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Santana Walters and his horse, Ninja Boy. Photo: DAVIDDA HIKATANGATA

Roaming Paeroa streets

The clip-clop of hooves is becoming a familiar sound throughout the streets of Paeroa, where a horse named Ninja Boy draws attention wherever he goes. DAVIDDA HIKATANGATA reports.
It was his intrigue with a few equestrian videos on social media that sparked Santana Walters’ desire to get in the saddle and become a horse owner.
“I saw these Māori guys up [in] the far North riding on Tik Tok,” he said, and the rest is history.
People might recognise the 34-year-old as the man who trots around the streets of Paeroa with his horse, Ninja Boy.
Santana, who is also the owner of Hauraki Boats, said he always knew he was going to ride Ninja Boy around town.
“That’s why I’ve been trying to get him used to the traffic. [I’m] still learning myself,” he said.
The 11-year-old Standardbred horse came into Santana’s life at the start of the year, from a woman in Hikutaia.
“She couldn’t get out on him as much as she wanted to.” 

Santana spends a lot of time looking after his horse, Ninja Boy. Photo: DAVIDDA HIKATANGATA

But since Ninja Boy had been with Santana, he’d been on a few walks around town, sometimes down the main street but “mainly on the back streets, unless there isn’t much traffic”.
Santana said he’d also taken him to the bottle store to pick up drinks after a day out training and exercising “and to another mate’s panel beating shop”.
Wherever he rides through town, Ninja Boy always draws attention.
The biggest responses Santana said he and Ninja Boy have received from the public were photo requests, and also lots of elderly couples stopping to “have a good yarn”.
“They had horses back in their days,” he said. Some young people have also asked Santana if they can go for rides.
There was no comparison for Santana though, who said it felt a lot better to be riding out in the bush by yourself than in town.
Santana said his family love Ninja Boy because he is a chill and “gentle giant”.
“My four-year-old son and one-year-old nephew like sitting on him for rides around the house.”
A friend of Santana’s had recently become interested in horses too “so he’s picking one up next weekend”, he said.

With a vision to “help me get better” and understand his horse more, Santana said he was looking at getting some training through Hauraki Horsemanship, just outside of Paeroa.
“Because I don’t have a float, he’s gonna pick [Ninja Boy] up from me.”
When asked if he’d been for a gallop with Ninja Boy yet, Santana said: “not so much of a fast gallop. I can get him to sort of run”.
“That’s why I need that training course,” Santana said. “I think [Ninja Boy’s] more of a pacer. It’s just sort of harder to sit in the saddle because he’s more bouncy.”
Santana said due to his own fault, he’d already fallen off Ninja Boy once before as he was “riding him too late in the dark”.
Ninja Boy initially stopped and waited for Santana to get back up, but got spooked by a car and “buggered off home”, he said.
Birds or pheasants jumping out of bushes at night would also startle Ninja Boy.
‘[It] doesn’t make him spook and run.. it just makes him spook and stop.”

Santana said Ninja Boy didn’t have much of a daily routine: “just as long as he’s fed”.
Hay, silage and “feeding on grass paddocks” are his primary sources of food.
A few farmers around town offered paddocks for Ninja Boy to graze on, Santana said. “Between those two – he also mows my neighbours lawns.”
When Santana had a float, he said the furthest he’d taken Ninja Boy was to Mackaytown for swims.
It was evident that Ninja Boy needed a lot of attention. “If I’m not working, this fella just chews up all your time”.
And when it comes to cleaning up after Ninja Boy: “I don’t know if it’s a good thing… But he’ll probably fill a wheelbarrow full [of manure] a day.” Santana said it was a “shitload of horse shit”.
One thing Ninja Boy really likes to do is play in the mud. After he’s been rolling around in it, had a bath and gone back into the paddock: “he’ll go and roll in the mud again”, Santana said.
But even though it requires a lot of time and work, Santana said he gets enjoyment from owning Ninja Boy.
“It’s sort of a therapy too.”