Family, friends honor life of Katie Yaunick at horse show

The life of Katie Yaunick was honored at Crow Wing County Fairgrounds on July 10 at this weekend’s horse show by friends and family.

Katie Yaunick Tribute
While members of the Boots'n Buckles Saddle Club pay their respects Sunday, July 10, 2022, Katie Yaunick's fiance Justin Hardy leads her horse, Honeybee, into the Burgwald Arena at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds. Yaunick, who was a member of the club, was honored by the group with a memorial tree planting ceremony.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — The cloudy weather was accompanied by a melancholy rain, the sounds of horses neighing and muffled tears by friends and family.

Katie Yaunick Tribute
Justin Hardy, left, watches as a tribute to his fiancee Katie Yaunick is posted on the Burgwalk Arena fence Sunday , July 10, 2022, at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds. A member of the Boots'n Buckles Saddle Club, Yaunick's friends honored her at the regular club show.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

The life of Katie Yaunick was honored at Crow Wing County Fairgrounds during a weekend horse show by friends and family. Anyone who knew Yaunick, knew her horse riding community was her second family, family members said.

Katie was 33 years old when she was tragically struck and killed by a pickup truck Monday, June 13, on Thompson Road southeast of Brainerd. She was with one of her horses, Daisy, at the time of the collision, who also died as a result of the crash.

Katie began riding horses at age 7 when she was given her first horse.

Her love affair with horses continued through her life. Her 2-year-old horse, Daisy, was Katie’s dream horse, family members said. She had gotten Daisy while she was young and scrawny, but worked hard with the filly to get her to gain weight and muscle in order to compete in barrel horse racing.


Katie Yaunick Tribute
Katie Yaunick's fiance Justin Hardy, left, Katie's dad Steve Yaunick and her friend Michelle Osborn plant a tree Sunday, July 10, 2022, near the Burgwald Arena in the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds. The tree was planted in her memory near the horse arena where she has preformed many times.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Her previous horse, which she trained and rode for 15 years, suffered an injury and could no longer compete. Katie gave the mare to a friend to look after before training Daisy.

Katie was a member of Boots’n Buckles Saddle Club. She was an active participant in horse shows and other events through their community. The saddle club was like a second family to her, her family said.

Katie was dedicated to her horse family as well as her own family. Her parents, Steve and Tina Yaunick describe her as the rock of their family.

“Katie was very loving and would do anything for her family,” Tina Yaunick said. “She would help if we had any questions with computers or cell phones or needed something. And we were a close family. Always did stuff together. So she's greatly missed.”

Her dad went on to describe Katie as the hub of the family — losing her was unimaginable.

Katie Yaunick Tribute
Tina Yaunick holds her daughter Katie's horse, Honeybee, for children to pet Sunday, July 10, 2022, at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds. The Yaunick family were at the Burgwald Arena for a memorial tree planting in her daughter's honor.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“It’s tremendously painful,” Steve Yaunick said. “That never goes away. It's a nightmare. 24/7 You can't wake up, can't eat, can't sleep, cry all the time. It was a huge loss for our family.”

Originally, the horse show was scheduled for June 25 and 26, but was rescheduled to July due to weather. The saddle club wanted a way to honor Katie and decided to take time out of the day to remember her and all she did within the community.

In between show events, a tree was planted on the fairgrounds as a memorial for Katie. Her horse, Honeybee, went around the arena for a riderless walk while being led by Justin Hardy, Katie’s fiance.


Hardy and Katie were supposed to be wed Saturday, July 9 — the day prior to this small memorial service.

Hardy was present for the memorial along with Katie Yaunick’s entire family. He planted the tree with help from Katie’s father, Steve, and a friend, Michelle Osborne. Prior to planting the tree, Hardy gave a heartfelt speech in remembrance of his fiancee.

Katie Yaunick Tribute
Justin Hardy, fiance of Katie Yaunick, waits outside of the Burgwald horse arena at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds Sunday, July 10, 2022, with Yaunick's horse Honeybee before a tribute to her by the Boots'n Buckles Saddle Club.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“Everyone here meant so much to Katie,” Hardy said. “You guys are all family here. Not friends, you’re all family. Her horse family.”

Katie was very family oriented to her horse family and her actual family, Hardy said. He told Katie’s loved ones who gathered that they never know how much time is left and to reach out to friends and family. He also asked for everyone to keep riding for Katie and never stop dreaming.

SARA GUYMON, Brainerd Dispatch, staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5851 or

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