The Champ and His Cactus

Clay O’Brien Cooper is the only cowboy to have earned $3 million in the PRCA strictly by team roping. And for the past 19 years, the seven-time world champ has done that riding a Cactus.
“I can order one specifically to fit a particular horse or to fit what I like and want in my saddle,” said Cooper. “Over the years I’ve changed around with different tooling designs and other features, but I still ride some of my Cactus saddles that are 15 years old.”

Cooper takes care of his woods and enjoys the fact they last him a long time and fit his horses. So what’s the preference of the Champ in his saddle choice?
“I’m kind of old-school,” he said. “I ride down in the seat of my saddle, and I learned how to ride in a saddle that had a pretty good-size set of swells and front end. That’s where I get my balance when I’m riding and roping.”

Cooper also prefers a horn big enough to hold some rubber, with a nice horn cap on it.

“It seems like the past 10 or 15 years, a lot of saddle makers out there went to a smaller horn, like a calf-roping size horn,” he added. “I don’t want my rope to run on the horn and burn my hand and cost me time – that doesn’t serve a purpose. I like a saddle horn that, when I dally, my rope will stay under the cap. And I like enough rubber that it’s not going to be slick and run. In my game, tenths of a second will take you from first place to no money at all. So that’s part of the equation that has to be right.”

And then with is typical humility, Cooper smiled and said, “Maybe I just need to dally better, I don’t know.”

As for another important feature, he rides a 14.5-inch seat. Champ said there are times he thinks he could almost ride a 14-inch.

“Leaving the box, I like the fact the cantle is right there,” he said. “There’s not going to be a lot of play from the back of the cantle to the swells, whereas you can feel like you’re sloshing around in a 15.5-inch seat. There’s a noticeable difference if you’re down in there, tight, and you have way better balance, I think.”

Finally, Cooper’s Cactus also fits his gray gelding, Maximus, to a T, atop his favorite felt pad.

“His back is a little narrower toward the front, but he has a nice, high wither,” Cooper said. “A little narrower saddle fits around his withers better than the wide ones – I’d have to add padding in front to keep a wide saddle from dropping down too much.”

Instead, under his saddle Cooper uses a Relentless Extreme Roper pad that’s contoured to his horse’s back with a wither-relief cutout. High-impact absorbing gel inserts run the length of the pad to help disperse the pressure from all the hits Cooper will give his horse this summer behind… none other than his old partner Jake Barnes.

Riley Minor On The Game Of Inches

When you’re spinning one steer for $100,000, experience helps. Cactus team member and nine-time NFR header Riley Minor felt lucky to make the Shoot-Out round of RFD-TV’s The American this month, because his brother had roped a leg on the steer prior. But the two knew how to get it done – they were the 2017 champs of The American rodeo.

Riley uses a Relentless saddle on his defending PRCA/AQHA Head Horse of the Year, 18-year-old Bob, and he had it made with a 4-inch cantle, which he says helps him stay forward and in the middle of his horse leaving the corner.

“Trevor invented it and he’s King of the Cowboys,” said Minor, who’s been using the saddle the past three years on Bob. “I look up to Trevor. If he rides it, I figured I might as well ride it.”
Riley and Brady were first to rope in The American’s Shoot-Out round, and matched their 4.7 from the day prior.

“When you’re first out, you either just wing it because you expect it to get really fast, or you catch and let them come beat you,” Riley said. “If you put a good run on the board, sometimes a guy gets ahead of himself trying to beat it. I know I’ve done it several times – I did it the other night in Houston. Anyway, I decided to stick to my same game plan of just trying to make our run. And then some guys had some bobbles and that allowed us to win second.”

The $25,000-per-man second-place check counted in the PRCA world standings for the first time, which gives Riley mixed feelings. He’d glad it counts for him, now, but he still doesn’t agree with it.

“I feel like a guy goes all year long to make the Finals, and another guy shouldn’t be able to make the Finals off one run,” he said. “Some people think it’s good for the sport that it counts, but those people don’t grind it out all year long.”

On the plus side, he said it gives anyone in America a chance to make the NFR in one day, which should spur more guys to enter qualifiers. And watching his good buddies Coleman Proctor and Ryan Motes earn $433,000 apiece? Unbelievable, he said.

“Change is good in rodeo, and helps grow the sport,” he added. “Hopefully it will be a good thing that this money counts if it increases entries and gets more guys in the sport.
Another good thing? It pushed the Minor boys to second in the world with their best chance yet at a gold buckle. Still, though, this is rodeo.

“We’d have been sitting there watching on Sunday if Junior hadn’t tried that fast shot instead of just catching,” Riley said of Nogueira’s no-time in AT&T Stadium. “Then the following week at Houston, I broke the barrier to win the round, which let him and Driggers make it back with a chance at $50,000. This is a game of inches.”

Cactus Releases an NBHA Branded Barrel Racer Saddle

March 18, 2010

Greenville, TX (March 3, 2010) – Cactus Saddlery is proud to announce the release of the National Barrel Horse Association branded barrel racing saddle. In 2008, Cactus Saddlery became the Official Saddle of the NBHA and began designing the NBHA saddle to suit the needs of every barrel racer.

Scott Thomas, General Manager of Cactus Saddlery, said, “The NBHA Barrel Racer took a year to design and develop. Our goal was to design a saddle that would give the rider proper positioning while fitting the horse correctly. We designed a tree that allows the saddle to sit low on the horse, with bars that flare out and contour to the horse’s back to eliminate unwanted pressure and provide excellent communication between horse and rider. The fenders are set forward to help maintain the rider’s center balance and allow for full range of motion during a run.”

“Cactus has developed a line of high-end products available for purchase that are geared directly to the needs of barrel racers. What an exciting opportunity for NBHA members, especially directors who are looking for award items. We are proud to be associated with Cactus Saddlery, a company known for quality and durability,” said Sherry Fulmer, Executive Director of the NBHA.

The Cactus NBHA Barrel Racer features hand tooled Hermann Oak Leather, in-skirt rigging, stainless steel stirrups, custom NBHA conchos, and embossed NBHA logos. The NBHA saddles can be ordered in three tooling amounts and weigh approximately 29 pounds.

Cactus Saddlery is the Official Saddle of the PRCA and one of the industry’s leading saddle and tack makers, providing customers with premium saddles, strap, and equine accessories that are designed, developed, and ridden by top endorsees. All Cactus Saddlery products are handcrafted in the USA using the finest quality materials available, with a focus on fit, quality, looks, and personalized customer service. To learn more about Cactus Saddlery, please visit

Craig Cameron Wins Road to the Horse

March 23, 2010

They say that the third time’s a charm, well, for Craig Cameron, that statement became fact at the 2010 Road to the Horse. For those of you who may not be familiar, Road to the Horse is a competition that gives three internationally known trainers the opportunity to show off their horsemanship skills and experience. Each competitor chooses an unbroken colt from a remuda (a group of 10 horses), and builds a relationship with the horse. The competitors are judged on the end result, as well as the skills and tactics used to get this result. This competition shows that gentle horsemanship is a kind and effective way of breaking a horse while building a strong relationship with it.

Craig Cameron is known as the “Original Cowboy Clinician”, and has been training horses for the last 22 years. He started out riding bulls and broncs, but his real passion was always the horse. Craig was not impressed by the many “trial by fire” suggestions he received when he asked fellow riders how they trained their horses. This led Craig to his life as a true gentle horseman. Craig took everything he learned and wrote a book on horsemanship, released by Western Horseman, to teach others how to use his techniques. The release of his book led to his show “Ride Smart” and the “Extreme Cowboy Race” on RFD-TV, as well as the clinics that he puts on at the Double Horn Ranch in Bluff Dale, Texas. Craig also travels across the country to teach his techniques and train horses.

Craig and his wife, Dalene, came to visit us at the saddle shop before he headed to Tennessee to compete in Road to the Horse. Craig and Dalene joked about the fact that after two attempts, Craig had yet to win, and played lightly at the fact that Craig has taken some flack for it. As we sat there chatting, Craig announced, “We’re gonna get it this time.” He was right!

After vigorous competition, Craig claimed his World Championship. In an interview following his victory, Craig said (referring to his horse), “He was the little ragamuffin of the remuda, but he was low-headed, curious, and brave, and I was lucky to have him. I didn’t think the first day he was such a good choice in the first half-hour, but in the end, he made me use all of my skills and gave me a lot.”* Craig added, “Every time I’ve competed at Road to the Horse, I’ve left a piece of my heart in the arena. Now I’m getting a little bit of that back. I truly believe winning Road to the Horse is going to change my life. I am 61 years old and now I am a World Champion, and no one can ever take that away from me. This may be the best day of my life.”

We want to congratulate Craig on his World Championship and can’t wait to see what this year brings for him!

The Cactip

When you are first learning to ride, or are breaking in a new horse, the most complex and frustrating thing can be getting the proper fit with your saddle. The most common error in proper saddle fit is improperly saddling your horse.

There are three primary schools of thought when it comes to saddle fitting, but every saddle maker will most likely tell you something different. It is important to do your research and find out what works best for you and your horse. At Cactus Saddlery, we have over 150 years of combined experience in saddle making, and these are our recommendations for achieving proper saddle fit.

The most efficient way we suggest that you fit your saddle, is fitting with a bare tree. We understand that your local dealer may not carry a stock of bare trees for you to use, that is why we have made it possible for all of the Cactus Saddlery dealers to order bare trees for you to purchase.

The first step in fitting your horse with a bare tree is deciding what kind of tree you need. It is important when you are selecting a tree that you research the quality of the trees that each saddle company uses. Cactus Saddlery offers over 40 styles of tress, using the finest manufacturers in the industry. Each of our trees is put through a rigorous 7-point inspection before a saddle will be built. The tree creates the foundation for your saddle, and if the foundation has issues, you will have major problems with your saddle down the road.

Now, let’s narrow down how to select the proper tree for you and your horse.

Questions to ask yourself:

1) What event do I want to participate in?
All trees are designed for saddles with a specific function in mind, and it is important that you find a saddle that was made for your event. Some saddles and trees are designed to serve multi-functions and may be a good choice for you. Do your research and find out how trees differ, and what would best suit your needs.

2) What style bars do you need?
This can be very tricky; a general rule of thumb to follow is that horses with high withers typically use regular quarter horse bars. Horses with mutton, or flat, withers typically use full quarter horse bars because they tend to be flatter. Again, this is just a general rule and may not be true for all horses, but it is a good place to start.

3) What gullet width do you need?
Again, a sticky question. Higher withered horses tend to use a 6 ½ inch gullet because it will sit up close to their back and provide a good foundation. Mutton withered horses can use a 6 ¾” or 7” gullet width. This will allow the saddle to fit lower and flatter against the horse’s back.

4) What material do you want your saddle to be made of?
This is highly related to what event you participate in. Most trees are wood and covered with rawhide, but there are trees made from other materials that make the saddle lighter or more flexible. Be sure to research your event to see what would work best for you.

5) What seat size do you need?
The seat size will affect the length of the bars, slightly. The general rule of thumb is that there should be two finger widths of space between your leg and the swell of the saddle. Having said that, you may prefer more or less space, the important thing is for you to be comfortable and secure.

If you have any questions about these topics and want a good place to start, call your local saddle dealer and see if they have suggestions. You can also contact the saddle makers themselves. We here at Cactus Saddlery offer a contact form on our website, You can submit your questions, and one of our fantastic customer service reps will discuss your options and give you our suggestions.

In our next blog we will discuss putting the bare tree on the horse’s back, and what to look for to know you are getting a proper fit.