Cowboy Long Rider
John Hovde is, far and away, the ‘Horse Whisperer’ of North Dakota. Growing up on a Williams County ranch, he was already learning how to train horses at age six. The Hovde kids showed horses and cattle in 4 H. After the family moved into Williston, Hovde spent summers on the ranch alone, under rustic conditions and taking in outside horses that were mostly four to six year old renegades.
Hovde graduated from NDSU with a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1969. He served two years in Vietnam with the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division and, though he kept asking for a horse, he never got one. Back stateside, Hovde and his wife lived in Fairview, Montana, where he managed a feedlot.
He bought cattle and eventually leased a spread east of his childhood home, the old Parker Ranch, named for its founder, Minot’s Clarence Parker. The ranch, where he and Kathleen raised their two children, continues to be their home on the range.
Hovde began putting on horsemanship clinics in 1972 and was instrumental in starting the Equine Connection in 1990 to help educate the public on all areas of the horse industry. Through the years, he judged countless high school cutting competitions and horse shows, as well as coaching many high school competitors.
Hovde has traveled to the Bar 26 Ranch (once owned by John Wayne) in Winslow, Arizona, to teach horsemanship clinics and has been active within the Mondak Association and the N.D. Cutting Horse Association, serving as president of both associations for many years. The Hovdes have hosted the AQHA State Trail Ride at their ranch, with proceeds from that event donated to the Home On The Range.
For 30 years, Hovde has voluntarily conducted 8 to 12 4 H horsemanship clinics. He is also an adjunct professor of animal and range sciences for the NDSU Equine Department, Fargo. One of Hovde’s biggest accomplishments yet to be matched by anyone else was his successful campaign to the AQHA championship with a three year old mare.
In 2003, Hovde took 9th place in the Versatility Ranch Horse Competition. He also won many state cutting, working cow horse and reining competitions in North Dakota and South Dakota. He was chosen as the N.D. Horse Council 2007 ‘Horse Person of the Year’. Hovde’s philosophy can be summed up as “Horsemanship isn’t teaching a horse, it is learning how to ask a horse to do something in a way the horse can understand.”