The son of saddle bronc rider and rodeo producer Shawn Davis, Zane grew up around horses and cattle. While in high school, he dabbled in the racehorse world, breaking and exercising Thoroughbreds on the track, although he has said he doesn’t regret the teenage growth spurt which made him unsuited for a jockey career.
Davis, 44, competed in rough stock events in high school, college and professional rodeo, riding saddle bronc and bareback horses to multiple championship titles. The physical toll on his body was too heavy, though, and he left the rodeo world, stepping into the performance horse arena after meeting Florida real estate developer John “Sandy” Semanik.
Instead of the typical career path of a cow horse newcomer – assisting an established professional to learn and grow before going out on his own – Davis chose to be self-taught. The NRCHA recorded his first show earnings in 2004.
Just five years later, in 2009, Davis plucked the NRCHA’s richest fruit, winning the Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Championship on Semanik’s gritty gelding, Reymanator (Dual Rey x Savannah Hickory x Doc’s Hickory). A career highlight for any competitor, winning the Futurity Open validated Davis’ career path in the performance horse industry.
Early on, Davis set a goal to achieve Million Dollar Rider status within ten years. “Last year, 2014, would have been the end of that ten years, and I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it until the end of the year. I thought, ‘I’m going to check this out and see where I am.’ I saw I was really close. By the end of the year, I had come a few thousand dollars short of a million, so I didn’t make it in ten years. But I like to think that I made it in ten years and one show,” he said.
Besides the Snaffle Bit Futurity Championship, Davis has numerous other NRCHA Premier Event Championships and top placings on his impressive resume. Riding Rubys Radar (One Time Pepto x Ruby Bagonia x Peppy San Badger), Davis was the 2014 NRCHA Hackamore Classic Open Champion and the 2014 Stakes Open Reserve Champion. He is a multiple World’s Greatest Horseman finalist, an American Quarter Horse Association Working Cow Horse World Championship finalist and a fixture in the Open finals at every NRCHA Premier Event.
Davis operates his training business with the help and support of his wife, Holly. The couple have three children: Zayle, Dawson and Presley.
More than the money that comprised his seven-figure NRCHA career over the last decade-plus, Davis values the relationships that have grown alongside his earnings record. “I’ve made a million dollars worth of friends, and I’ve got a million dollar family, and we’ve got a million dollars worth of memories, and that’s more important than the million dollars itself,” he said.