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Horse Whisperer

Horse Whisperer

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Alta Mayhugh|Williston Herald Preparing to ride a horse is like getting ready to drive a car, making sure everything is in order before you do it, says John Hovde of Epping.

Here he inspects his horse Peppy in an arena near his home.

The best way to train a horse isn't by tugging on the reins or pounding the animal's sides with one's spurs.

It's all about body language, said Epping's John Hovde, known as the "Horse Whisperer" of North Dakota.Hovde has a philosophy about communication between horses and humans: "Horsemanship isn't teaching a horse; it is learning how to ask a horse to do something in a way the horse can understand."Hovde grew up on a ranch with horses, and as a boy the idea was to get along with horses without fighting them.

He learned how to do things "their way.""I found out if you ask them to do things in a way they understand, they'll do it," he said.A relationship between a horse and man shouldn't be a master-and-slave relationship, but rather the two working as a team.

Saturday afternoon, Hovde was inducted into the 2009 North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in the Cowboy Long Rider division.

Hovde, 62, is well known for his gentle manner with horses and his involvement in organizations such as the American Quarter Horse Association and the North Dakota Cutting Horse Association.He also has taught horsemanship clinics since 1972 and hosts the AQHA Trail Ride at his ranch, the Hovde Ranch.

He also has conducted 4-H horsemanship clinics, is an adjunct professor of animal and range sciences for the equine department at North Dakota State University in Fargo and has taken a 3-year-old mare to the AQHA championship.At the tender age of 6, Hovde began to learn how to train horses at his family's ranch southeast of Williston.

He showed horses and cattle in 4-H.

After the family moved to Williston, he spent summers at the ranch taking in outside horses that were mostly 4- to 6-year-old renegades.He graduated from NDSU in 1969 with a bachelor's degree in animal science and spent two years in Vietnam with the 1st Calvary Division before returning home to raise cattle.

He started his ranch 26 years ago.While working with horses, Hovde learned body language is the best way to communicate with horses and get them to do tricks.

For example, while feeding at the trough, horses have a pecking order and all one has to do is give a look at which horses move out of the way for another horse, he said.Horses can read human body language as well."They know what your mood is just by the way you walk.

If you're sneaking, they know it; if you're stomping through like you're mad, they know it," Hovde said.Hovde mostly works with quarter horses as that's the breed he raises.

But he has worked with all breeds and doesn't have a favorite."I'm just kind of like Jesus, I love them all," he said.He has traveled all over to give lessons, including Arizona and near Washington, D.C.

But he mostly stays within North Dakota and sometimes travels to Montana.

The busy man does prefer to give horse lessons at his ranch.When asked how he felt about the Cowboy Hall of Fame honor, the blue-eyed, soft-spoken man admitted he was embarrassed but honored."It's a pretty humbling deal.

It never entered my mind; I thought it was such an honor to be nominated," he said.



http://www.willistonherald.com/articles/2009/06/27/news/doc4a46a60593eae800974368.txt
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