Horses are known for their innate ability to sense human emotion and mirror human behavior. It’s no wonder why the two have long had a powerful connection. “Horses speak completely with body language,” said Kelly Paonessa, founder and owner of D+K Ranch in Interlaken. “They communicate by how they move their leg, how they tip their head, which way their ear is pointed.” Because of this, Kelly says, horses can teach us a lot about ourselves. “I didn’t realize until later in life how therapeutic that was for me to be able to connect with a horse whose sole goal is to be your partner,” she said. Together with her husband Dave, the Rochester, NY native built a home for their family, and their horses, in the Finger Lakes National Forest.
When a friend suggested that people would pay to go on horseback rides, Paonessa began selling trail rides to the public, and opened D+K Ranch. Trail excursions range from beginner rides to adventure outings for wandering cowboys and cowgirls. The ranch also offers small group lessons, team-building sessions, and programs for youth organizations and persons with physical challenges.
In 2019, the business added four cabins that offer a more immersive ranch experience. Cabin guests are assigned a private wrangler who serves as their personal guide and concierge. The ranch’s two miniature ponies are the bellhops and pull the luggage to the cabin in a small cart. “In the evening, we have a wrangler around the bonfire to answer questions, or have a glass of wine with the clients,” said Paonessa.
“That is one of the best parts of our day. Our guests want to be part of the whole ranch experience.” Paonessa has successfully turned her passion into a business centered on helping people build connections with horses and discover more about themselves in the process. “It’s rare to be able to start a business doing what you absolutely love,” she said. “Our hope is that D+K Ranch is an enjoyable experience, and that you leave here ready for your next life adventure.”
D + K Ranch
3010 Clark Rd.
Interlaken, NY 14847