Photos from the Vault

A Frisbee-catching horse? SLO County Arabian shows off his special skill

The Kentucky Derby bills itself as the most exciting two minutes in sports.

The 145th annual horse race will take place May 4, but the event would be more exciting if organizers added Frisbee fetching.

For the better part of three decades, a California Newspaper Publishers Association award-winning feature photo of a flying disc-catching by Wayne Nicholls was displayed on a wall of The Tribune’s lunch room.

Betsy Ward wrote this story, with ran in The Tribune on July 4, 1991:

He’s not your ordinary Frisbee fiend

You may know of Kentucky’s “run for the roses,” but have you heard of Templeton’s “run for the Frisbee?”

“You can’t teach them to do something like this,” Jay Evans said of his Frisbee-catching Arabian stallion, W.N. Namoniet (na-MOW-knee-et).

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Jay Evans of Templeton throws a Frisbee for horse W.N. Namoniet to catch during a workout at Simpson Arabian Stud Farm in summer 1991. Wayne Nicholls Telegram-Tribune

Preparing for a command performance at the Simpson Arabian Stud Farm in Templeton, Evans led the handsome silver-white stallion into a corral.

No roses were in sight, but in his right hand Evans clutched a multicolored bouquet of purple, white, yellow, green, red and turquoise Frisbees.

There was some question, however, as to whether the show would indeed go on.

“He has to be in the mood, and it’s very hot today,” said Evans, feeling protective of his 17-year-old pet.

A handful of spectators and ranch hands stood and waited as the tension slowly built.

Except for W.N. Namoniet, that is. W.N. (for entertainer Wayne Newton, who bred the beast) tossed his head and tail and pranced across the corral snorting and sniffing the ground — unconcerned that his reputation was on the line.

“He likes to smell everything before he settles down,” said Evans as he called to the stallion. “Here Namoniet! Come ‘ere boy.”

“Are you sure he’s not part dog? one dubious spectator inquired.

Evans tossed a Frisbee in his direction, and suddenly, as if spooked, Namoniet broke into a gallop, teeth bared, dust flying, one mission in mind: Catch that Frisbee.

But he missed.

Second try, another grand gallop, every tooth showing, and he missed again. The third and fourth tries were the same; the fifth bounced off the pink stripe that runs down his snout toward his nose.

“I’ve seen him catch it,” offered ranch hand Brian Styles, 36. “He doesn’t hold it, though. He grabs it and drops it.”

The sixth and seventh tries were bombs, too, but Evans kept egging the horse on. The spectators were getting restless.

Just then, Evans took the red Frisbee, hurled it across the corral, and in an instant, the teeth connected, The spectators were ecstatic.

After a few more misses, but no more hits, Namoniet finished his show like Fido might — by rolling over in the dirt — hooves flailing in the air.

“He used to chase things around the ring,” said Evans, “Dogs, cats, clumps of dirt, that’s just the way he is. So one day I just threw him a Frisbee and he went for it. A lot of that comes with being a boy. Stallions can be a bit mouthy.”

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