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This page is a special tribute to our beloved Katy. Her beautiful bright spirit continues to inspire and helps lead our journey here at the Walk On Therapeutic Riding Program. The Giske family thanks you for all the past and continued gracious support during this incredibly difficult time.

~ Katy’s Last Class & Ride~
(written by a Walk On volunteer) 

Not sure if I was volunteering for the last therapeutic riding class that Katy participated in or not... 
I guess it is actually irrelevant because this is how I will remember it:

I pulled onto the Double K paved driveway which was shiny, smooth and black
I waved at Paige and Cassy, who were riding together on Beau's bare back

In the front of the barn the garden was beautiful and still in its full summer bloom
The smell of fresh cut hay filled the air... a horseman's favorite perfume

The paddocks were full of horses and thick with grass so green
The arena was raked, the barn was spotless, and everything was so darn clean

People started to arrive quite early, and it went from quiet to quite a rouse
Ten times more people were there that day, than were at the Open House

Anyone who ever volunteered came out to help on that special day
Some were side walkers, some led horses, and other stacked donated hay

All the riders from the past, came to take their horse for a memorable trot
Seeing the hundreds of riders this lady had touched really meant a lot

The lady greeted every volunteer that day and every rider too
She greeted them with a great big smile and a friendly "So how are you?"

She gave each of the riders a helmet and they were all a perfect fit
All the horses stayed calm as they were tacked and Cowboy even took his bit

The class was big but Ken, Cassy and Paige made sure everyone rode for really quite a while
This was the best class I had ever helped with because everyone had a great big smile

The sounds of laughing, enthusiasm, and love, filled every breath of air
Everyone involved displayed their happiness... including barks from Bear

The lady heard stories from the riders' families about what great things the riding had done
But she already knew they were getting the therapy they needed, because the riders were having fun

Cake walks took place, pictures were taken and certificates were handed out
As the riders exuded their confidence-- you knew that this is what Walk On was all about

The final class was done, and now it was the time for the nice lady to leave
The fact that she was going away, none of us could really believe

She grabbed Deb's heavy saddle for hte long ride that unexplainably lay ahead
But she would be helped by five special horses that had no need to even be led

For the horses were heading back to their home which they could easily find
Bringing with them this wonderful lady, who had always been way too kind

Melody, Holly, Bailey, Butterscotch and Babe were the names of the special horses she would ride
Everyone waved to the beautiful lady as she galloped away, and many of us even cried

Her pets all followed her but stopped at the edge of a beautiful flowing stream
The caring lady crossed the Rainbow Bridge into a land that was as beautiful as a dream

So you ask me now, who was this person... kind, caring, wonderful lady
I always remember meeting her for the first time, when she smiled and said, "Hi, I'm Katy"

Think   Believe   Hope   Know

These words were etched in the beach sand on Galveston Beach by Paige on Katy’s first trip to Texas for cancer treatment.  These precious words, along with her Faith, are the words that helped Katy and her family during these past few years.

Catherine Ann "Katy" (Symes) Giske

September 4, 1960 - April 5, 2011

"This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it."
~ Psalm 118: 24

This Bible verse was sent to Katy from her sister-in-law, Helen Betts.
Katy found wonderful Peace and Grace from it. 


Katy’s entire family would like to thank all the Prayers and support they have received over the years from so many people.  This support was from shared from here at home to literally around the world including Guam, Hawaii, Australia, and even the monks at the Greek monastery, Mt. Athos.

~ Embracing Katy’s Life ~


Catherine Ann “Katy” Symes was born on September 4, 1960, in River Falls, Wisconsin, to Kirby and Dorothy Symes.  Katy grew up in River Falls and with her brother Todd, her family enjoyed many years of boating on the St. Croix River.  Katy also enjoyed “The Mound,” a wooded area just up the street from her home. The Mound provided a place to not only play but it also gave Katy an appreciation for the outdoors, walking in the woods, enjoying the flowers and nature.  An appreciation she carried throughout her life.  Katy also enjoyed the family’s many dachshund dogs.  These family pets empowered her love for all creatures great and small. 


Upon graduating from River Falls High School, Katy continued her education with a Bachelor of Science Degree of Therapeutic Recreation from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse.  With this degree, she pursued a career working in programs for mental health, chemical dependency, and physical disabilities.

Katy married Ken Giske on September 6, 1986, at the Trinity Episcopal Church in River Falls, Wisconsin.  Their marriage was strong and true. Her Faith was very strong and even grew stronger during her adult life.  Katy and her family are members of Saints Thomas and John Episcopal Church in New Richmond, Wisconsin.

Katy was so proud of her two beautiful daughters. Cassy is a student at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri and Paige is a senior at River Falls High School.  When Cassy was a toddler and seeing Cassy’s sad face as Katy drove away from the day care center, Katy knew she needed to be at home with Cassy.  She quickly changed careers and not only was she a wonderful stay at home mom, she also began an in-home day care.  For 13 years, Katy’s guidance provided safe, warm, and wonderful day care to many children.  Many of these kids grew up at her house going from diapers to kindergarten. Her home also provided a safe place for neighborhood kids to be dropped off and picked up from school.

On September 1, 1988, Ken and Katy moved to their 20 acre hobby farm in the Kinnickinnic Township located northeast of River Falls creating Double K Acres. The farm and country life provided a wonderful environment for their children.  Flowers were again important for Katy and she had numerous flower gardens. It was a joy for Katy when she could take the dogs out back for a walk or it was Spring and the outdoor clothes line could be used for the first time. Katy’s love for animals both great and small was again demonstrated in the experiences of God’s creatures being born at the farm. Her insight to the needs of these of all the animals was incredible. She always looked to their well being.  The farm also provided a place for Ken and Katy’s horses.  The horses initially were used for the family’s recreational pursuits. As Cassy and Paige grew up, Katy knew the importance of these horses on their lives as well.  For Cassy and Paige, these creatures provided a passion and insight to life.  In 2001, this passion and insight was shared with others as Katy and Ken developed and began the Walk On Therapeutic Riding Program. This horseback riding program touched the lives of the many riders, their families, and the numerous volunteers that assisted Katy and Ken with this program.

In her lifetime, Katy’s Faith, spirit, humor, and positive attitude carried her through many medical situations. Katy was the “even keel” in, at times, a very rough sea.  She did everything possible. She was a fighter. She never gave up. She was always praying and hoping for that Miracle.

On April 5, 2011, Katy’s Angel wings opened and, with the eagle that was soaring above her home that day, she rose to the Heavens.  With these words, ThinkBelieveHope, and Know, may Katy’s love, grace, and spirit always be with you. 

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