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Happy Father’s Day!

Like many riders, we SmartPakers wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of our super awesome parents. This Father’s Day, we wanted to take a moment to recognize the dads who helped make our riding careers possible. Read our stories, then share your own in the comments or at

I can say with 100% certainty that I would not have accomplished all of my riding goals without the support of my Dad (and my Mom!). My dad was my truck and trailer driver, my saddle shiner (there is a lot of silver on those western show saddles!), my groom, my video taper, and one of my biggest cheerleaders. He made a point to travel the country with me and attend almost every single APHA show that I have competed in over the last 12 years. I am so lucky to have had my Dad by my side through it all! – Ashley D., Customer Care

Some of my first horsey memories were pony rides at the fair. The lines were always super long, so my dad would wait in line while I was riding. When my ride was done, I would get off and jump in line with him, cutting down on wait time and maximizing my rides. (Thanks, dad, for supporting my horse habit all these years!) – Sara F., Creative

My Dad was (and still is!) awesome around the horses. He made it to most of my lessons over the years, and was our barn’s Horse Show Photographer while I was growing up. After the show, he would get all the photos developed and hand them out to the kids and parents. He was also known to carry around a towel and dust off my boots at a show, hand out bottles of water on hot days, and get snacks for everyone.
He always encouraged me, and knew it was something I loved. He still asks me all about the horses and my lessons. – Jen B., Customer Care

My dad definitely knows how important riding is to me and always wants to hear about how my riding is going. Of course, he is not a horse person at all, so I’m pretty sure he has no clue what I’m talking about when I actually go into detail about my latest ride or lesson!
My best memories are every time he would pick me up from college to head home for a break. My school had horses (of course!) and I would usually have a project horse I worked with one-on-one during the year. He would always make sure we visited the barn so he could see “my” horse before we left. It was also amazing that he supported me in my decision to attend an equestrian college in the first place! – Katie G., Customer Care

When it comes to my riding, my dad was there every step of the way. From buying me my first horse to riding my horse in the Jack Benny class (leadline for those over 40 years old), my dad was so supportive and proud of me and my riding accomplishments. My favorite memory is of the PHBA Youth World Show. I drove out to Oklahoma with my horse, along with my trainer and my mom to the PHBA Youth World Show, but my dad couldn’t come because he had to work. We were out there for three weeks and the day before my Youth Hunter Hack class my dad decided to fly out for two days to watch. I was so excited for him to be there and the best part of it all is that he was there when I won the Youth Hunter Hack class. I remember walking out of the ring and my dad was in tears and he gave DJ a big ole pat on the neck and told him what a good boy he was, and of course congratulated me on my win. I will remember that moment for the rest of my life, I was so happy to have him there and he was so proud. Since then (10 years ago), I am sure that almost every person my dad has had a conversation with has heard about our win… seriously. – Katrina C., Customer Care

The only thing my dad knew about horses was that I loved them, but that was enough for him. He quickly learned how expensive they can be, but luckily for me, he was still super-supportive. My mom had always been my lesson chauffer and the most awesome show day supporter I could’ve ever asked for, but when it came time to buy our own truck and trailer, my dad stepped up to the plate. With experience driving big rigs, and an undying love of my Quarter Horse, Cody, he was the most caring, careful, and competent driving on the road. He would get up unspeakably early after working late into the night (did I mention horses are expensive?) and drive me to all of our one-day shows. But he also managed to adjust his work schedule so that he could join me for the longer shows and events – sometimes for over a week at a time! When I went off to college, he and my mom traveled to my IHSA shows to cheer me on. To this day, he still asks about “The Code-Master” (his pet name for Cody), and does his best to stop by the farm where Cody is retired with apples whenever he’s in the area.
My dad’s support and love made me the rider, and the woman, I am today. – Sarah P., Marketing

I would have none of the championships and titles that I have today if it was not for my father, David. He has been with me every step of the way and I owe all my achievements to him. My dad was the one that enrolled me in riding classes at the age of six. He would wake up with me at 6 am on Saturday mornings after working a 50-hour week and bring me to the barn to watch me ride. He bought my first horse for me The Ebony Jet, aka EJ, who seven years later, I turned pro with. My father bought my trailer and truck and we drove everywhere. All across the country and long distances including Florida, St. Louis (3 days before Christmas), and Oklahoma. I ran for year-end championships a lot and sometimes we would have to pick up and go to a last minute show if we knew a competitor who was close in year-end points to myself was going to be there. If I was having the worst show or if I was hurt my father was there. I remember at one show my barrel horse went down on his knees around the third turn and I went into the wall. My trainer told me that my father leaped the arena gate and ran a football field’s length to where I was laying in the dirt. He looked at me and said, “Are you ok? That looked like it hurt!” and put his hand out to pick me up. That is my dad – superhero in my eyes. My father taught me everything about our truck and trailer including hauling horses. But he also taught me a lot about myself. For me, competing in barrel racing and other speed events was a mental game that required me to keep my composure, and my father was always there to support me. I will never forget when I gained my last point required for my Superior (“Pro”) Championship; we were in Branchville, New Jersey. My father screamed and cheered as loud as the fairgrounds would allow when they announced my first place in my poles class, earning my final required point for the award. He went out that night and bought tables, chairs, food, and wine and beer and we had a huge party in between the stalls, and all the show attendees came. He got special wine glasses for the children, including myself, with sparkling apple cider and everyone sang and toasted my accomplishment. I owe my entire riding career to my father, but more than that, I am who I am today because of him. – Brett P., Customer Care

My Dad says to this day he thought riding was a phase that I would one day outgrow. He laughs thinking back because even now my life is still consumed by horses- I work at SmartPak for goodness sake! He taught me early on that if I wanted to ride or own a horse that I had to work for it and earn it. I really value the lesson he taught me and from a young age I appreciated how fortunate I was to be able to lesson and then eventually own my own horse. I am so lucky to have a father that supported my riding and love of horses despite not always fully understanding it, and I could always count on him to be at my shows and awards banquets to cheer me on. My Dad always knew how happy I was just to be at the barn 24/7 and he always said he would have rather had me at the barn than shopping at the mall or causing trouble somewhere else. – Autumn I., Merchandising

While my dad was definitely a huge supporter of my obsession with riding, and still is, my Papa (grandfather) was also a huge support. He drove me to many of my lessons as a kid and didn’t just drop me off. He’d come in the barn with pockets full of apples, carrots, and sugar cubes, and quickly became the favorite person of every horse in the barn. He’d also sit and watch my lessons, which might not have always been super exciting, but he was there every weekend anyway! He’s pictured here with me and the first horse I took lessons on, a Quarter Horse mare named Sugar. Papa still has a photo of me riding Sugar on his fridge to this day! – Michelle M.,

I owe my passion for horses to my parents, and to my father in particular. And he’s not even a “horse guy” by the traditional sense- but he sure adopted the Horse Dad role flawlessly and selflessly. I had been taking lessons on my favorite horse Danny for four years, and had recently won High Point Champion with him at a local 4-H show. It was bittersweet, as we had recently learned that the lesson barn was going up for sale (along with the horses), and this could be one of the last times I got to spend time with my favorite pony. I had already begrudgingly moved on to another barn but had jumped at this last chance to show Danny.
As still a novice (at only 10 years old), I had neglected to take poor Danny’s braids out, and after a chastising by the barn owner, my father drove me the following day so I could spend one last time with Danny, and relieve him from his itchy braids. Apparently it was then and there, as he watched me in Danny’s pasture, that my father decided on the spot to buy him for me (can you say luckiest girl EVER?!).
So unbeknownst to me, my non-horsey father negotiated his first ever horse purchase, and later surprised me at my new barn, having arranged Danny to show up in a stall, with the card “I’m Your’s” hanging on the door. Yes, I cried. Yes, I still have the card.
Countless more adventures ensued, including my father learning how to drive a horse trailer (this took dedication, as my father’s own hobby is racing sports cars in autocrosses). He spent countless days taking me to horse shows, keeping himself amused by calculating championship points and kindly advising me of what place I needed to achieve in each class to win the High Point. He learned to be an expert stall cleaner, and how to always keep extra rags in his pockets for last minute touch-ups. And of course how to take the perfect picture and videos so I could self critique tirelessly after a show or lesson.
Many, many thanks Dad! – Molly H., Merchandising

My father has always been awesome and willing to support me in pretty much anything I wanted to try, but his dedication to my horse habit is something I appreciate more than words can describe.
Unlike most kids, my love of horses came much later and pretty unexpectedly. Dad and I were out searching for Hardy Mums for my mother and came across a small farm that had a hand-painted sign indicating that they had ponies for sale. Rest assured, he didn’t buy me a pony (I tried, I really did) but when the farm owner offered to let me do chores in exchange for lessons, I leapt at the chance. Of course, being 12 years old, this meant that dear-ol’ dad would have to drive me to and from the barn each afternoon to do chores and usually involved him sticking around to help me muck and haul hay.
When I moved to a barn with a formal lesson program, dad faithfully chauffeured me to and from lessons, to and from horse camp, to and from horse shows. It didn’t matter how early the day started or how late it ran, he was always there. He walked colic-y horses, acted as a hitching post for their pre-show baths, moved hay and shavings, visited every tack shop in 150 miles to help me track down the perfect horse supplies, did mounds of horse laundry, and even installed a second washing machine in our house for horse laundry!
Riding continued through high school (when I could finally drive myself to the barn), but he never missed a lesson. In college I rode in the IHSA and he was in attendance at every show, no matter how far he needed to travel or how early he had to leave the house to get there.
Riding is full of some pretty powerful life lessons and can be both joyous and heartbreaking. Dad was there to celebrate every ribbon, to lend a shoulder at the passing of an equine friend, or dust me off when I had to pick myself up out of the dirt – again. He is absolutely the reason for my success in and out of the show ring and I can’t thank him enough. – Laura C., Customer Care

Without my dad, there would be no horse in my life. Like any horse-obsessed girl, the horse love started from day one, but I didn’t get my first horse until middle school. It was a total fluke that we even bought this horse, but my dad was there from the beginning. Looking back on it, I didn’t realize how lucky I was. I had a dad that would hike in front of the horse on trails just so that I felt safe on my “giant” (14.2 hand) gelding, and who hauled me to countless shows and sat through HUNDREDS (perhaps thousands) of dressage lessons with my second horse, Luna. He sat with horse mothers, and listened to who knows how much gossip with patience and grace while I rode in various group events. He even took over the care of Luna when life took me elsewhere. Most recently, my dad covered the cost of colic surgery for Luna. I know he did it not only because Luna means the world to both of us, but because Luna is the last remaining piece of a more innocent time where father and daughter could spend happy moments together simply patting the velvet nose of a horse. Dad, thank you forever and always. – Kassidy B., Customer Care

My dad has been my biggest supporter since they day I started riding 14 years ago. The picture I have included is my dad riding our Arabian “Special.” When I first started riding, he would ride Special while I rode Socks out on the trails. Most rides he would end up dismounting to continue for miles on foot since Special got a little nervous outside of the ring. He has always gone out of his way to make it to any shows no matter how far the drive was! Most recently he joined me on an eight-hour trailer ride when I relocated Socks to Massachusetts to make sure we both arrived safe and sound. Thanks Dad! – Courtney B., Customer Care

For several years, my dad was my Official Barn Chauffeur and would shuttle me to and from the barn every day so I could see my horse. Even after I was old enough to drive, he would still find excuses to take me to the barn so we could spend time together. Though definitely not a horseperson, he always impressed me with his stall-mucking and treat-feeding abilities. – Megan O., Customer Care

Like many girls, I am a daddy’s girl! My dad, Mark, has always supported my love of all animals. I was lucky enough to grow up with a cat and a dog, and at the age of eight my dad took the plunge and invested in riding lessons for me! I never looked back and neither has he. When I was 13 years old he gave in and bought me my first horse, Trevor, (and later others) which I was able to have at home in our backyard. Because my dad works in New York City, he (thankfully) enjoyed going out to the barn on the weekends to feed them and enjoy some quiet time outside, which also meant I got to sleep in! He continued to support me as I attended college for Animal Science and took the time to move me in and visit me in Virginia at my internship at Spring Hill Farm, a thoroughbred breeding farm. Unfortunately my dad is usually the one behind the camera, but here he is with one the broodmares after he took being bit in the back by a foal like a champ! – Paige Z., Customer Care

Although my dad was not as involved with the day to day horse quests as my mom was, he still did his part. My dad was great about making sure he was there for early morning horse shows, even when they were on Sundays when normal people enjoy sleeping in. Not only did he always show up and cheer me on in a sport that he didn’t have much knowledge in, but he also made for a wonderful portable mounting block! This came in handy for shows that did not have an accessible block for me to use. Even though he sometimes came close to over doing the leg up and almost placing me on the other side of the horse, he eventually became a pro at it! Mostly, just having him there helped to ease my nerves and make the day that much more special! Thank you, Dad, for always being there! – Kimberly, Accounting

When your daughter tells you she wants to trade in her soccer cleats for tall boots, some dads might shake their head – but not mine. My dad has been the biggest supporter of my riding career. He did it all, from driving me to the barn every weekend for lessons to helping me prepare for my horse shows. One memory that sticks in my head about my dad happened when I was in high school. My horse, Jamie, needed stitches near his eye and the treatment required daily attention. For two straight weeks, my dad brought me to the barn every morning before school. We needed to give Jamie antibiotics, but the only way he would take it would be with a syringe filled with apple sauce. I remember the battle every morning, apple sauce flying everywhere and the itching that persisted once we put the protective mask over Jamie’s eye – oh, did I mention that my dad was dressed in his uniform for work during all of this? I bet not many police officers go into work smelling like a barn with their boots covered in mud and horse hair, but I know my dad did it because he loved my horse just as much as I did. When I went off to college, my dad went down to the barn almost every day to visit and groom my horse (and feed him one too many apple treats). I don’t think I will ever be able to thank him enough for everything he has done for me and my horse. To this day, he will never let me go into the show ring unless my boots are polished to his standards… and yes, that means spit shined. – Kelcie, Marketing

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