Kiran Hefa
June 10, 2011 08:30 PM

Are those racing stripes on that horse? Wait, that’s not a horse, it’s a zebra who can jump!

Having worked as a horse trainer since the age of 14, Sammi Jo Stohler was looking to move on to an animal a little more challenging.

“I’ve always wanted to see a zebra jump,” she told PEOPLE Pets of how she began working with the exotic animals 10 years ago. “I thought that would be a really fun thing to do.”

Enter Zack, a 6-year-old zebra that came into Stohler’s possession two years ago when his previous owner was having difficulty training him.

“The guy I got him from was really having trouble with him,” she said. “He did not like strangers. He wouldn’t let people come up to him.”

But as fate would have it, Stohler soon discovered that she was originally supposed to have welcomed Zack into her Willis, Texas home much earlier.

“I had already bought Zack once, but it didn’t work out,” she said. “He changed hands a couple of times, and then I got him.”

After joining her other zebra, Charlie, at her ranch, Stohler soon noticed that Zack kept leaping over his 5-foot fence, and decided to train him.

“I knew Zack could jump to begin with,” she said. “He’s big enough that he’d be able to do it. And I’ve had other zebras that I’ve trained to drive or to ride. They’ve all been fun to work with.”

Sure enough, Stohler’s hunch paid off, and though she’s never competed with Zack, she does show off his exploits at expositions. But the pair’s greatest feat may be the relationship they’ve cultivated.

“Zebras tend to have one person as their best buddy,” she said. “You have to train with patience and build a relationship and have rules and boundaries. But even if a zebra is trained, it really has to get used to the person before it will allow him to get close.”

“There are unique challenges to owning them,” Stohler said. “You got to know what you’re getting into before you get one. But he’s a good boy and I love him.”

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