April 11, 1995 – September 23, 2022
Zac was sired by our herd stallion, Valdez, and his momma was Toni, a mare we showed a lot, so Zac went to his very first show at just a few months old.
At his first Calgary Stampede he was in a class called Dinner Bell Derby where the mares and foals are taken to opposite ends of the show ring and then they let the foals go and the first foal to nurse wins. Usually there is a lot of adorable foal racing around NOT nursing, but Zac took it to a whole new level by ducking under the announcers stand to also race around the hitching ring with no regard for his mother hollering at him.
I remember showing him at the last show of his weanling year, and the judges making such a fuss over him, “oh he doesn’t need to stand still, it’s his first show he can do whatever he wants, as long as it’s a good experience for him!” I appreciated the sentiment, but at four months old it was already his fourth show!
That little show baby grew up to be an all around gelding extraordinaire.
Zac was my brother John’s horse, and together they earned enough points for an AMHA Youth Champion title (and continued to show together until long after John was no longer a youth!) Driving and obstacle were his specialties, but while Zac thought halter was extremely boring he was pretty enough to do quite a bit of winning anyway.
In addition to showing with John in Youth classes and Mom in Amateur classes, Zac started his team driving career with his sire, Valdez, and together they won the Lord Sterling Cup for Utility Team Hitch twice.
Once Duke was born a nearly perfect match for Zac and got old enough to drive, they became the ideal team, driving together to an amazing 13 Lord Sterling Cup titles, which means Zac has won the cup more times than any other horse.
Zac was a great ambassador for the breed in between winning in the show ring. At the Stampede he’d do demos and meet and greets, I’m sure being petted by thousands of people over the years. He did demos at Country Critters, and Draft Horse Town, and Horse Haven. And when we were asked if we had a horse or two who could be part of a special experience for a group or recent refugee children from Syria, we knew Zac and his partner Duke were the perfect horses for the job, and they spent ages being petted and brushed and photographed and loved every minute.
Zac was 21 when we realized that he had the points to be recognized as an AMHA Youth Champion and AMHA Amateur Champion, and he just needed two more open halter points to be an AMHA Open Champion too – so back into the halter ring he went, getting his final points in style with not just a Grand Champion Senior Gelding title but his first and only Supreme Halter Horse award too.
Zac was shown every single year of his life until he was 23 and told us, “thank you, but no” but he still happily did one day outings like parades and visiting Grandad at the Bethany after that for a couple years.
So many people had their first horse experience with Zac. He was one of my go-to “toddler” horses, as he loved to follow a tiny human around. If someone wanted to learn to drive a team, it was no trouble to let them have a try with Zac and Duke.
In his old age he made great friends with Knight Rider (which was good, because in his old age he also got VERY cranky with most other horses) and they were very happy eating their soaked feed and taking their Cushings meds together. They drove together too, and at 25 years old Zac learned a new skill, jumping into driving in a four horse hitch without missing a beat, and becoming a great teammate to the very forward Knight Rider, which was instrumental to helping us practice our multiple driving skills.
We last drove Zac with Knight Rider just this past spring to celebrate Knight Rider’s 30th birthday. We wish we’d had the chance to do the same for Zac.
Zac is a huge part of our collective family memory for the past 27 years, and he is going to be so very missed.