Where Are They Now? Riley Smith

Source: GoHorseShow.com
Date: August 24, 2010

Recently, I was watching a rerun marathon of the drama Criminal Minds on TNT which is my current addiction now that I have practically seen all the episodes of Law & Order. For those of you who have never seen it, Criminal Minds is a show about a top group of profilers that examine the nation’s most vicious criminal minds to predict their next moves before they kill again.

In this particular episode, a young male actor was playing the role of a intense unbalanced teenager. The actor caught my attention because he looked familiar for some reason. About halfway through the show, I realized that it was Riley Smith, whose father is trainer and AQHA judge Russ Smith of Whitesboro, Texas. Riley is also a former AQHYA President (96-97) and showed mainly in the pleasure and halter events when he was a youth exhibitor. Seeing him on television, made be wonder what he has been up to all these years since he stopped showing horses.

When I tracked him down, he was in Studio City, California getting ready to play a round of golf. Riley said he had recently picked it up for fun because he was tired of looking so bad at Celebrity Charity Golf Tournaments. Riley said that since he was not really a celebrity, the least he could do was get better at playing the game.

While 32 year-old Smith may not yet be a house hold name, he has already made his mark in Hollywood. Riley has the looks, talent, and drive to become a huge star. He has two new movies getting released later this year. He is co-starring with Wesley Snipes in the movie, Gallowalker, where Smith had the opportunity to travel to Namibia, South Africa to film the movie.

Smith also recently finished an independent movie, Minuteman, that is currently in post-production which is about a Texas Rancher suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder during his time as a solider in Iraq. This film was shot at a ranch in Frisco, Texas where there just so happened to be pictures of halter trainer Ted Turner on the walls of the barn office.

“When I walked into the office and saw the pictures, I told the farm manager that I knew Ted Turner, and he didn’t believe me,” Riley laughed. “He thought I was some fluff pretty boy from Hollywood and didn’t know anything about horses. He couldn’t believe that I really knew how to ride horses and that my father was a horse trainer. I can tell you that knowing how to ride horses definitely helped me get my last two film parts.”

Riley was around horses from an early age. At the age of 9, he won the Small Fry Walk Trot at the Congress on one of his father’s horses, Famous Brick, but he wasn’t really that interested in showing.

“Since my father was a trainer, I considered it work to show. My dad’s customers had everything done for them, but I had to work at the barn,” Riley said. “I didn’t really get into showing until I was a teenager and realized there were a lot of cute girls that showed horses.”

In 1996, Smith was elected AQHYA President. He remembers that it was an amazing experience being able to travel and meet so many people at such a young age. “It was great to be a positive influence on other kids. How many 16 year-olds get to travel all over the country representing a 25,000 member youth organization? It was the time of my life. I liked the fact that AQHA put us in a position of trust. They gave us a voice, and I was really honored to represent such a great organization.”

After graduating from high school in 1997, Smith was discovered at a local mall in his hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa by a talent scout who invited him to compete at the International Modeling and Talent Association (IMTA) Convention in New York City. Riley happened to be Ashton Kutcher’s roommate at the convention after already knowing each other in their hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. At IMTA, he was picked to appear in a Tommy Hilfiger modeling campaign. With the money he made from modeling, Smith decided to take acting lessons. A few months later, Smith was in Los Angeles at a screen test for the 1998 WB pilot “Minor Threat”. He landed that first audition and although the pilot was not picked up, Smith’s acting career had just been launched.

Since his arrival in Hollywood, Riley has worked non-stop. He promised his father that he would give it six months, and if he didn’t make it, he would go to college. Well, that was 14 years ago, and he has never stopped working. Smith has gone on to do eight prime time network pilots, more than a dozen guest-starring roles and five series. He has appeared in over 15 movies, including the films Eight Legged Freaks, Not Another Teen Movie, Radio, (alongside Oscar Winners Cuba Gooding Jr and Ed Harris), Warner Bros. New York Minute with the Olsen Twins and the 2007 Sundance Grand Jury nominee Weapons. He has had recurring roles in the Emmy-nominated CBS series “Joan of Arcadia”, the highly acclaimed Emmy-winning FOX show “24” and the cult favorite Judd Apatow creation for NBC “Freaks and Geeks.”

“It is amazing how Hollywood is a lot like the horse industry. It is a large industry but small enough where it feels like a very big family,” Smith said. “The horse industry taught me to keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” Riley says with a laugh. But, on a more serious note, he says that, “It also taught me that self discipline and hard work really pays off. In business you are your own boss and no one will push you as hard as you have to push yourself.”

Riley goes on to say that, “Hollywood and the horse industry are both like mini soap operas with its own gossip and drama. There is also a lot of nepotism in both industries. I couldn’t have done anything in the horse industry without my dad. In the horse industry, you basically have to sell yourself and your horse to the judges. It is ironically the same in Hollywood. You have to market yourself, have some luck, network, and work hard. If you don’t do well at a show or audition, there is always another one down the road.”

Riley wants to stay involved with acting and eventually get into producing and directing films. He also has his own band, Life of Riley, where he describes his music as a cross between Gavin Degraw and Matchbox 20. He considers his music a hobby, but he has independently produced his own music and has made money touring and selling his music across the country.

“It is kind of neat to think about it, but I am actually following in my dad’s footsteps in a way. I am self-employed. I am my own boss. I have been able to continue making money in a profession I love to do. It doesn’t get any better than that!”

On a side note, I’m sure all the girls would like to know that Riley is currently single. I reminded him that maybe he should start showing again because there is still pretty girls that show horses. He laughed. “Not only would I love to get back into horses when I have time and extra change ($$) but may just swing by a show like the old days to find a pretty cowgirl.”

We wish Riley good luck in his future goals and hope to see him on the big screen and at the horse shows real soon.