Early Years & Acting

Clay Cooper grew up being a little cowboy on the family ranch in the San Fernando Valley close to Los Angeles. His stepfather, Gene O’Brien, worked as a wrangler on western movies and television shows like Gunsmoke and Bonanza. Weekends found O’Brien producing team ropings in addition to running his horse and cattle business.

Clay learned to ride at an early age and had started to rope by age of five. Growing up in the arena and listening to stories about the pros’ and who roped the best made a lasting impression on the youngster. By the age of seven, Clay started Junior Rodeo and has been competing and winning ever since.

Clay became involved in acting due to his stepfather and “being in the right place at the right time.” They were casting for a movie called The Cowboys starring John Wayne. There were fifteen kids involved, all who knew each other from Junior Rodeo, with several chosen for acting roles. As a nine year-old Clay landed the role of the youngest and smallest cowboy. Though he enjoyed a successful acting career through his early teenage years, Clay ultimately decided to pursue his true passion - roping.


Clay (far right) with John Wayne and the cast of the cowboys