Total Earnings: $4,187,197
Michael Cooper never worked for a cutting horse trainer and literally came from nothing. He is from Missouri originally and learned about cutting when he traveled to Arkansas to visit relatives who happened to work for a cutting horse trainer. They offered to let Cooper work a cutting horse and he couldn’t believe what he was feeling. He learned by watching everything he could about cutting and even wore out training dvds.
In 2009 Cooper was second at the NCHA Futurity. In 2011 he made the Futurity Finals on both his horses and placed third and fourth. Cooper highlights those as his most memorable achievements in the sport so far. When Cooper is not training cutting horses he has investment properties, car washes and a gas station that he manages. He said his wife, Jennifer, jokes that he is a double bred Dual Rey.
What is your training philosophy?
“It’s to have a broke horse first of all. If you have a broke horse it doesn’t matter if it [doesn’t make a cutter]. If I start something for one of my customers and it’s broke and I do my due diligence riding this horse, it doesn’t mean it can’t make a good rope horse, team penner or barrel horse or whatever. To me, my philosophy [for any horse] is so anybody can get on it and work it. As far as a cutting horse, I like a big stop and a draw on my horses so I work on that a lot. It’s probably my downfall, the cow a little bit. That’s something I’m going to keep working on.”
What have you learned or adjusted in your program in the past year?
“To not do too much to where any amateur or non-pro can get on your horse. I don’t want to do too much. Just keep it simple. [I try not to make it about] what I think needs to be done [rather] analyze what the horse needs and be a horseman with every horse as far as adapting to their capability. It’s like being a glorified school teacher. Each kid is different so we have to take it with a grain of salt when we’re [teaching] a horse. Everyone has a different temperament and everyone has a different way of learning. We need to be horseman enough to bring that out.”
What inspires you?
“When you had to fight as a kid just live and make it, you fight the rest of your life. My why getting up every day is to know my family will have a better life than I had because of the way we grew up… That means getting up as early as it takes or working as late as it takes to get the job done for every person that has a horse in training with us.”
How do you define feel?
“Cows have bubbles like people that want to hug all the time and people that don’t want to hug. They have bubbles like we do so you have to ease around all that. The same way with a horse you have a hot horse that’s going all the time and you have a horse that’s laid back that needs a poke to get off the couch, shut the tv off, put the potato chips up and get to work. You can develop the work ethic on some of them but either they want to be a winner or they don’t.”