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Creating The Conditions For Success With Michael Cooper Pt2

June 1st, 2020 by Sophia Skeith

Michael Cooper talking to clinic participants

As most cutting horse shows start back up in June, it is time to think about your strategy for the rest of the year and get your head in back in the game! Top trainer Michael Cooper offers some great insight into how to do just that!

Set Goals

Michael Cooper spends time with each of his clients on developing their goals. He said setting goals depends on three things: the horse, the rider, and the steps they need to take together to accomplish those goals. For example, what does the client want to do with their horse? Show more themselves or have Cooper show it to try to win the most money on it?

Together, they also decide if it’s an open or a non pro horse or if it can be both at some shows. From there, they work out a plan for the horse. If it’s a horse they just want to show in the non pro or amateur, Cooper will still show it every third show or so at the weekend level to keep it tuned up and increase its money earned.

For the clients themselves, Cooper focuses on their preparation at home. He helps them set goals on improving their skills and confidence at home, keeping them accountable in their practice.

He said there are too many variables at shows for clients to place all their goals on results.

Cooper said he always sets a goal for himself, and never plays it by ear. From the start he made it his goal to win $50,000 then $100,000 and then kept moving it up. Cooper said his standard goal is being in the top 10 Open Riders. Some years are different due to horse power or other life circumstances but his goal is always to be a top 10 Open Rider. He often has goals for horses too.

Decide to make it happen

Money was scarce when Cooper was growing up which has inspired a drive in him to be successful and to do better every day. Not a man to sit still, Cooper said if you get up early enough and you stay late enough, you can almost fit two days into one. “No champion is made sitting in a stall” he said. Cooper has been goal oriented his whole life. He won’t take no for an answer, no only means it hasn’t been done yet in his mind.

Cooper said a lack of “the will to have confidence that they can [do it]” is what stops people from making their goals. “Your mind is 90% of everything that goes on. If you can believe it in your head you can hold it in your hand whether it be a trophy or money but you have to believe it in your head first” he said.

Be willing to take a risk.

People aren’t willing to take a risk said Cooper. You’ve got to be able to take the risk and push your way through, everyone is scared of something he added.

Michael giving a client a lesson

Study the best

Cooper makes studying trainers, who are doing well, a habit. He watched the Matt Gaines and Paul Hansma DVDs and he wore out a copy of the Roger Wagner Hip to Be Square DVD. At big shows, Cooper goes to the practice pen to watch. He said he is never afraid to ask questions. Keep your head up, pay attention and keep your mouth shut, he advised.

Be prepared to listen

“You can learn something from anyone,” he said. Cooper told a story about his oldest son who asked him, “Dad, can’t you just make them do some wild stuff like Austin and Boyd?”

“What do you mean?” Cooper replied.

“Well Dad, your horses always make the finals but you have to have something wow to them.”

Cooper listened and didn’t shut him down. He said he realized his son was trying to tell him his horses needed more cow. He was able to think about what his son had said and make the necessary changes.

Practice managing your nerves at shows

When Cooper was younger, nerves would get to him more than they do now. He had to teach himself and assistant trainers to get in the zone and forget about nerves. He calls it getting in a bubble and does this by focusing on his “why” (the reason underlying his goal).

At one of his first futurities, Cooper said he needed to make money to help his parents so that was the bubble he put his mind in to take the focus off his nerves and put his energy on the bigger picture.

Another example Cooper gives is about a kid he was helping who wanted to buy a car. Cooper told him he could do that in a few shows. So when the youth would get ready to ride to the herd, he and Cooper would say “truck payment” together. Cooper said it helped the young man to find something to focus his energy on.

When working through a lack of confidence Cooper said, “Stay as positive as you can, no matter what. They always say you learn from the lows and not the highs.”

“Something I always try to remember is what we can learn right now. Let’s overcome this and change our thought process and see what we can do. Every person has a spot where they aren’t as confident or are going through a lull… You’ve got to be able to over-ride yourself mentally and tell yourself I’ve got this.

“It may not be this show, it may not be the next show but I’ve got it. It all starts in the brain,” he said.

Watch Michael’s Videos HERE! 

Get Coached by Michael Cooper. Click HERE for more info! 

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