COLUMBUS GROVE — Former Columbus Grove resident Craig Schmersal is one of eight horse reining people featured on a reality TV show, “The Last Cowboy.”
The show provides a glimpse into the profession of working with horses.
Schmersal, 47, grew up in Columbus Grove and currently lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. He also won the “Run For A Million” horse reigning competition Aug. 17 in Las Vegas, Nevada, which was featured on the television show.
“When I was 8 years old, my dad bought my sister and I a horse to show at the Putnam County Fair. I enjoyed riding horses, being around the horses, and it was my only desire,” Schmersal said during a telephone interview.
Schmersal lived in Columbus Grove until he has 18 and graduated from Columbus Grove High School in 1990. After high school, he went to Long Island, N.Y., to train horses. Growing up in Columbus Grove, he and his family raised horses on the farm where he lived.
In 1990, he became a professional horse reiner. Living two years in New York, he then moved to Maryland, California and Oklahoma and moved to Arizona, where he has resided since 1995. Schmersal is married to Ginger, and they have three children, Nick, Chris and Addi, who share his love of horses.
He is owner of Schmersal Reining Horses, where 65 to 85 head of horses are trained. He took over ownership of the business in 1996. There are customers from Europe and all over the U.S. who send their horses to train at the business. The horses learn reigning maneuvers including stopping, spinning and guiding. They are then ready to compete at horse shows across the country with their owners.
The reality TV show started filming in February and ended during the Aug. 17 “Run For A Million” competition. It can be viewed on Amazon Prime, Netflix and Paramount Network.
The idea for the show came from Academy Award nominee Taylor Sheridan, writer of films “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water.” Sheridan was interested in creating a show that showcased talents of reining horse trainers from Arizona to Texas.
The show was pitched to Paramount of following the riders up to the biggest horse reigning event in the country, “Run For A Million,” that Schmersal competed in. Schmersal tied with another horse reiner in the competition and won $307,000, a belt buckle, diamond ring, saddle and horse trailer.
“In the film, there are shots of me and the other reiners doing horse maneuvers, training and our everyday lives,” Schmersal said. He said it is nice for viewers to see a western way of life and how horse reiners live and compete.
“There aren’t many cowboy shows on TV anymore, so for those who love horses, this is something great for them to see,” Schmersal said.
What makes the show so realistic, he said, is the conversations and ups and downs of the horse industry and problems reiners face in getting horses ready for competition.
“In training horses, some days they get sore and hurt, and you are living with a living animal with its own mind,” Schmersal said.
Over the past 20 years, he has won $4.5 million in horse reigning competitions.
He has received positive feedback on the television show and even received a message from his former speech teacher, Beth Huffman, who is now retired from Columbus Grove High School.
She wrote a letter to him on her Facebook page on July 29, to which Schmersal and many of his fans responded.
Huffman shared a story in the letter of Schmersal being assigned a five-minute speech when he was in high school. He was finished in barely three minutes. She recalled in the letter he was looking at the floor when he gave his speech, so she asked him to look at the audience and start over. He started his speech saying “ya gotta love this guy,” in reference to his father.
“But in that short time span, we heard you talk about the man you idolized… your dad… the man who taught you how to ride horses and who fueled your desire to live on a ranch and become a horse trainer,” Huffman wrote in the letter.
Huffman gave Schmersal an A+ on his speech as a reward for sharing a piece of his heart.
To the letter Schmersal responded, “I remember a few things about high school. Speech class scared me. Still does. I remember you were the kindest and caring teacher I ever had. Oh and that A+ I remember that too. It was the only one I had in my high school career. So thank you. Hope to make CG proud.”
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.