far, causing her loin area to hurt. Because I was always worried about my body position I never relaxed and that made Ruby feel nervous, which caused her to to keep moving faster and be so distracted that she would not pay attention to my cues. Alas, the vicious circle kept going around and around. It was through working with Dennis that he saw the problem was me. Dennis taught me how to ride relaxed and use my seat and legs more than my hands. When you use your hands to much the horse, or mule in my case, will get hard mouthed, stiff-necked and hollow out their backs. So Dennis’ verbal cues to me were: stay in the middle of the saddle, stop looking down, look where you want to go, stop micro managing her mouth, breath and relax. Now I am trying to take better care of my back with different methods of treatment and Ruby has started to respond better. With lots of hard work from both of us she has started to trust me and has relaxed more when getting ready to ride. My hand cues are softer and we are concentrating on having fun again. I feel very guilty now that I realize the problem was me, Many times I have come close to quitting but my life has always revolved around riding, from young on it is my passion. What I would like to say to Dennis is THANK-YOU. Without your understanding and patience, your knowledge and help, telling me to keep riding, keep working at it, “hang in there cowgirl”, stop leaning, “you don’t know what you don’t know”, all of your tolerance of me coming to your stable for days on end, NOT telling me, literally, how sick of us hanging around you are, and telling us over and over that persistence and hard work will pay off I know I wouldn’t have made it this far. You could of given up on us a long time ago, but you care enough about the animals and people that you don’t.
Vicky Henderson and Tatanka. The clinic really reInforced the fact that you have to keep up on your ground work. I had done so much of that with him, but not for a couple of years, and could see that he lost his confidence on some things. Also, I didn’t realize how much Tatanka didn’t like things to touch his back legs. Loved doing the extreme course!! Thats always my favorite! Have fun with the cows too, and would like to do more clinics to teach me to let my horse have a chance before I tell him! Am looking forward to doing another clinic next year with Dennis!
Vicky Henderson and Tatanka
Regaining Confidence and the Ability to Enjoy Riding Again
I had heard of persons loosing their confidence and developing a fear of horseback riding, but I have to admit I never thought it would happen to me. Nothing terrible happened, I simply had a horse spook on a very windy day and when I went to bring him around the saddle slid so I just kicked free and fell to the ground. This is what started my problem. I felt I had no balance and would start shaking and be scared to death when I attempted to ride. It wasn’t just with the horse that I came off of; it was with all my horses. I fought this myself for close to a year and came very close to giving up all together. Horses have been a part of my life for many years and I have always enjoyed working with them and learning how and what I could do better. This was why when I saw an advertisement for a saddle fitting clinic I decided to check it out. As part of the clinic there was a trainer from Redwood Falls answering questions regarding training and working with horses. I have to admit I was skeptical as I had heard this trainer was into roping and cattle work and from what I had heard more of a rodeo type. I spent some time talking with him and he told me about women’s clinics that he held to help women regain their confidence and be more effective riders. I was intrigued, but hadn’t bought into it yet. I asked if I could watch or audit a clinic to see what it was all about. I was told ABSOLUTELY…come on out. The first thing that I really appreciated was the friendliness and welcome I received. I was never given the impression I was stupid or that because I had developed this fear I was looked down upon. Safely and respect from the horse were the key points. These were demonstrated and each horse and handler went through the process individually before they were to work on their own. In addition there were other helpers there ready to assist in working through any tough spots that either the horse or handler were experiencing. Class size was small and Dennis made certain he was giving praise at accomplishments and prompting on how to make things better. One point that Dennis made and I have seen followed through more than once is, “I will tell it like it is”. If a horse is not a good partner for a person, he doesn’t hesitate to say so. It is then up to the person to decide what they want to do. But on the other hand if a horse and handler do have potential, he also doesn’t hesitate to say so and what they can do to improve. Following watching a clinic, I decided to give it a try with my horse. I had a lot of apprehension and asked a ton of questions. As an adult and a professional I am very impressed with the way Dennis is able to communicate with a wide variety of people as well as horses. My first clinic went very well, but I remained fearful when it came to the riding. I couldn’t handle the riding around cattle for very long before I was becoming anxious and had to get off. I was not made to feel failure over this and was encouraged to just walk my horse around and do what I was comfortable with. Dennis worked with my horse and rode him at times when he was not able to understand what I was wanting. This helped me to see that he was able to do what was being asked and I needed to communicate better with him. Since Jan/Feb of 2009 when I came to my first clinic to watch I can not believe how far I have progressed. I have hauled my horse back and done lessons with trail course and inside arena. Dennis allowed me to proceed at the pace I felt comfortable with. He is good at encouraging and helping a person to feel confident in what they are attempting to accomplish. I am finding my horse is developing more of a partnership with me and accepting me as the leader. Time and patience has been the key. I would be the first to admit that had I felt stupid, or this was not something I could overcome, I wouldn’t have gone back. I have attended several clinics and each time gotten more confidence in my own as well as my horse’s ability. This would not have happened if Dennis had not kept encouraging me and pointing out the successes I was making even when I didn’t see them. Dennis is very good at breaking down problems into steps that are obtainable. He definitely is a clinician as well as a trainer. In my own case, time and persistence has been the key. I have moved along slowly and it has taken a lot of persistence to get where I am today. Dennis has been very willing to work with me and take the time that it has taken. I would highly recommend him for training of horses as well as their riders. Over the course of the summer I have seen horses of all types come in for training. The points that have been repeated consistently are fairness, reward or praise, and consistency. I have asked questions about problems and how he would deal with them. He has not hesitated to explain how and why he would follow a certain plan. I can say I will be very comfortable bringing my own horses for training as well as recommending Dennis to other persons looking at working with their horses to accomplish whatever goals they are working toward.
I have only known Dennis for maybe a year and a half , but I have to say a few things about him. Me and my girlfrined Lisa could call him up with a “issue” and it could be 6 or 7 o’clock at night, he says come on out here, let’s get it fixed. If someone called me then, it wouldn’t happen . But not Dennis, he is a awsome person, he has helped us out so much words cant describe. My girlfriend had a bad summer last year on her mare, and Dennis has been nothing but the best towards her, helping her out with whatever he can to help her. He had a clinic last weekend and I heard him offer his featherlite to a couple so they could sleep there and not at the hotel. I mean what a great man!!!!!! Dennis all I have to say is thank you so much for what you have done for us . I look forward to many years of good times with you.
Andrew Schriener “Big daddy”