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2018 NATIONAL REINING HORSE ASSOCIATION (NRHA) PROFESSIONAL HORSEWOMAN OF THE YEAR
Abby is good-humored, confident and humble but also well aware she's an underdog. She recently started renting stalls on a ranch run and staffed entirely by women. Two months prior, she was a trainer at Casey's ranch, where she worked for five years. Abby decided to move on from Casey's ranch after she won a major competition with one of his mares. She thought the win was a sign she should go out on her own, but Casey felt betrayed, and her departure turned out to be prolonged and awkward, even though Abby thinks the six-month advance notice she gave Casey was fair.
Now, she does everything by herself -- with a bit of help from her dog Tough and her Canadian apprentice Jamie. Everything is overwhelming at Abby's new place, but she believes she has the resilience to make it work. Her parents were not supportive of her passion for riding horses when she was young, so she bought horses with her own savings, trained them and then sold them for a profit to make a living. It worked out for her, but if a single one of her horses had not panned out, she would've been dead in the water. She's convinced this constant strife has made her tougher, and she'll need all the toughness she can muster as she tries to succeed on her own.
NATIONAL REINING HORSE ASSOCIATION (NRHA) ALL-TIME NUMBER TWO RIDER IN CAREER WINNINGS
Andrea doesn't care if he's disliked by his peers. He never chitchats or fraternizes at competitions because he's focused on winning. The distance he keeps from everybody and the fact he beats them so often has turned him into the dark force of the NRHA circuit. He was born in Italy and started working with reining horses when he was four. He doesn't see himself as a cowboy and believes he could just as easily be a race car driver or a tennis player. He prepares with a lot of intensity. As a result, he can be tough on his trainers, and he's not afraid to raise his voice when someone strays from his instructions.
Andrea's wife Tish manages their business. She's from SoCal and rides as a non-pro. They met while she was working for the Schmersals. Of their two sons, Luca is following in his father's footsteps, while Jeremy is a top motocross prospect. Tish drives Jeremy to competitions, while Andrea works at home with Luca. Andrea cooks for his family every day, and once the work is done, he often cooks for employees, too. As a family, they are private and don't socialize with the other riders, which has turned them into outsiders.
YOUNGEST RIDER EVER NAMED TO TEAM U.S.A. FOR THE FEI WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES
Cade understands the immense advantage of coming from a lineage of reining masters. All his life, he's been soaking up reining tips from his Hall-of-Fame grandfather Tim McQuay. He likes spending time and having fun with Tim because doesn't try to parent him nearly as much as his legendary father Tom does. Cade himself just turned pro, but unlike most young pro riders, he doesn't need to scramble to find decent horses to ride. In fact, he has the exact opposite problem: He has six top-level horses to choose from because clients want him to train their horses himself.
Cade started showing horses when he was seven years old, and he was already winning major events by the time he was 15. As a pro, he's in a hurry to show at as many events as he possibly can, especially if the purse is high. At times, this impatience causes friction with his parents, and even though he's quickly climbing up the ranks, Cade still needs mom and dad's approval to enter any competition.
2017 NATIONAL REINING HORSE ASSOCIATION (NRHA) OPEN DERBY CHAMPION; 2015 NRHA OPEN FUTURITY CHAMPION
Casey is, admittedly, the clown on the open rider circuit. His style of riding is different than anybody else's, and he likes to have a good time at events -- often at the expense of his own, or others', ability to focus. Regardless, he is one of the highest earners on the circuit.
When he was a teenager, Casey was kicked and dragged by a horse; as a result, he lost multiple teeth. He had to survive toothless through high school and most of college and developed a sense of humor about it and laughed at himself. This quality is what his wife Nicole was attracted to. Now, they have four kids and own a ranch and horse training program, which Nicole runs.
Casey likes to employ female trainers because he thinks they treat the horses better. He wants to develop two other trainers to show his clients' top horses. It would allow him to show nine horses an event, rather than the three he can show by himself. He trained Abby with this strategy in mind, but as soon as she won a major event with one of his best mares, she told him she was going out on her own. The episode still hurts, even as Casey works on developing two new trainers to fill Abby's old role.
NATIONAL REINING HORSE ASSOCIATION (NRHA) ALL-TIME NUMBER THREE RIDER IN CAREER WINNINGS
Craig's wife Ginger calls Craig a cowboy and a horseman. They moved to their new ranch in Scottsdale a year ago, after selling their huge ranch in Oklahoma.
Craig can be an intense trainer and often yells at the people he trains, but he also has a softer, more emotional side. In 2017, when he finally won the NRHA Futurity competition, the last big event he hadn't yet won, he couldn't stop crying.
Ginger sits on the board of the NRHA along with Tom McCutcheon. She also runs the family business.
Of the Schmersals' four children, two live at home. Addy and Brandon are adopted. Addy's a horse trainer in the making, while Brandon mountain bikes. The family lives 10 minutes from Andrea and his wife Tish, but they don't get along. Craig may greet Andrea at a competition, but he'll get no response. One of Andrea's clients has recently moved over to the Schmersals, so Craig and Ginger speculate that may be the reason behind some of the animosity.
NATIONAL REINING HORSE ASSOCIATION (NRHA) TWO-TIME OPEN FUTURITY CHAMPION; NRHA OPEN DERBY CHAMPION
Jason has won the NRHA Open Derby and the NRHA Open Futurity competitions, the NRHA's biggest events. In 2005, he and his wife Adrienne built their own facility, and their own house, with their own hands -- plumbing, electric and all. Jason and Adrienne met in third grade and got married right after high school. The couple has four children.
Jason has about 20 training horses and owns two of them. He does not admit any non-pros to his ranch, giving up a revenue stream embraced by many of his peers in order to focus on training his show horses. He is a fierce competitor, but he's also good friends with a number of the other open riders, especially Casey and Jordan Larson. That said, he does everything possible to avoid Casey during events because he finds Casey is unable to shut up.
Jason and Adrienne are looking to buy a 350-acre ranch in Oklahoma and move their family, their horses and Jason's parents there, but this goal will require a lot of winning. Even for a proven winner like him, it will be tough. He almost lost a top horse when Andrea tried to buy it from Jason's client behind Jason's back; and last year, he lost two of his best horses when his clients sold them to Craig. As a result, he'll have to take a stallion out of retirement.
NATIONAL REINING HORSE ASSOCIATION (NRHA) TOP 20 PRO RIDER; FEI WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES GOLD MEDALIST
Matt is a Southern California native. He's married to Karen and has two stepchildren, Emma and Alec, from Karen's previous relationship. Matt raised them both, but they hate horses because horses kept Matt from attending their events when they were growing up. Together, Karen and Matt have a son, Ryan, with only a fleeting interest in horses. Karen was a hairdresser for 20 years, but now she helps Matt with bookkeeping and communicates with clients. She also spends a fair amount of time discussing the other riders and their wives.
Matt's hungry and thinks that's what differentiates him from guys like Andrea and Craig. He doesn't have a solid horse for the invitational yet, so he expects to haggle a lot for the perfect horse leading up to the competition. Whenever he has been able to get his hands on a good horse, he's performed at a top level, as evidenced by his gold medal in the 2006 World Equestrian Games.
NATIONAL REINING BREEDERS CLASSIC (NRBC) OPEN CHAMPION; NRBC OPEN RESERVE CHAMPION
The McCutcheons are the dynasty of the reining horse universe. Tom is a million-dollar rider and a gold medalist at the World Equestrian Games. He sits on the board of the National Reining Horse Association, together with Ginger Schmersal. His father-in-law Tim McQuay is a reining legend and an NRHA Hall of Fame inductee. His wife Mandy rides as a non-pro, and together they operate one of the premier horse training, breeding and rehab facilities in the U.S. Their son Cade recently turned pro and is already on his way to becoming a million-dollar rider. The family's ranch has 150 horses and includes a horse spa with a saltwater bath, underwater treadmill, massage equipment and air-conditioned stalls.
Multiple injuries have turned Tom into a bionic man with two artificial hips and a recently replaced knee. He loves luxury and enjoys flying first-class and driving his Mercedes S600 AMG. And even though he spends much of his day on top of a sweating animal, he's a germaphobe who won't even touch a cup of coffee if someone else handled it.