Phil Rapp recently issued a warning: Be careful what you name your horses and your children. The National Cutting Horse Association’s (NCHA) all-time leading rider with more than $9.2 million in earnings traces his rise to the top of cutting back to a special mare named Tapeppyoka Peppy, who is still influencing his success more than 30 years later. The latest successful member of this equine family, Don’t Stopp Believin, lived up to his name and made Rapp keep the faith, knowing that talent runs deep on this family tree.
In 1987, Rapp and Tapeppyoka Peppy (Doc’s Oak x Senorita Peppy x Mr San Peppy) made their first trip to the NCHA World Finals, which were held in conjunction with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. This year, Rapp won the Mercuria/NCHA World Series of Cutting Open March 4 at Houston on Dont Stopp Believin, a horse that traces back through four generations to Tapeppyoka Peppy.
A 6-year-old Waco Bend Ranch-bred stallion, Dont Stopp Believin (Dual Rey x Dont Look Twice x High Brow Cat) gave Rapp his record 10th Mercuria title after marking a 227 in Houston, but he’s also given Rapp a bit of frustration and a continuing education. It’s understandable Rapp would have high expectations for Dont Stopp Believin. That’s because Dont Stopp Believin’s pedigree reads like a bible page of lineage with each “begot” increasing the family line’s success in the cutting pen.
Rapp’s dad purchased Tapeppyoka Peppy with the idea that she would become a foundation broodmare for his son. The mare earned $123,555 before beginning her breeding career. Her daughter, Tap O Lena, who was by Doc O’Lena and foaled in 1990, earned $450,639. Tap O Lena won 15 major events with Rapp and the 1997 NCHA Non-Pro World Finals for Rapp’s wife, Mary Ann. Tap O Lena produced Tapt Twice, who was sired by Dual Pep and earned $279,457. Tapt Twice, whose offspring have NCHA earnings of $1.3 million, is the dam of Dont Look Twice, the High Brow Cat daughter who raised the bar on the family’s expectations.
Dont Stopp Believin’s dam, Dont Look Twice, won 26 major events including a record eight Mercuria titles with Rapp in the saddle and amassed earnings of $824,546. She’s the NCHA’s all-time leading mare in addition to being the 2011 NCHA Open Horse of the Year and 2012 NCHA Open World Champion.
“Dont Stopp Believin is 6 years old, and in 2011, Dont Look Twice was 6 years old when I won the Mercuria on her there [in Houston] and then won it again on her in 2012,” Rapp said. “That’s when we were hauling her hard for the Horse of the Year. That’s pretty cool that she was 6 and he is 6.”
Another cool fact is Dont Stopp Believin is the first Mercuria winner out of a Mercuria winner.
“I don’t know if it was the pressure of promoting his mother or making him live up to his mother; I think the pressure was that we wanted to show what a nice horse he was,” Rapp said. “Obviously if you could go back in time, there’s a lot of things that I would change and a lot of things that I’ve learned. For whatever reason it is, we’ve had quite a growing experience with him. He’s showing what we’ve seen. The joke around home with our friends is that we had no idea when we named that horse Dont Stopp Believin how true he was going to stick to his name. Careful what you name them sometimes, like your kids. We laugh about it. It’s good stuff.”
Last year, Dont Stopp Believin, who has lifetime earnings of $217,335, finished 14th in the Open standings. Rapp would like to return to the NCHA World Finals in 2017, but doesn’t plan to chase a World title with the stallion due to his stud duties.
“We’ve gotten a really great response with breeding to him this year, and he’s going to have a really good book of mares,” Rapp said. “We’re very proud of that. That ultimately is the important thing. I want him to continue to win money and keep him out there, but we bred a small book of mares to him last year – just ours and some friends’.
“This year, we stood him to the public, and we’ve had a great reception to him. He could win from now on and if those colts are good or bad, that’s what matters. It’s important that we get the babies on the ground and in the right people’s hands. We’ve got some really nice colts coming up and if it fell into our laps, I’m not going to say that we wouldn’t push, but I’d really like to get him in the top 15 another year and get him in front of those World Finals crowds. Being the World Champion would be great, but I think just for that horse to be consistent at the aged events and do well at the Mercurias and make the World Finals again, I think that would just do wonders for us.”
Dont Stopp Believin has earned his spot in the Rapp family.
“He’s a cool horse,” Rapp said. “I think I showed him 10 or 11 times in 12 days, and the best run that he had was the last run that he had. That horse is family – and I know it – but that horse is very sound and the more you show him, the better he gets. He enjoys his job, he enjoys being around us, and he’s gotten to be quite a pet for us. Mary Ann has enjoyed him. Ryan’s enjoying him now. It’s fun that he can be that way, and he’s got a great personality. I think because we had some rocky times early on, it’s kind of like, ‘You know what, we’re just going to have fun with him.’ I think with that attitude, it’s gotten better. Let everybody enjoy him, and we’ll go from there.”