With his jet-black coat, powerful stops, and astonishing natural talent A Vintage Smoke has quickly made a name for himself as a reining show horse and sire. Diane Mesmer, owner of the 2015 AQHA stallion, knew from the beginning that he was going to be something special. Sired by A Sparkling Vintage and out of Lady Smoke Peppy, it was his unique bloodlines that caught Mesmer’s attention. Coming from a cow horse background, Mesmer knew that having Mister Dual Pep bloodlines would make ‘Cole’ a superior athlete.
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A Good First Choice
Cole is the first reining horse Mesmer has owned. His long list of accomplishments including being an NRHA “Triple Crown” winner, which includes winning the NRHA Futurity, the NRHA Derby, and the NRBC Derby, shows Mesmer made the right decision when picking out a prospect. At first her friends and peers were unsure of her choice after purchasing him as a yearling sight unseen off Facebook, but Mesmer knew she made the right call.
“People thought I was nuts for buying him,” she recalled. “I had been wanting to find a stallion prospect. He sort of just fell into my lap. I just happened to wake up at 5 a.m. right after Karl Hapcic posted Cole for sale. I was the first person to respond,” she said. “From there everything just worked out. I don’t believe it was a coincidence; it was meant to be.”
Even NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider Jason Vanlandingham wasn’t sure Cole would make the superstar reining prospect that Diane was hoping for when he first started training the young colt.
“Diane sent me Cole the summer of his 2-year-old year. He looked like a little wooly mammoth with two inches of hair on him. I pulled him off the trailer and he was squalling and bellering all the way over to his stall. I thought what in the world are we doing with this one?” recalled Vanlandingham.
Everything changed for Vanlandingham once he rode Cole for the first time and felt the powerful stop the sire is now known for.
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“When I rode him, I felt something special in the stop,” he explained. “He made this cool move where he just kind of melted into the ground. When you have something that naturally talented in the stop, you put the time in on everything else.”
The Start of Something Good
As Vanlandingham continued to ride Cole, he started to pick up on the other maneuvers and show his natural born talent. When the pair competed for the first time in 2018, Vanlandingham was still unsure of how the young stallion would perform in the show pen.
“The first futurity we showed in I marked a score of 208 ½. That’s nothing to write home about, but when I came out of the pen, I told my wife Adrienne that he was the one,” he said. “He was completely locked in mentally when we went into the pen. He tried his guts out in there and snuck his way from being my number three horse to being at the top.”
Just two weeks later Jason showed Cole in Las Vegas, where they won the 2018 High Roller Reining Classic Open Futurity. From there, Cole started to dominate everywhere he went and showed everyone what he is capable of.
The Road to the Triple Crown
At the 2018 NRHA Open Futurity Vanlandingham and Cole had the lowest composite score that qualified for the finals. He knew the horse had a better performance in him, so for the three days leading up to the finals he took his schooling back to the basics and helped Cole gain the confidence he needed.
“Before we went in the gate, I took a big deep breath and just went in there and showed him like he’s the best horse I’ve ever had, and he showed up like that,” said Vanlandingham. “That’s been my practice now on that horse. Whenever it’s time to go show in the finals, I don’t worry about where I’m stopping at. I don’t think about the ground, I don’t think about who’s in the stands, or how he rode the day before,” he explained. “I just go in like he’s the best horse I’ve ever ridden. More often than not he’s proven me right.”
Cole redeemed himself from the qualifying runs leading up to the Open Futurity finals. Vanlandingham piloted Cole to the winning score of 225 ½. From then on, Cole continued to give his all in the show pen and started to make a name for himself as a show horse.
As a 4-year-old year, Cole started competing against 5-,6-, and 7-year-old horses in derby events, meaning he was now competing against horses who had more showing experience under their belts. However, Cole stepped up to the plate and claimed a co-championship at the 2019 NRBC Level 4 Open Derby. Then the following year, Cole once again shocked everyone when he claimed the NRHA Level 4 Open Derby championship. This made Cole one of the few horses to become an NRHA Triple Crown Champion.
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“I was in such shock the night he won the derby,” said Mesmer. “When we saw the score, I think I went numb from shock. Cole really spoke for himself that night and proved himself.”
The Next Phase of His Career
After winning the historical Triple Crown and claiming more than $600,650 in lifetime earnings, Cole quickly became a highly sought-after sire. In 2020 the stallion started his breeding career at Foals R US Repro Center and Stallion Station in Whitesboro, Texas. Owner Lorenzo Lotti had watched Cole’s career and knew he wanted to start his breeding program with A Vintage Smoke.
“I told Diane he’s probably going to breed over 100 mares for his first year,” said Lotti. “That was an underestimation because he ended up breeding way more than that and became extremely popular.”
Not Done Yet
After a successful first breeding season, Vanlandingham and Cole returned to the NRBC Level 4 Open Derby in 2021. With an electric run, Cole successfully defended his title and became co-champion once again.
Although his first foal crop is still young, they’re already showing to carry Cole’s gentle personality and impressive athletic ability.
“He has always been such a sweetheart. And now his babies are showing to be the same way,” said Mesmer. “They’re all so personable. It’s amazing to me how much they act like him. They’re going to special, just like Cole.”
Because of Cole’s versatile bloodlines and historical career, his offspring are sure to make an impact just like he did.