«Return to News ListingYoda in the Eyes of NMCTR’s Herd Manager

View Slides


November 27, 2022 – 

Most people who know me will tell you that I’ve never met a horse I didn’t like. Horses are like people, of course, and they have personalities. Some personalities are harder to get along with, certainly. Some horses are one-person-only horses. Some horses love humans and some, not so much. Some horses love dogs, some hate donkeys. Some will steal your sandwich if you’re standing too close and not paying attention, and some get grumpy if the weather isn’t nice. Some thrive under pressure, and some prefer a gentler life. I’ve met horses who have demonstrated all of these characteristics. So, it might sound trite, but it’s true: the horses at NMCTR are remarkable. I believe that every horse is remarkable, but the job we ask our herd to do is not one that every horse is able to. In fact, only a minority of them could offer the grace and compassion for humans that the NMCTR herd does. Let me tell you a little bit about one of them.

Yoda is our Norwegian Fjord Horse and he is one of the smartest beasts I’ve ever met, he needs lots of attention and stimulation to keep from getting bored. He is a cheeky fellow, and if he thinks he can cause mischief, he sure will. The first time I worked with Yoda on the ground, I was impressed. He was responsive, and controlled. In short, a perfect angel. But, I know for sure, he was sizing me up because, well…the second time we worked together, I went ‘equine skiing’ along the arena. He noticed the split second that I stopped paying attention while I was talking to someone, and got away from me on the lunge: merrily trotted off, with me hollering after him the whole way. When he reached the gate, he stopped and turned his head to face me as if to say “that was fun, wasn’t it?”. As well as being hilarious, Yoda is also a very affectionate horse, once he gets to know you. One day during the summer, he wasn’t feeling well. I took a chair and sat by his stall, keeping him company as I sat tapping away on my laptop. The big guy came over and poked his head through the railings, to rest his head on my lap. I pet him and scratched behind his ears and he stayed there for a good ten minutes or so, until he felt well enough to nibble at some hay. My laptop still has Yoda slobber on it.

My favorite thing to do with Yoda is turn him out in the arena with his friends on a cool morning. We play a game together. I take his halter off and leave the arena. He watches me and walks straight to the railing to put his head through and eat weeds, eyeballing me the whole time. That means it’s my turn – I jog over to him and say ‘Yoda! Stop eating the weeds!’. He jumps up, and squeals, and bucks and runs around for a few seconds! Then he nonchalantly meanders to a different spot along the fence to eat the weeds…watching me, waiting for me to jog over and do the same thing again. We play a few more rounds and once he’s worked off all his cool-morning fizzies, he goes to smooch with his buddy Poncho, and that’s how I know I’ve been dismissed from playing the game.

Yoda’s compassion for his riders is obvious to anyone who watches him at work. He is one of our most reliable lesson horses. We can one hundred percent rely on him to look after his riders: he is completely solid, nothing phases him, and he knows his job inside out. If you are able to connect with Yoda, whether you’re riding him or cleaning his stall, you know it’s a gift. There’s no other feeling that can compare to building a friendship with a horse, especially a horse like Yoda.

Siv Watkins 
NMCTR Herd Manager