Andrea Fappani proves that the American Dream still exists and comes true.
The Italian-born reiner competed at the top as a non-pro in his home country, riding horses provided by his successful dairy-farmer father. Andrea says he could've stayed in Italy, worked in the family business, and continued to show as a non-pro on top-notch horses. But he wanted more.
Making His Own Way
In 1998, Andrea came to the United States to work for NRHA and NRCHA Million Dollar Rider Todd Bergen at his new place in Eagle Point, Oregon.
"It was a perfect example of being in the right place at the right time, making good decisions, and having some luck" Andrea recalls. "Up to that point, my parents had played a huge role in my success. They always pushed me to work harder and do better. When I came here, I took it on myself.
"My dad didn't give me a dime," Andrea recalls. "He wanted me to see the reality of horse-trainer life, so I didn't waste too much time if it wasn't going to work out. I took that as a challenge to prove that I could do it—and to prove my dad wrong. I wanted to make it. Sure, there were times I wanted to go home and have it 'the easy way,' but then I'd get it together and want to prove that I could do this."
When Andrea started in Oregon, he was Todd's only assistant. Anyone who knows an assistant trainer understands that it's often not the glory job. Andrea spent his time cleaning stalls, saddling and cooling down horses, working 16-hour days. But he saw the opportunity ahead of him.
In 2001, Todd handed the reins of palomino Paint stud RR Star to Andrea to show at the NRHA Futurity.
"Not many trainers would give their assistant the 'better horse' to show at the futurity," Andrea states. "But Todd respected my work and convinced the owner that I should show that horse. He could've lost a client for that decision, but he trusted me, and it changed my life."
It made RR Star the first Paint to ever win the NRHA Futurity and Andrea the first Italian to win the prestigious event. And it launched his trajectory to success.
"With every challenge, I've charged at it and tried to find the best way to overcome it," Andrea shares. "In my career, it took me 10 years to become a $1 Million Rider. Four years later, I became a $2 Million rider. And two years after that, I was a $3 Million Rider. The better I got, the more confidence I had in my program, and the more success I had. Everything has come together to send me in the right direction."
The Trajectory Continues
Known for his great success with young horses in futurities and derbies, Andrea has taken the opportunity to show aged horses on the international stage seriously.
"I want to be seen as a complete rider," he says. "I want to be successful with horses of all ages and to be able to adapt. I've had to work hard the last few years to perform better with older horses, because my strength has always been the younger horses. Being on this team confirms that I can do that. I've been lucky enough to get great horses in my hands."
In fact, he has two great horses eligible for the World Equestrian Games US Reining Team. He rode Smoking Whiz to earn a spot on the team, and he showed Custom Cash Advance to the alternate spot on the roster.
Smoking Whiz (a k a, Hamster, for the way he stuffs his cheeks with carrots), has always marked big for Andrea. The pair consistently earns high marks—above 230. But the powerful stud tends to give his all in the first round, a detriment in the two-round format of WEG competition.
"At the Kentucky Reining Cup, I held him back a little more in the first round," Andrea recalls. "That way I had more horse in the second round. He was very consistent in both performances."
Custom Cash Advance came to Andrea's barn just before the WEG qualifier, so he wasn't sure what to expect.
"I made some adjustments in how I showed him from the first round to the second," Andrea states. "It was the first time I'd shown him, and I was pleased to learn that he's so honest and consistent.
"To me, horses make the trainer," he continues. "A combination of great horses, a solid program, owner faith, and hard work make for great opportunities."
Thanks to Soft-Ride Equine Comfort Boots for their sponsorship of our coverage of the Kentucky Reining Cup.