Cooper Dean, son of Steve and Jill Dean of Fayette rocked as he won a gold, two silvers and tied for Overall Reserve Hunt Seat rider for 2009 at the regional 4-H horse show in Little Rock, Ark.
Cooper’s parents own and operate the Kentucky Fried Chicken/Taco Bell and a local radio station in Fayette. They are both active in the 4-H horse program, with Jill being a volunteer leader in the Horse-N-Around club and Steve announces at the state 4-H show in Montgomery. Coach Jill owns Hunter Creek Stables where she teaches children and trains horses in the Hunter Jumper sport. With a mother who has over 35 years experience in the horse industry and has taught many local, state and national champions in the Hunter Jumper discipline, there are many more accolades in Cooper’s future.
Cooper, age ten, attends Fayette Elementary School where he is in the fourth grade, vice-president of the elementary school and is on the honor roll. His favorite subject is math, he enjoys playing baseball, and his favorite football team is the Alabama Crimson Tide, but his real passion is Hunt Seat. Young Dean spends a lot of time with his pony, Smooch’n on Me, affectionately known as Smooch, to stay ready for competition. Grooming, feeding, practicing with your horse, keeping your tack in shape and mucking stalls are all part of a winning combination. In 4-H, the youth do the work with coaching and encouragement from the parents, other adults and peers. Cooper knows with hard work, practice and coaching from Mom he can attain his goal of one day being a Grand Prix Jumper.
How long have you been riding and competing?
"I have been riding since age four and began taking lessons at age five. This is my first year in 4-H, but I have competed in the Alabama Hunter Jumper Association (AJHA) since I was six years old. The AJHA has an annual show circuit we go to in addition to the 4-H state show. Smooch and I have really had a blast showing and making new friends."
Jill, what are the qualifications for getting invited to the Regional 4-H Show in Little Rock?
"Cooper had to compete and win a first place in Montgomery at the Alabama State 4-H Show. The state show consists of horse events in all disciplines as well as educational classes designed to increase the students’ knowledge of our equine friends. Cooper and Smooch won four first place awards and also won the highest award possible at the state show, the Junior High Point silver belt buckle, awarded by the Alabama Horse Council. This was a huge achievement because, according to Bob Ebert, director of the state 4-H show, this years’ attendance was the largest in the history of the event. The first place finishes in Montgomery qualified Cooper for the regional show which includes 4-H contestants from 13 Southern states. Alabama can qualify 40 horses and riders, but each state has their own qualifying requirements. The total horse entries for the show was 1,495, with horses and ponies both showing in the same classes.
The first class event Cooper and Smooch competed in was Hunt Seat for mares. All 13 states’ first place winners, totaling 40 mares, were judged on conformation of the horse or pony and a 10-year-old boy from Fayette won the Gold Medal. Cooper was ecstatic, but there was more to come. In Pony Hunter Over Fences, the dynamic duo were near flawless, earning a silver award. Hunter Under Saddle had 108 entries and, due to so many, the class was divided into five heats so the judge could pick two to three finalist from each heat to go into the finals. This left a total of 15 competing in the finals. The Fayette pair claimed fourth place out of 108 horses. The final class, which was Hunt Seat Equitation Over Fences, had a total of 58 entries with many of the riders being 19 years old and having several years of riding and competing on their resume. Young Dean and his mount rose to the challenge by winning the silver medal. At the conclusion of the Hunt Seat competition, Cooper and Smooch had accumulated one gold medal, one fourth, two silver medals and had tied for Reserve Overall Hunt Seat rider for 2009.
Cooper’s hard work has paid off early in life, which make his parents understandably very proud. Jill stated she and Steve have to pinch themselves and ask "Is this real?"
Jill also stated, that after coaching for over 20 years in the 4-H program, to qualify to participate is an honor and to win one of the championships is an unforgettable experience for her child and his pony, and they thank Mr. Lance Ezelle (manager) at the Fayette Farmers Co-op for their support and, of course, their great horse feeds.
"As Cooper left the show ring, the judge stopped him and asked if he polished his pony and of course the answer was ‘yes,’ but we know the great quality of the horse feeds we get from the Co-op helps keep his pony’s coat in perfect show-bloom condition," she said.
Cooper, describe the 4-H Southern Regional Championship?
"Well, it was a lot of fun and the best part is being with my pony and making new 4-H friends from all 13 states."
We at Quality Co-ops salute Cooper’s accomplishments and are looking forward to hearing of more from him and his pony in the future. I believe there are many more medals and championships waiting for him down the road.
Your local Quality Co-op supports youth in their equine endeavors and is dedicated to the events that further that purpose. We thank you for your patronage and will strive to earn and keep your business.
Don Linker is an outside salesman for AFC.