COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – With PRCA rodeos virtually at a standstill due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, cowboys are finding ways to fill the gap, cowboys like four-time world champion Tuf Cooper.
“I think we just have to find the good in things,” Cooper said. “I’m an optimist. I’ve always been that way and it is important to be that way in times like these. We are locked down and unaware. That’s basically how the cowboy lives, locked down to his duties and unaware of what the future holds, and we just try as hard as we can every day.”
Cooper, who lives in Decatur, Texas, said he’s using the downtime to take care of things he usually can’t because of his busy rodeo schedule.
“We have everything going on in the world, and for me it is causing me to do the things that I’ve been putting to the side, whether its projects, conversations or working on things within,” Cooper said. “I think that is a cool thing. It is forcing yourself to pick those things up that you have shelved for a while. I want to use this time to improve on the things I need to get better at.”
Cooper, who won three tie-down roping world championships (2011-12 and 2014) and one all-around world title (2017), said horse training is one project he’s doing.
“I have a young, 5-year-old horse, and I’ve been able to spend a lot more time on him,” Cooper said. “I’ve never had time to ride young horses. It has been a lot of fun. I have been going down to Trevor (Brazile’s) house every day, and he’s been helping me with how to train (a horse). It’s the first time ever I’ve been able to focus on the training part of the horses. That’s something I’ve needed to learn my whole life. I have a good mentor in Trevor, and it has been great to learn from him. I’m very fortunate to be in the position I am.”
Brazile, Cooper’s brother-in-law, has won a PRCA-record 25 world championships.
“When I was like 12 years old, I saw the opportunity I had with Trevor, my dad (Roy) and my brothers and what all I could learn from those guys,” Cooper said. “I saw how fortunate I was to have my family around me that I did, and that’s when I decided to go all-in with rodeo.”
According to Cooper, his practice schedule has changed without rodeos.
“I’ve been roping the dummy a bunch, but I’m not making any physical runs like I would if I was preparing for RodeoHouston or a certain rodeo,” Cooper said. “The normal rodeo routine is out the window. I’m just taking care of the horses and really using the opportunity to work on the things we have been putting off forever.”
Cooper still tries to find stuff to do to quench his competitive thirst.
“I’m always trying to win at something, you have to get your win fixes in,” Cooper said.
A couple days ago, Cooper and some of his cowboy friends did a man-a-thon in Decatur.
“That was a big competition with the guys around here,” he said. “We had a field-goal kicking contest, a javelin contest and a golf ball long-range contest. We collected points throughout the tournament. There were six or seven different events, and we ended with a grown-up calf scramble. A grown-up calf scramble is one of the most fun things that a guy can do with his friends. The unique thing about this is everybody who participated got to bring an event to the table, so you try and bring your strong suit. I brought the adult calf scramble. Unfortunately, I didn’t win the calf scramble. I took third, but I got points. The goal of the man-a-thon is winning it is not as important as not losing because the loser of each event always has a punishment.”
Cooper said Colorado team roper Morgan Murray, who is on his PRCA permit, won the man-a-thon.
As for when normalcy will return to the rodeo world, Cooper wasn’t offering any predictions.
“You have to have a lot of faith to be a cowboy, and I think what’s going on is just God showing us to put all of our faith and trust back in him,” Cooper said. “We’ve been doing a lot of praying, just trying to put all of our faith and trust in the Lord, and put all worries about the future on him.”
Courtesy of PRCA