My Dad’s Journey From Skeptic to Horse Whisperer

Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Yourkoski

BY KAITLYN YOURKOSKI

At the age of six, I stumbled into a barn to watch my friend ride, clueless that I would also fall in love with the twelve-hundred pound animals. Everyday I begged my mom and dad to allow me to take a lesson at a local equestrian facility, but “no” was their answer time after time. After years of begging, my parents allowed me to take a singular lesson for my 13th birthday. Five years later, I ride six days a week and spend around twenty hours at the barn. Whoops! Sorry Dad…

My mom was excited for me to ride, as an animal lover herself, she understood the therapeutic nature of the animal. My dad on the other hand found, horses to be the opposite of calming. Nort only was he not excited about all the “frivolous” money spent, my 17.2 hand horse looked like a monster stretching down over him.

Don’t get me wrong, my dad always supported me in whatever I did, but it’s hard to financially support an equestrian. Especially compared to my younger brother, who plays soccer.

We argued over saddles, helmets, boots, and even small little purchases. My dad was relentless. He did not want to pay, and he didn’t understand why the less expensive saddle did not fit my horse as well as the pricier one. But I learned that instead of arguing with my dad, I should educate him. We sat down and talked, and that’s when he told me that he felt as if he was in the dark due to the fact he was so clueless.

My Dad at Hits on The Hudson driving to the Farm Vet trailer to get Back on Track Wraps for my horse Henry. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Yourkoski

So he started following me around to the barn more often, learning parts of the horse and how to tack up. Slowly, he got more comfortable around my giant horse and mustered up the courage to groom him… well, after we got past his fear of touching the horse’s face because he was worried about being bitten! Slowly, but surely my dad began to tack up the horse and walk into the ring.

Through this education, he began to understand why the animal is so magical. By forming a relationship with the horses on the ground, my dad and my horse earned mutual respect and trust in one another.

My dad started to be less reluctant about some costs, as he began to understand that with diets and supplements the horse is like a human. If you eat junk food only, you’re going to crash. You need your vitamins and good nutrition — even if you’re a horse.

Again, there is no solution to get a maybe not-so-happy-about-horses dad excited about riding, but thinking about things through his perspective and taking the time to explain things are small steps to take. To get your dad to understand, he may even have to get up close and personal with horses to experience what your world is like!

My dad practicing his horse whispering strategies to try to calm my horse Henry at Hits On The Hudson. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Yourkoski

After a long stressful day at work or being crammed with a week full of business travel, my dad can come to the barn and be calm. Just like me after a long day of school, I go to my horse and the world seems simple. My dad always finds a way to work horses into his busy schedule. Even if he doesn’t say it, horses bring him tranquility just like they do for me.

My dad is my biggest fan, but now he is also my horse, Henry’s biggest fan. My dad has respect for him and how he takes care of me. He happily comes to the barn to pet Henry, take videos of me, or even hang out with the other horses. He snuggles up to them all and his proudest moment is when a certain horse at the barn whinnies with excitement everytime he walks into the barn. He dad shouts back, “what’s up buddy”, and gives him a pat on the neck.

I didn’t see it coming, but suddenly my dad thinks he’s a horse whisperer. And you know what? I kind of like it!