John Hovde [Photo: Sandi Boughton]

In the vast and diverse world of horsemanship, there are individuals who stand out, not just for their skill, but for their dedication to mentoring the next generation. Among these luminaries is John Hovde, a name synonymous with excellence in North Dakota and beyond. With a lifetime spent in the realm of cutting horses and a passion for nurturing young talent, his impact resonates far and wide.

In an interview with DHM this past fall at a high school rodeo, Hovde shared some insights into his journey, reflecting on the evolution of the sport and the timeless wisdom he imparts to aspiring equestrians. From his roots in Williston and Epping, North Dakota to his current endeavors in Arizona, his commitment to horsemanship remains unwavering.

[Photo: Purple Haven Enterprises]

The horseman’s involvement in the high school rodeo scene serves as a testament to his dedication to nurturing youth talent. Over the years, he says he has witnessed a remarkable transformation in the skill level of young riders, attributing it to the pursuit of learning and the constant refinement of horsemanship techniques.

As a mentor, Hovde has an ‘old-school’ mentality of uncompromising standards and focuses on the fundamentals. He says he believes in making the wrong difficult and the right easy — a philosophy that resonates not only in horsemanship, but in life itself. For him, success in the saddle begins with a solid foundation built on the basics.

[Photo: Craig Maley Photography]

“Here’s the deal: the beginners want to ride like the intermediates, the intermediates want to ride like the pros, and the pros want to ride like the basics,” said Hovde, in his opinion.

Reflecting on the changing landscape of cutting horse competitions, Hovde acknowledged the profound impact of breeding advancements on the quality of horses. “The horsepower has changed completely. Genetics have so much to do with this, and they are being bred for specialized events and it shows.” Hovde added, “It’s like a border collie dog. It’s there. You’ve got to teach the horse what to do, but they have an instinct to do it.”

[Photo: submitted]

Throughout his career, Hovde said he has drawn inspiration from a number of horsemen such as individuals like Don Taylor and Al Dunning. Although, Hovde said he recognizes that true mastery comes from personal experience and a deep understanding forged through trial and error. “Somebody can’t really teach you anything. They can give you pointers, but you got to teach yourself. It’s a feel, and there’s no way around it,” explained Hovde.

Despite decades of experience, Hovde has remained a constant student of horsemanship, acknowledging that there is always more to learn. He said he views horses and his students as mechanisms for continual growth, remarking on the invigorating effect they have on his life.

For Hovde, horses have not only been a livelihood but a source of joy and fulfillment. They have provided him with an occupation — one that transcends the notion of work, making his days fulfilled.

The Hovde family [Photo: submitted]

John Hovde’s legacy extends far beyond the fences of the show pen. He was was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame 2009 in the Cowboy Long Rider category. As a mentor, a competitor, and a legend of the sport, he represents the timeless values of hard work, dedication, and commitment.

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