Former Hollywood horse trainer invents devices to help people with mobility issues

·3 min read

John Wayne Yakimyshyn of Lethbridge was riding high on a Hollywood horse-training career, until the day he says a stunt horse decided he "didn't want to be in show business anymore."

The 2017 accident on a Vancouver film set left the lifelong horseman nearly paralyzed.

But as he worked through his recovery, Yakimyshyn saw a need.

"When I'm in the hospital trauma unit bed in Vancouver, the grab handle rails aren't in the right place for somebody who's cut in half to get in the bed," Yakimyshyn told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"So then I got to thinking, 'Holy, this isn't just me, this is North America and probably worldwide. When I got back, I was a year in bed and in a wheelchair, and I couldn't get into a truck to go get groceries."

Yakimyshyn created a line of products to help people with any kind of mobility problems — from a Lasso that helps get seniors out of bed, a Hitching Post for hanging on in the tub and a Stirrup for getting up into a vehicle.

Yes, the GiDDYUPZ line is all Western-themed. And the products are all made on a ranch south of Lethbridge.

"It started like crazy in September. I made a bunch of these things by hand over the last three years and it was just, you know, come and go because I was by myself," Yakimyshyn said.

"Now, I actually have a factory with real American cowboys one hour north of Montana, just south of Lethbbridge. We're selling to trucking companies and harvesting companies and all this kind of stuff. So, yeah, it's booming like crazy."

Yakimyshyn's products are designed to help anyone who needs a little boost, and the patented GiDDYUPZ Stirrup — designed to help those trying to hoist themselves up into a truck — is proving to be popular.

He says it's small enough to fit in a purse and is helpful for anyone needing to get into a boosted truck or out of a wheelchair.

After the past few years of rehabilitation, Yakimyshyn said he learned a thing or two about needing to hoist himself from a wheelchair or a bed.

"I taught myself to walk after a year," he said.

"I saw a lot of issues and stuff, but you know what? I don't want to complain. Thank the good Lord I'm alive. My brain didn't stop working."

Yakimyshyn got to work on coming up with ways to help people move their bodies around — turning his accident into something positive.

However that doesn't make the memory any easier.

"I'm on a movie set making good money, and all of a sudden five seconds later I'm on the ground, cut in half, in an ambulance and then my career is over," he said.

Submitted by John Wayne Yakimyshyn
Submitted by John Wayne Yakimyshyn

The horse, which he had been riding back to the barn after shooting some scenes, reared up and violently bucked him to the ground.

But Yakimyshyn says he would ride again if he could.

"I can't get on a horse here or a motorcycle anymore, and that's the problem," he said.

"And I can't dance anymore. I used to love to dance."

But for now he says, Yakimyshyn is happy to have put something out there that might help others.

GiDDYUPZ are for sale at Napa Auto Parts in Coaldale and at the Coaldale Bakery, or by ordering online. For more information go to GiDDYUPZ.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.