Crumpler's passion takes him to ACHA greatness

Mike Crumpler and his wife, Janie, display the trophy Mike received upon induction into the American Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame in Dec. 2017.

By Savanna Gregg

Burnet Bulletin

Two-and-a-half minutes – that is how long Burnet resident and horse trainer Mike Crumpler has to display the blood, sweat, and tears he puts into the sport that his passion. Those 2 ½ minutes encompass months, even years, he spends training his horses in the art of cutting cattle.

In December 2017, Crumpler's efforts were recognized with one of the highest honors someone in his field could accomplish. Crumpler was inducted into into the 2017 American Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame — an achievement he credits not only to his hard work and dedication, but to the horses and clients he works with and the people he keeps close.

“Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is one of my greatest accomplishments,” Crumpler said. “I was shocked when I heard them call my name. I couldn't have done it without my clients and the best wife, who has stood beside me all the way.”

Crumpler has been in the cutting horse business since the 1980s, after spending his life around horses. He grew up watching his grandfather break horses and mules for the United States Army and has had a connection to the horses ever since.

“I was born with a birth defect, and didn't learn to walk until I was six years old,” Crumpler said. “My grandpa would find me a seat up in the shade and I would sit and watch him break the horses and mules.”

Crumpler began training horses on his own in 1991 after working as an apprentice for seven years. Since then, he has noticed something special between horses and humans.

“During my apprenticeship with a man named Mac Alexander, who passed away last year, I met a couple from Germany that was traveling in a camper,” Crumpler said. “I couldn't understand much of what they said, but we bonded over my horse. There is something about horses that people are drawn to.”

Crumpler's respect for horses and the cutting horse sport is reflected in the time and effort he puts into training horses and the encouragement he extends to his clients. He has shared this passion with riders and rodeo fans across the country, competing and serving as a member of the ACHA for over 30 years.

“The ACHA wants people with integrity and character — people who promote the sport as it was originally laid out,” Crumpler said. “These people keep the ranch heritage going.

“The association is like a big family,” he added. “That is why it's called the American Cutting Horse Association.”

According to the ACHA, the Hall of Fame inductees “have exhibited high moral character, good sportsmanship, fairness and an exemplary contribution of time, effort, and interest in the ACHA and its basic endeavors.”

During the last 30-plus years, Crumpler has gone above and beyond to demonstrate these qualities in his own career, constantly sharing his passion for keeping the cutting horse heritage alive.

Being involved in something so focus-driven for such a large portion of one's life, one is bound to have highs and lows, but Crumpler never let anything keep him from achieving his goals.

“I try to never be negative,” Crumpler said. “I've been through some trying times, but I never lost focus, and I never quit. I always say 'the only loser is a quitter.'”

Ranchers and cowboys have been cutting cattle since the 1800s in order to separate them into specific herds for different purposes on ranches.

It became a sports competition in the early 20th century, mainly for bragging rights among cowboys and ranchers. Today, riders have 2½ minutes to demonstrate to judges their focus and ability to guide their horse, paired with the horse's intelligent, powerful execution in making three cuts from the herd.

The rider has turnback help to control the herd during the 2½-minute period, known as a “run.” All riders are scored between 60 and 80, starting at an average score of 70. The closer a rider scores to 80, the better. Both the rider and the horse use these 2½ minutes to exhibit grace, power, focus, and agility to excel at the competition.

“The horse, the rider, the cow, the turnback help – every portion comes into play,” Crumpler's wife, Janie, said.

Crumpler has won world champion once, and reserve world champion four times so far in his career. Because he is so passionate about all aspects of the sport, he is eager to share that excitement and success with his clients. In the past five years, three of his clients have won Reserve World Champion, and three clients have been named Rookie of the Year.

“There is nothing quite like it,” Crumpler said. “It is addictive. It is hard to explain the adrenaline rush you get.”

It takes 18 to 24 months to train a cutting horse, and Crumpler puts his heart and soul into every horse he trains. The passion in his eyes illuminated his face as he talked about horses and the impact they have on the people who care for them.

“The best thing you can do for a kid is put them on a horse,” Crumpler said.

Crumpler feels a connection to horses, and feels they can make a difference in anyone's life.

“The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a person,” Crumpler said. “They are majestic. They bring people together.”

Though Crumpler has been riding for a while and is now a member of the ACHA Hall of Fame, he still competes and says he still has goals. He will be judging a cutting horse competition in Australia at the end of the month, and plans to establish an ACHA affiliate there in the near future.

With a lot of hard work and even more support from family and loved ones, everything is possible. Crumpler credits a lot of his success to the encouragement of his peers and his beloved wife, Janie.

“I am very proud of him,” Janie said. “He has worked hard for all that he has accomplished. People think the life of a horse trainer is easy. It's not.”

“She has stood beside me the whole time,” Crumpler added. “Dreams are accomplished by a joint effort. Janie has sacrificed a lot too. Without her, this would have been impossible.”

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