There are really good riders, really good showmen, good trainers and good educators and it’s very rare that you find one that is all four. Michael Cooper is all four.
That’s according to Sheila King, who came from Tennessee to watch Cooper give a two day clinic put on by Cutting Horse Training Online at Weatherford, TX on July 3-4 at Stormy Cutting and Cattle Ranch.
The clinic started with a meet and greet on the Friday night where the $4 million earner met most of the 12 participants who came from Georgia to California as well as the local area to sharpen their showing skills.
On Saturday morning over breakfast burritos, Cooper held a Q&A session to find out the challenges of each participant and what they wanted to accomplish. The goals ranged from working on cuts to dry work preparation and building confidence.
“The first thing that really impressed me was Michael asking all the participants what their goals [were],” said JoAnn Smith.
The riders ranged in ability and experience from the true beginner to weekend cutters and successful non pros. Cooper tailored his instructions to each rider while keeping a great pace for all involved. It was never too slow for the more experienced or too advanced for the novice cutters.
“[Michael Cooper] was excellent. He emphasized the why on a lot of these maneuvers that we’re asking of these horses,” said David Barr.
“The size was perfect. Nobody got lost in the crowd. Everybody helped each other. And to watch them learn [was great]. The whole thing was great. The food, phenomenal, the hospitality was great, the facility was awesome…” added Smith.
Cooper then assessed each horse and rider partnership on the flag. He also went over feet control and the mechanics of the stop and turn. After lunch, it was time to work fresh cows. Cooper guided the group through neck reining and how to position the cattle to make credit earning cuts.
“Just because you drive up doesn’t mean you’ve got the cow under control.”
While Cooper was working directly with each participant, the other riders could get more practice in the outdoor arena and work the flag under the guidance of Cooper’s son Lance and Cooper’s two-year-old expert Trever Bullock.
As the smell of barbecue wafted through the air, participants watched their videos from earlier in the day, while Cooper analyzed their works. He showed them in slow motion exactly what they were doing right or wrong and how to improve each situation if needed.
A delicious dinner consisting of brisket, chicken, all the fix’ns and home-made peach cobbler was put on by Red Chain Feeds based out of Gorman, Texas. The company provides custom formulations for cattle and equine feed.
The following morning included more video analysis and then they jumped right into working fresh cows. Cooper simulated a show set up for participants, where riders were not just cutting cows but fulfilling the turnback roles as well. It added a little more real-life pressure for riders while also making it fun.
After lunch, the focus was on cattle works, position on cattle, time management, and how to quit cattle with confidence.
Cooper has a gift for explaining concepts in a way participants can understand. Some of the main points he emphasized over the two days are explained below.
Rate, Stop, Draw and Turn:
“When you’re coming to an on ramp onto the interstate, what do you do? You rate the traffic next to you. Because if you’re braking too much you’re not going to be able to get in there. If you’re too fast [it won’t work either]. When you’re going across that pen, you have to rate that cow with your butt, with your body, but you still have to be aggressive enough to be in position.”
To sit like a cutter in the saddle, Cooper said, “Take a string and tie it to your tailbone like an anchor you’re dropping in the water. [In the stop] you roll your hips and you sit down.”
For riders who struggle relaxing into the stop, Cooper said when you’re stiff, you’re not breathing and relaxed. So breathe into the stop to develop that muscle memory of thinking soft in the stop. It is crucial to stay soft.
“The only time you want to beat a cow is in the stop.”
Cooper said the reason for the draw is to give the cow a place to come into. If you stop and move into the cow, that will push the cow away.
You and the horse have to give a little ground when working a cow. Your horse can’t be too pushy or the cow will go right around you, he said.
Cows, Settling, Draws:
“Don’t let the scenario bother you,” no matter where you are in the draw, just go, do your job,” Cooper said.
Making Relaxed Cuts:
When cutting a cow, “Close your eyes and visualize it and say 3,2,1…”
“Five years ago I ordered videos of Lloyd Cox. I ordered runs of Lloyd Cox. You know why? He’s beating [us]. He never gets in a hurry!… I went and studied Lloyd Cox, why not study Lloyd Cox? His calm demeanor [he’s just relaxed]… That calmness, that relaxed feel will get you to win.”
“[When you’re] relaxed you can process and think your way through the runs.”
“Lloyd Cox cuts more re-runs than anybody and I’ve been behind him and in front of him [in the draw]. How you handle those cows and the soft approach of getting that cow cut is everything.”
A good practice drill that Cooper suggested is to take a turn back horse and cut old worn out cattle and move them through a gate or through cones.
“Legs, legs, legs. [I use my legs to ride] only as much as I use them to walk with, so every step.” “[Use your leg] from your calf down to your spur. As much as you need, as little as you need.”
Cooper gave an example of a rider he was schooling whose horse was falling off to the left. Cooper suggested she do everything to the right by using her left foot to develop that muscle memory in both horse and rider.
If clients are clamping too much with their legs, Cooper gets them to shorten their stirrups. He said it keeps their knees off the saddle and makes it harder to clamp.
After two full days of riding, instruction, and practice, participants could see it all coming together on Sunday afternoon as they worked cattle. Cooper gave them all a plan to keep working on at home and at shows to build on what they learned at the clinic.
“He’s very good at breaking down the concepts and he’s extremely encouraging. He’s not a negative teacher, he’s a positive teacher… He challenged them and made them step up and you definitely saw improvement in the [riders] and their horses,” said Sheila King.