Along for the Ride – The Run For A Million – Show Day!

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and Internationally competitive rider.

My plan for show day was to get up early and ride – sticking to his formula.  I drew number 18, so I thought I’d wash him after my early morning warm up session and then get him back out at about draw 10 and jog him around.  Our friend Joe Schmidt was there in case I needed anything (I only needed to have a horse holder while I did my last nervous wee and then put my chaps on).  

The early morning warm-up did not go really well.  Oscar remained a bit uptight about the gate and I felt like I did not get his worry cup emptied enough.  I knew some of it had to be coming from me. So after I washed him, the dogs and I snuck down to the end of the barns where there wasn’t anyone around and I did some QiGong.  I did some visualizations (Anticipate Success from Jane Pike) and I texted with my friend Amber whom I’d done the retreat with. She is a theta healer and she tried to help, but she said when she got up to wherever she goes to help, she said that I felt a little bit out of my body.  She was right! I think I slapped on some essential oils as well. I used the Bemer blanket and oils on Oscar and got him show ready while listening to Willie Nelson’s “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.” That song has been my horse show song since I was 8. Whenever it would come on when we were going to a show, I would do well!   

My beautiful friend Liz stayed away during all of this, only coming to bring me breakfast and coffee (½ decaf) – Much needed! Proof that I’d made the right decision on who to invite for my support crew!  I’ve talked about Oscar’s show formula before – not sure if I’ve mentioned mine. Before I show, I need some alone time to sort things out which includes listening to my song and keeping myself busy. Once I’m in the saddle, I’m completely fine.  I decided to wear my WEG outfit – it still had good “juju” on it – I have worn it a lot and have usually done well while wearing it.

I felt that Oscar was relaxed when I was jogging him around outside before we went in to show.  I was feeling pretty confident, albeit a bit nervous. I did my anticipate success visualization and a lot of focus on my breathing. 

When it came time to go in the show pen, I ran in as fast as I’d planned but Oscar didn’t stop really well.  I did not shut off our first spin correctly, which was a penalty 1/2. The biggest surprise was when I went to turn left – which is always a +½ maneuver for us, Oscar didn’t respond at all. It was like he didn’t know what I was asking. I still haven’t figured that out.  I ended up doing something funny with my hand and bumping him with my leg to get him to turn. It was not a credit-earning maneuver. Our left circles were good, I reminded myself where I was and that I should have fun and smile, which I did. He slowed down well and I loosened my reins to show how well he was going slow, but I wasn’t prepared for what he did in the lead change. My bad.

At home, this lead change doesn’t work well.  There is still something residual in his body that we haven’t fixed completely and perhaps there is pain there – which we address through regular bodywork, CBD oil, good shoeing, and supplements.  He has NEVER missed the lead change in a class, so while I was hyper-aware of what I needed to do to make it work in the show pen, I hadn’t contemplated what Oscar threw at me. I had planned to get around most of the circle and when I straightened up through the middle, I would set him up and really press my outside leg on him to get him to change. I had prepared for it not working and him being late to change or missing a lead, which would both be penalties as well.  It ended up that I need not have worried about that, as Oscar changed leads just as I rounded the top of my small circle, very early, which was a full 1 point penalty. Darn it!

Right circles were good and I smiled and had fun with them.  All 3 stops were average, not great, not credit-earning. So, my score, when announced was disappointing.  I would not be taking home any money from this event. 

In hindsight, I feel that Oscar was out of sorts the entire time.  He wasn’t tuned into me 100%, especially when I showed him. Whether it was that he was alone or was the venue, or he could feel the atmosphere or feel me being a bit nervous or 1000 other things, I couldn’t tell you.  Likely a combination. I am disappointed that it went like this, but in the end, was happy to have been part of such an event. Maybe next year I’ll get chosen for the freestyle! 

Speaking of the freestyle, it was after our class and it was really good.  My WEG teammate Dan James did a really good Game of Thrones routine, complete with a liberty team surrounding him.  He ended up Reserve Champion by a ½ point. Andrea Fappani, who is one of the million-dollar contestants won it on his good horse Custom Spook – doing a brideless routine dressed as a boxer, complete with boxing gloves to “Eye of the Tiger”.  

The Million Dollar Class was later and it was spectacular.  The line to get in was wrapped all the way to the end of the casino, the stands were pretty darn full.  Every single rider had the chance to win it. There was no “underdog” or anything, despite how they might have played it out on the Last Cowboy TV show.  They were all capable of scoring the highest. In the end, it was a tie between the youngest rider Cade McCutcheon and Craig Schmersal. They decided to be named co-champions instead of running their horses again.  

Confirmation of a 2020 event was made several times.  There will also be a season 2 of “The Last Cowboy” along with it.  Since I haven’t mentioned that yet, I will tell you a little about that.  Taylor Sheridan, who has been involved in writing and directing films like Sicario, Hell or High Water and a few others, as well as being an actor in The Sons of Anarchy, has been competing in the reining for the last 5 years or so.  I remember seeing him for the first time at a show that I was judging. I thought, HMMM, he looks very Hollywood.  Come to find out – he was.  I had not watched Sons at that point, so I really had no idea who he was. 

He really loves the sport and wants to expose it to as many people as possible. So as he is directing the new Paramount Network show, Yellowstone, he incorporates as much Reining into the show as possible.  It’s been in a couple of episodes. Then he decided to get Paramount to sponsor the Million Dollar Reining and film a reality show along with it called The Last Cowboy.  They did 6 episodes, following 8 of the 12 riders in the lead up to the show in Vegas.  I think they did a good job of highlighting our sport and the riders. While I think there was a bit of scripting involved, I think they portrayed everyone pretty true!   Other than Matt Mills, I was hoping that Craig would win. We’ve known them the longest and they are both truly good people and horsemen!

My next installment will be about the “after” Vegas crash.