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.