Super Stakes Limited Non-Pro Champions Lance Cooper & Zen And Tonic • Photo by Hart Photos

Cooper Doubles Down at the Super Stakes

If Zen And Tonic (High Brow CD x Dual Citizen x Dual Pep) was the human version of a female, Lance Cooper would date her…“and he’d marry her,” said Cooper’s dad, Michael, with a laugh.

While son and dad joke at their illustration of the special relationship shared between the 17-year-old high school junior and his 4-year-old mare, nicknamed “Snickers” after the candy bar, cutting is serious business to the Weatherford, Texas, family.

“There just doesn’t seem much more I can say about her than [what] I’ve already said,” said Cooper, who earlier in the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Super Stakes won the Limited Open with a score of 223 to earn $7,175. Upping his score April 21 to a 224, he and Zen And Tonic snatched their second win of the event in the Limited Non-Pro and earned $9,972.

“She really loves cutting. She’s the horse that makes you want to come to the barn. She’s so happy when she’s cutting,” Cooper said. “This was my ninth ride on her at this show, back to back to back. That’s probably more runs than any horse, and she comes out every day the same horse. She actually had more energy to come out today than she did the first day. It amazes me.”

The mare is so consistent that trying to describe her abilities makes Cooper feel like a broken record.

“I am really blessed to have this great horse,” the teen said. “She’s just been amazing throughout the year. I can’t ask her to do anything more. She’s just been outstanding to show.”

In truth, Cooper and Snickers were the pair to beat from the field of 15 finalists. Canadian Lauren Minshall posted an early 216 as the third rider to go aboard CR Sister Tuff (Woody Be Tuff x Dees Cats Meow x High Brow Cat) but was bested late in the round by Alexa Dahl, of Bremerton, Washington, who posted a 218.5 riding Playsomethingsmooth (Smooth As A Cat x Play Corn x Playgun).

The crowd, though, seemed to be waiting in anticipation for Cooper, who rode in as the 14th to work. With Michael, Steve Oehlhof, R.L Chartier and Austin Shephard working as his herd help, Cooper sedately entered the herd, and Zen And Tonic immediately went to work.

“I just wanted to make a clean run today, just because I’d be showing her in the Non-Pro finals next,” Cooper said. “I really wasn’t going in to try and win it. Dad just told me to do the same thing we’ve been doing all week – just go show her, and she’ll do the rest. That’s what we did.”

Cooper was quick to thank his help, as well as assistant Mikaela Sabine.

“I couldn’t do it without them,” he said. “Mikaela lives with the horse. She does everything; she probably loves her more than me.”

Michael purchased Zen And Tonic for his son shortly before the 2017 NCHA Futurity after some hesitation, as he was not convinced the mare was what Lance needed.

“We’d had her for four or five days and Lance came back from the Southern Futurity, where he’d been with R.L.,” explained Michael. “I told him to get on her and it was almost as if it was meant to be. I really can’t explain the connection. She’s just special.”

The pair will join what is becoming a long string of successful horses from Rose Valley Ranch at the upcoming Breeder’s Invitational and flushing an embryo could be in her future. That, however, is far from Michael’s mind at this point.

“I’m not doing anything with that horse while Lance is riding her. She’s all his.”