A familiar white-splashed face will be competing at this year’s National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC), but this time the champion mare has a new pilot.
Face The Attitude, the 2017 National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity Open Champion, is entered in the NRBC Non-Pro with Addi Schmersal.
The NRBC, which started Wednesday, Aug. 26, will be the second time the 14-year-old has shown the mare since parents Craig and Ginger Schmersal, who own the mare through their Hickory Creek Ranch, brought Face The Attitude out of retirement earlier this summer.
Their first spin through the pen was at last month’s Rocky Mountain Reining Horse Association Summer Slide. It was the first time anyone had shown the mare since Addi’s father, Craig, won the sport’s biggest prize in Oklahoma City.
Talk about pressure.
“With that horse, yes, I was very nervous,” said Addi, who rode the mare to the Derby Level 3 Non-Pro title in Denver. “I felt like it was a lot of pressure, because it was her first time in the show pen since she was shown at the NRHA Futurity in 2017, so I didn’t know what would happen.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking but, it was fun.”
Until this summer, Face The Attitude had been at the breeding farm — the mare has several foals through embryo transfer — and as far as the Schmersals were concerned, there wasn’t a whole lot more to ask of the flashy daughter of Pale Face Dunnit who gave Craig his first-ever Futurity Level 4 Open title.
It was a title he’d been chasing for 27 years. Winning it moved Craig to tears the night of the finals at Jim Norick Arena.
“When he won the Futurity on her, I’m like, well, are we going to show her next year?,” Ginger Schmersal recalled. “He said, ‘No, that mare never has to work for me again. She fulfilled all my dreams and she owes me nothing.'”
And, with that, the mare nicknamed “Ariel” was off to the breeding barn. She stayed there until this year’s NRHA Derby, when the Schmersal’s picked her up and brought her back to their training facility in Arizona.
She was put back into training this summer, but not in the hands of Craig, an Equi-Stat $4 Million Rider. This time, Face The Attitude was going to be ridden by Addi.
“Addi’s done all the riding on her. Craig hasn’t been on her,” Ginger said. “The last time Craig was on her was when he won the Futurity and he’s never been on her since.”
Addi went about getting her ready. Though the mare hadn’t ever carried a foal, she still wasn’t in show shape.
“It was a lot of long trotting just to get her strength back and then we loped a lot and then eventually, like after two weeks, we started doing maneuvers on her just to see would take it,” Addi said. “She was really good.”
Excited & Happy
Though Addi hadn’t ridden Face The Attitude before this year, she knew the mare well because the reiner out of the broodmare Miss Lil Addy Tude (by Whizard Jac) was raised by her parents. That didn’t mean she wasn’t nervous to climb aboard a Futurity Open champion.
“I was really scared. It was fun, but I didn’t’ really know because I didn’t want to ruin her or anything,” she said. “But, she was really good. My parents and I, we think that she didn’t forget anything, because the first time I asked her to stop, she just stopped. And, the first time I asked her to change leads, she changed leads.”
She said the mare has always had a great attitude.
“She’s a really happy mare. I’ve never seen her not happy. She’s always really excited to go to work and right as you throw a leg over her, she’s ready,” Addi said. “And, she doesn’t pull any tricks on you – she’s always with you.”
Ginger believes the time Addi spent with the mare previously, having known Face The Attitude since she was a foal, is a big part of their success together.
“Addi’s just a horse lover, you know? And, I think that horses know when people really love them versus just are showing them for a check,” she said. “And, I knew that Addi would develop a relationship with that mare.
“She’s always had a relationship with that mare, but never ridden her.”
In their first start, in Denver, Addi and Face The Attitude marked a 145 to win the Derby Level 3 Non-Pro. That score was one point behind the Level 4 winner in the class, which was scored using the single purse system.
For Ginger, the most exciting thing about Face The Attitude’s comeback has been watching her daughter work through the process. She also was impressed by how well the incoming high school pressure handled the pressure of riding an NRHA Futurity champion.
Going into the Rocky Mountain Reining Horse Association show, many of the mare’s fans knew she was going to make her comeback, and Ginger said Addi knew they were watching.
“Addi was very aware of how many people were watching her and for her to stay on pattern and deliver a score like she did on a horse that she’s never shown … She’s never even done a paid warm-up on her before that. She went cold turkey into that arena.
“I didn’t care really how it turned out as far as where she placed,” Ginger said. “I wanted to see how she was able to handle the pressure, and she far exceeded our expectations as far as being able to deal with all of it.”
The $1,205 Addi and Face The Attitude won in Denver pushed the mare’s lifetime earnings to nearly $195,000. Given that many large reining shows now allow 7-year-old horses in derby classes, the 2014 mare and Addi’s partnership in the limited-age classes could extend beyond this year.
Then there are her babies. Face The Attitude’s oldest foals are yearlings, and it won’t be too long before they take the first steps toward carrying on their mother’s legacy at the Schmersal’s facility in Scottsdale, Arizona.