Reining King of 'Yellowstone'

Craig and Ginger Schmersal on Everything from Horse Reining to Television Shows to Competitions

For more than 30 years, Craig and Ginger Schmersal have harnessed their equine talents and passions into a thriving career. With clients all over the globe, they train and show horses, run clinics, and are among the most well-known on the circuit. Their work keeps them on the road for roughly half the year, and it has taken them across the United States and all over Europe.  

You could say they’ve become ambassadors of a uniquely Western American way of life through reining, considered a Western form of dressage that has its origins in rounding up cattle. 

However, they have received a new and different kind of boost thanks to Yellowstone, the hit television show that features a few horses trained by Craig, a longtime horse trainer for the show’s creator, Taylor Sheridan.

“A lot of people across the world have a love for horses and with the TV show, it’s rekindled a bit of flame in a lot of people,” Craig says.

Craig has been a horse trainer and coach for Sheridan, an actor and filmmaker with an affinity for reining horses, for eight years. When Sheridan came up with the concept for Yellowstone, which stars Kevin Costner and revolves around the owners of a large family-owned Montana ranch, he wrote in the reining horses. 

“He’s always writing horses into his scripts and he wanted to bring more awareness to reining,” Ginger says. “He asked a few of his friends and trainers to participate in Yellowstone, and it’s kind of exploded. We were fortunate to have been included!”

Through their Schmersal Reining Horses business, the Schmersals handle breeding, showing, and everything in between. However, preparing clients’ horses for competitions is the bulk of the job. Craig’s personal accomplishments in reining have made him the third all-time leading money-earning rider in the world. 

And he’s thrilled to give clients this kind of success.

“It’s rewarding to start with horses that have never been ridden before and take them to a level of competition that’s really high,” Craig says. 

Oklahoma native Ginger met Ohio native Craig in Arizona in the early 1990s, when they were working with the same Scottsdale horse trainer. Both had been riding since elementary school and were up and coming in the industry. Ginger was showing and riding competitively as a nonprofessional, and Craig was doing the same but as a pro. 

When they got married and started a family, Ginger moved into the role of running the business and behind-the-scenes tasks while Craig trained and showed horses. 

“Ginger takes care of logistics. I get the fun part,” Craig says. “That’s why it’s nice when I win because I know how much she sacrificed.” 

Married for 25 years, the Schmersals have four children who grew up riding and competing. Their youngest daughter Addi, 18, earned a full-ride scholarship to Auburn University, well-respected for its equine academia and horse-performing activities. 

“The neat thing about reining is that it doesn’t make a difference if you're a man or woman. If you have the right horse and can compete, you can win and that’s pretty awesome,” Ginger says. 

Craig and Ginger are also in the main cast of the reality show The Last Cowboy, featured on CMT, which is in its fourth season and follows their lives through the circuits of showing horses. In 2019, Craig tied to win the season’s culmination, The Run For A Million in Las Vegas, taking home more than $300,000 in prize money. 

While nice, however, it’s not all about the money. 

“The best part of my job is that we do it as a family. All our kids are involved in some capacity,” Ginger says. “Not many people get to work with their families and make the living we do.” 

Craig agrees.

“I get to do what I love, compete at a high level, and watch my daughter and boys compete successfully,” Craig says. “There are a lot of tiny rewards. I don't always have to win to be happy.”

"If you have the right horse and can compete, you can win ..."

“Ginger takes care of logistics. I get the fun part.”

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