Gold medalists and a celebrity are making the rounds at Hardy Murphy Coliseum.

Gold medalists and a celebrity are making the rounds at Hardy Murphy Coliseum.

The 26th Annual Southwest Reining Horse Association Futurity and Horse Show is in Ardmore with some of the world’s best riders in attendance. When most were at work or school, competition started Tuesday and will continue through Sunday.

Finals in the Intermediate Open, Limited Open and Billingsley Ford Open Futuries will run on Saturday.

The field includes three of the four members of the U.S. reining team that won gold at the World Equestrian Games in September in Lexington, K.Y. Tom McCutchen of Aubrey, Texas, Tim McQuay of Tioga, Texas, and Craig Schmersal of Overbrook — some of the top money earners in the sport — all competed on Wednesday.

With the World Equestrian Games on U.S. soil for the first time ever, the three riders — plus reining legend Shawn Flarida — were the heavy favorites to win gold. The “Dream Team” delivered, its horses and riders winners of over $9 million combined in career earnings.

“The biggest thing was being a part of that team,” Schmersal said. “To represent our country was great. We don’t get to do the team sport much so to be a part of that group of guys at that venue was something special.”

Thursday, they took their first go-rounds in Ardmore. McCutcheon warmed up his mare while wearing a ball cap with the “Double Gold” insignia on the side. The 43-year-old also won a gold in individual reigning at the World Games, part of a medal sweep for Oklahoma- and Texas-based riders.

Schmersal won silver and Marietta resident Duane Latimer, representing Team Canada, took bronze. Latimer is also competing this week.

“A lot of people see reining at backyard shows but to see it at this level is a great experience,” McCutcheon said of the sport’s exposure, which had 10 million viewers on NBC’s broadcast. “Those who understand horses know that training rein horses is hard to do because you have to have so much control.”

Among those trainers in attendance is McQuay, who was fourth in individual reining at the World Games. Along the way, McQuay, who has had a ranch in Tioga since 1989, has trained horses for country recording artist Lyle Lovett, who is competing this week in a Non Pro Futurity.

Lovett has bred horses since 1984 and competed in reining since 2001. He became a client of McQuay’s for his expertise and appreciates the skill and dedication the 58-year-old brings to the sport. It was the Grammy Award winner, in fact, who was starstruck by being around the top reiners in the world.

“This is like getting to go stand on the sidelines or being in the dugout,” said Lovett, a Houston native who competes 3-4 times a year. “That’s what I like about (reining) — you always learn something every time out.”

The SWRHA Futurity is the last stop in Oklahoma until the biggest show, the National Reining Horse Association Futurity Nov. 25-Dec. 4 in Oklahoma City.

Until then, the southwest-based medalists will continue to rake in the cash and accolades across the country.

“It’s nice to sleep at home, sleep in your own bed, just 10 minutes from here,” said Schmersal, who’s lived in Overbrook five years. “It seems like we’re gone a lot so it’s good to be close to home for once.”

Erik K. Horne


26th Annual SWRHA Futurity

  Today-Sunday at Hardy Murphy Coliseum
  Doors open at 8 a.m. through Saturday; 7 a.m. Sunday; admission is free
  WinStar World Casino Non-Pro Finals on Friday afternoon; Open finals Saturday afternoon
  Call Hardy Murphy Coliseum (580-223-2541) for more information