Count Craig Schmersal and Cade McCutcheon among those who have witnessed firsthand the power of the television set.
“We get recognized quite often,” Schmersal said Saturday of he and his wife, Ginger, at the Southwest Reining Horse Association’s Billingsley Ford Futurity. “In the grocery store and here and there, the airplane. So that’s a little bit weird, but that’s all good.”
Paramount Network’s “The Last Cowboy,” which chronicled the run up The Run For A Million in August in Las Vegas, was, Schmersal said, “good for our industry.”
The Million Dollar Invitational featured 12 reiners vying for a total purse of $1 million, the largest ever paid in the sport.
Schmersal, the $4 Million Rider and McCutcheon, 19, shared the title, aboard No Smoking Required and Custom Made Gun, and the more than $600,000 in prize money.
The other contenders were Franco Bertolani, Casey Deary, Andrea Fappani, Shawn Flarida, Jordan Larson, Duane Latimer, Abby Lengel, Tom McCutcheon, Matt Mills, and Jason Valandingham,
The event and television show were credited with increasing exposure to the sport.
Schmersal won Saturday’s Open Futurity at the Hardy Murphy Coliseum in Ardmore, Oklahoma, aboard Shining On Ruf.
“I think the TV show has gotten more people in the stands,” said McCutcheon, who won money on Saturday with a first place astride Tidal To The Buckles in the Level 2 Limited Open. “When they see that we’re there, they want to see what it’s like.”
The critics also credited “The Last Cowboy” as a platform to highlight the many positive aspects of reining, from the family atmosphere to the care riders invest in their horses to maintain their welfare. The program also brought attention to the some of NRHA’s largest events.
Otherwise, the acclaim gained through The Run For A Million hasn’t changed life for these two.
“I don’t know that it’s changed a whole lot,” Schmersal said. “It’s a feather in your cap. It’s a great honor to be able to win that event in its first year, but I wake up every day and go to work like all the rest of them.”
Said McCutcheon: “Life’s not much different. Still get out of bed every day and ride horses until the night and go back to bed. It was good publicity. I might have gotten a few customers because of that show, but it’s the same thing: I’ve got to get up every day and go to work like everybody else.”