We have had a busy last month! We had a great show at the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Derby, making the finals on all three of my entries, and my non-pros all made their finals, as well. I am very proud of them and my horses.
So now on to my favorite part of the year – futurity time! My first show will be the Rocky Mountain Reining Horse Association Summer Slide. I have been attending this event for 20 years. It is one of my favorite shows, as the atmosphere is relaxed and making the finals does not come with a lot of pressure on my 3-year-olds. They take a bunch back from the first go, making it the perfect opportunity for me to give my young horses a pleasant, stress-free first show experience.
I have moved my 3-year-old string up to my ranch in Durango, Colorado, for the next few weeks until we go to Denver to give them a change of scenery and an escape from the heat. I love this time of year on my 3-year-olds; I am able to focus solely on them for the month.
I am fortunate to have a great staff that allows me to leave my training barn and not worry. They are awesome and keep things going on track. The cool air and uninterrupted time allows me to enjoy these youngsters and learn more about their behavior in a new environment before heading to the shows. I spend a lot of one-on-one time with them, and without the pressure of my training barn, I am able to focus on all the little parts (what I call the finish work). Of course, training is always a work in progress.
I strongly believe in developing my 3-year-olds with the ultimate goal being the NRHA Futurity, so all of my pre-futurities are stepping stones and confidence-building experiences. It is of the utmost importance that my futurity horses do not peak too early and that they continue to grow, both mentally and physically, in a positive way. I am not concerned about winning pre-futurities; if it happens then it is icing on the cake. But I refuse to redline my futurity horses until I think they are both mentally and physically ready. Sometimes this is not until their derby years.
I have won $3.6 million and have never won the NRHA futurity. I hope one day to have the horse to do that with, where I think I can ask him to do it for me. But until then, I will continue to build the best horses for long-term results. I ultimately would love to win the Futurity, but not at the expense of my partner. I hope I can be an example to the young trainers coming up that you do not have to win all the majors to have a successful program and you should always put your horse’s health and well-being first!
Reining horse professional Craig Schmersal is the third-leading rider of all time, with earnings of more than $3.6 million. Over the last decade, Craig has won almost all of the major reining events, often taking all three of his entries into the finals.
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