Andrea Fappani recently became the all-time reining rider in EquiStat, and the first rider in the history of the National Reining Horse Association to win more than $7 million.
According to the NRHA, Fappani’s earnings from the 2021 NRHA Futurity not only made Fappani its first NRHA Seven Million Dollar Rider, but it also made him the leading rider in the history of the NRHA with $7,052,756 won at the association’s events.
In addition, the statistical record-keeping service EquiStat, which tracks several Western performance horse disciplines and additional incentives not recognized by all associations, has Fappani with earnings of even more – $7,195,769. That’s the most of any reining rider in the database.
“This means so much. It’s what I have been working on all my career,” Fappani said in a statement issued by the NRHA of his new NRHA Seven Million Dollar Rider status. “It wasn’t so much the number, seven million, it was more the accomplishment of coming from another country, setting my mind to it, and becoming the best I could be. It’s a great feeling. It’s been a long way and a lot of hard work, and both my family and my help have sacrificed a lot to help me get here.”
Fappani surged to the lead in large part thanks to his showing at this year’s NRHA Futurity, where he earned $250,000 for riding the horses who tied for the Level 4 Open Reserve Championship – Mr Farenheit and Winding Inferno.
The trainer known for his work ethic and drive, grew up on a dairy farm near Bergamo, Italy, where his parents, Sergio and Maddalisa, were fourth-generation dairy farmers.
“My father always felt that if we were going to do something, we were going to do it all the way,” Fappani told the NRHA. “It wasn’t only for fun; it was about work and responsibility, but with that came a lot of reward.”
According to the NRHA”s statement, Fappani said a few horses stand out among the hundreds he has ridden over the years. That includes four winners of the NRHA Futurity Level 4 Open: RR Star (PT), Lil Joe Cash, Spooky Whiz and All Bettss Are Off.
“RR Star was a huge challenge to train, and I think the reason we were successful was because I was hard-headed. He wound up being an amazing horse for me, and put me on the map,” Fappani shared. “Custom Legend still holds the record for the highest score ever, a 236.5, in a run-off at the NRBC. He will always be a special horse to me.”
There is one horse that Fappani says is the quintessential “Fappani” horse, and that’s NRHA Million Dollar Sire Lil Joe Cash, on whom Fappani won the 2011 NRHA Open Futurity Championship.
“I always use Lil Joe as the example of what I want. He clicked with my program from day one, and we just melted together at the beginning,” he said.
It’s Fappani’s desire to never stop learning from the horses and honing his horsemanship skills that have made each and every one that has stepped foot into his arena significant.
“The ones that are more challenging, that I might not have won as much on…those are the ones who made me a better trainer and horseman. Those are the ones that made my program stronger, made me change my approach, and gave me a much different perspective,” he said. “I’m going to remember them because they made me better.”
Fappani trains near Scottsdale, Arizona. His wife, Tish, and one of their sons, Luca, compete in non-pro reining events. Another son, Jeremy, races motorcross.
Calling the boys his and Tish’s “greatest achievements,” Fappani said it never mattered if the boys rode horses or not, so long as they put their mind to whatever they did decide to do.
“Luca puts horses in front of everything else. He keeps great grades in school, but he will ride a couple before he goes to school, then comes back, rides more, and then does his homework at night. Jeremy is the same way,” Fappani said. “Watching them, I know they are going to be successful in life, no matter what they decide to do. I never pushed them to pick something early on. I just told them to put everything they’ve got into it. It’s fine if they change their mind and want to do something else; I just want them to learn how to do things the right way.”