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A horse lover's passion, memories for sale

Friends and passionate about horses, Fred Zwart, left, and Dr. David Harder often drove horses together and enjoyed driving rigs in parades and for weddings. Submitted

WILLMAR -- Obsessions come naturally in this family, and Dr. David Harder was only carrying on a family tradition when one day he announced his: Driving horses.

"I could not honestly tell you why dad got into horses,'' said his daughter, Ragen Harder of Olivia.

She can tell you how her late father pursued his passion. He traveled to auctions throughout the Midwest, and returned home with buggies and wagons and tack that would be any horse lover's envy.

He purchased 77 acres of meadow, pasture and woods in Hubbard County to keep and enjoy his horses, and filled two large pole buildings with all that he collected. He turned to the Amish to select the best horses for driving the carriages and buggies that turned so many heads when he drove them in small town parades and for weddings. David Harder died May 18, not quite one year after retiring from his medical practice. He was 70. His family is holding an estate auction on Saturday at the property southeast of Park Rapids.

"It will be like saying goodbye two times,'' said his daughter.

Harder was a native of Litchfield, where he graduated from high school in 1958. He married Pamela Harms in 1966 in Minneapolis and completed studies at the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1967. He served in the United States Navy for 26 years, and retired as a captain.

He practiced medicine in Willmar for 20 years as an urologist at Affiliated Community Medical Centers. He left his practice here in 2001 to work three days a week for a clinic in Park Rapids.

Ragen Harder said her father was hard-working and always active. "Uncle Tom said he got in line for ambition three times,'' she said.

Her father loved buying equestrian gear as much as using it, and that made the move to a part-time medical practice in Park Rapids ideal for him. He had lots of time to travel to auctions and sales, she explained.

He loved to show off his stuff too. He and longtime friend Fred Zwart drove their rigs in lots of parades. Often, they brought along hall of fame auctioneer and mutual friend Dale Fladeboe to ride shotgun.

To be sure, her father drove the carriage when she and Brian Stenholm tied the marriage knot.

These and many other memories are all attached to the equipment that goes up for sale on Saturday, making this an emotional time for the family, said Ragen Harder.

They only have to remember him to know how to handle it. "Dad took his tumbles, but he was never afraid to get back on a horse,'' she said.

The auction is being offered by Fladeboe Auctions beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, with an open house viewing from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday. For more information contact Dale Fladeboe at 320-894-9392 or on the web:

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335