New ranch in Warner sets out to help veterans heal
By Shiloh Appel
Chris Reder, of Warner, a former Cryptologic Analyst for the US Navy, served the United States for seven years before being medically discharged in November of 1999. It was during the years following his discharge that Reder began to search for a purpose.
“I was having issues for a long time, and probably not handling stuff the best. There wasn’t a lot of information out there or help at the time, so I spent quite awhile dealing with that,” said Reder. “I started doing some volunteer work for different organizations and helping out with Team Rubicon and The Mission Continues, Canines for Warriors and 22Kill. Just trying to help other vets. Once you start spending time with others like that, and working together again, you kind of get that camaraderie back. You see that you are not the only one that is going through it.”
As Reder continued to volunteer, he began to see gaps that could be filled. He made some suggestions, but was told that he should start his own foundation. That is when Reder’s purpose and vision began to take shape.
Reder applied for 501c3 status in March of 2017 and created DTOM 22/0. DTOM stands for Don’t Tread On Me, a motto made popular during the Revolutionary War, and 22 refers to the number of daily veteran suicides committed in the U.S. The zero stands for the foundation’s goal of reducing the 22 a day to zero.
“One hundred percent, to find that mission and purpose again has been very rewarding for me,” said Reder. “It helps me out every day. It certainly did make a big difference.”
The foundation operates on a 13-acre ranch six miles south of Aberdeen at 13952 387th Ave, Warner. They offer services including an on-site mentorship program, assistance with veterans affairs appointments, holistic healing methods, individual and group counseling, animal therapy, job training, volunteer options, and the Equine-Assisted Draper Sensory Method. The Equine-Assisted Draper Sensory Method is a considerably new type of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other neurological issues. DTOM is only one of four ranches in the United States that uses the Draper method, which is named after the method’s inventor, Terry Draper.
“When we first learned about it, it would have been last December,” said Reder. “ I spent some time out at the Horseback Miracles Ranch [in Colorado] last summer and tried it and found out what it was all about. It alters the brain waves of the person that is struggling with whatever issue they are having.
It is riding, but what happens is you ride facing backwards bareback on the horse. You have your eyes closed. You go around the arena, and because of the motion of how [the horse’s] hips move, using kinesthesiology and the principles of neurophysiology, the brain waves are altered through that. We can take all of the stress hormones and the neurochemicals that are all out of whack and we can help repair the vestibular part of their brain versus just giving them more pharmaceuticals.”
EEG brain scans from before and after a single session of the Draper Sensory Method show marked improvement in participants. According to Reder, the DTOM’s therapy horse, Max, is one of only 20 percent of horses worldwide who consistently provide this therapy. It is offered to veterans for free, and to all other participants for a fee.
Meanwhile, besides providing services year-round since the ranch’s official opening day in 2018, DTOM has several projects in the works.
“We just raised a bunch of money in the last couple of months and built a barn over the arena, so we have a brand new indoor arena now, all from donations and volunteers and everyone in the community getting together,” said Reder. “We have just acquired another horse. And we adopted a service dog. She just got here about three months ago. We are going to be adding more horses in another barn, so that is our big project right now. And we are raising the money for the actual land that we will be using. We are on a lease right now with the land, but we are going to buy the 13 acres, and then we will have another barn and we will turn that barn into stables and a veteran recreation room as well. Eventually, we are going to add housing as well so that veterans from out of state have a place to stay in the future. We get a lot from out of state.”
Locals have really stepped up to donate and volunteer, according to Reder, but the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has not been receptive towards DTOM’s mission.
“It is kind of the way the VA is. I guess every region is different, because some regions are supportive of equine therapy. But we happen to be in the one that says they would absolutely not give a dollar for anything like that. They are currently doing a study on whether service dogs help veterans or not, and most people can tell you, and I can tell you from experience, that they certainly do. But the VA has been studying it for ten years on whether or not a dog helps a person. It is just so slow and behind the times,” said Reder. “They just got caught up in the [the thought] that it is just easier to give you a pill. I met with a veteran this past summer and he was on 32 different pills. There is just no reason why they need to be like that and there is no telling what that kind of concoction or cocktail is going to do. That is why I think the suicide rates are so high. At 22 a day, it is just not going to go away by giving them another pill. We had to find a different way of doing it, and it has just been very successful.”
People can donate to the cause by visiting dtom220.org where hoodies, caps, decals, shirts, and more items are being sold to support the ranch. DTOM is also offering naming rights for some of the barns. The names of DTOM sponsors will be wood burned into the new arena. Volunteers are also consistently welcomed for projects such as cleaning up the property, dragging branches, brushing and walking the horses, building fences, mowing in the summer, and various other tasks.
“I just like to tell people, you know, it is the true meaning of ‘nobody left behind.’ We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and we, as a veteran community, took that oath,” said Reder. “It was our duty to protect everyone. Now, we have people in our community here. We need to have a duty to protect those that come back broken. We need to make sure they are taken care of.”
DTOM can be contacted by emailing Reder at [email protected]