National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Non-Pro Hall of Fame member Gail Hooper was remembered as a lover of animals, talented artist and a good friend.
Hooper, 66, of Moulton, Alabama, died July 17 at her home after a long illness. A memorial service will be held at 2 pm., Wednesday, July 21 in Alabama. Joe Howard Williamson, Tom Holt and Rev. Dr. Bude VanDyke will officiate the service, which will be livestreamed at chclivescoring.com.
A long-time member of the cutting horse community, Hooper began riding cutting horses more than three decades ago while living in the Midwest. She won nearly a million dollars riding cutting horses and was named to the NCHA Non-Pro Riders Hall of Fame in 2008.
Hooper was more than just a tough competitor in the cutting pen. To long-time friend Kelle Chartier, she was a great pal who loved giving gifts, enjoyed drinking a glass of wine with friends and had a soft spot for animals.
The gifts sometimes consisted of her art – which could range from beautiful bronzes to portraits, Chartier said.
“She was an extraordinary person,” she said.
Originally from Ohio but later of Texas and Alabama, Hooper rode the winners of $969,548, according to EquiStat. The three horses that she won the most money aboard were multiple aged-event finalist Floyd Quixote ($95,598), her homebred Brazos Bash 4-Year-Old Non-Pro Champion Tummys Little Cat ($93,118) and NCHA Futurity Non-Pro Reserve Champion J R Smart Smokin (PT) ($83,113).
She also earned the NCHA Super Stakes 5/6-Year-Old Non-Pro Co-Championship with Lena Rey Zack and won a number of limited-age event championships over the years, including several Senior titles at major events.
In 2019, she and Mystical Metallic won the Non-Pro Senior Championship at the NCHA Futurity.
Even though Hooper had a number of top horses over the years, and together with her husband and fellow cutter, James, bred many winners, Chartier said Hooper’s love for them wasn’t contingent on how good they were in the show pen. One of Hooper’s favorites was a mare named Kit Kat Kisses, who frustrated Chartier with her inconsistency but earned herself a spot in Hooper’s heart.
‘[The mare] didn’t pan out like she was supposed to for her, but she still loved her and she put her in her pasture in Alabama,” said Chartier, who met Hooper while competing in the Midwest and whose husband, Randy Chartier, later trained horses for her friend. “I mean, she loved that mare.”
Chartier said she’ll miss Hooper’s smile, the good talks they had and the way her friend would snort when she really got to laughing. But, the thing Hooper left her with was a love for life, and a passion for living life to the fullest.
“Find the good and enjoy it,” she said.