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Fappani Performance Horses shut out the rest of the competition, laying claim to the Level 4 Open Championship and Reserve titles.

From the first draw of the Level 4 Futurity Open finals, Andrea Fappani locked away the Championship on Lil Joe Cash. By the middle of the draw, he posted the score on Spook Off Sparks that would claim second place. When the last horse and rider stepped up to the plate, it was time to count one more for Fappani Performance Horses. Arno Honstetter, an assistant to Fappani for six years, matched the No. 2 score on Show Me The Buckles. It was a one-two- three punch for the barn, which took home a grand total of almost half a million dollars: $413,477.

That’s three amazing horses, two talented riders and one heck of a payday.

A lady’s man

It had been 14 years since Fappani had shown a mare at the National Reining Horse Association Futurity. The last time was in 1997. Fappani was a non-pro and Best By Tari (Taris Catalyst x Pocodo Annie x Pocodo Jordan) took him to his first Futurity title, the Limited Non-Pro Championship.

Fast forward to 2010. Fappani is one of only four Equi-Stat Elite $2 Million Reining Riders, an NRHA Futurity Level 4 Open Champion and two-time Reserve Champion and one of the most sought-after open riders in the sport. And for the first time since Best By Tari, Fappani was considering taking a mare to the NRHA Futurity.

“I push my horses quite a bit, and mares, early on, don’t take as much pressure, so I always get along with studs or geldings a little bit better,” Fappani said.

But Rosanne Sternberg, Pilot Point, Texas, had one that was different. She called Fappani after the 2-year-olds at her Sterling Ranch had received 60 days of training and asked him to come and take a few for a spin.

“She was the last one they brought out, and I almost didn’t look at her because she was a mare,” Fappani said. He said he got on the horse mostly to make Sternberg happy. “The minute I got on her, I could feel that she was quiet, and she let me push her. She had a good mind, and she had a really big stop. The minute you quit riding her, she just wanted to bury her butt in the ground.”

Spook Off Sparks (Smart Spook x Setting Off Sparks x Shining Spark) loaded up and went to Fappani Performance Horses, Scottsdale, Ariz., for training. Fappani still had his reservations, though, and told Sternberg not to get her hopes too high. But Spook Off Sparks knew just the way to woo the trainer.

“The minute I took her home, I felt like she was the kind of horse that I could get along with,” he said. “She could take the pressure. She tried hard.”

Halfway through 2011, Equi-Stat’s leading reining owner, Eleuterio Arcese of Arcese Quarter Horses, Weatherford, Texas, who has always had a great appreciation for mares, Fappani said, purchased Spook Off Sparks. Their first vic- tory was the NRHA Cowtown Classic Pre Futurity Level 4 Open Reserve Championship. The Scottsdale Classic Futurity Level 4 Open Championship followed.

Once they got to the NRHA Futurity, however, Fappani doubted the mare one last time.

“I came here in the go-round, and I went really safe. I got her tired. I told Rosanne, ‘I don’t trust her. She’s a little wound up,’ ” he said. In the go-round, though she marked a 219.5, the mare wasn’t herself.

“Rosanne kind of chewed my butt. She said, ‘You need to trust her,’ ” Fappani recalled. He did in the second round, and the mare marked a 221.5, more than enough to make the Level 4 finals.

On finals night, Dec. 3, Fappani and Spook Off Sparks came on deck at draw 17 intending to chase Fappani’s earlier 227.

“I knew that mare could mark even higher. All I wanted to do was mark as high as I could with that mare. We almost got it done,” Fappani said. They marked a 225.5 for the Reserve Co-Championship and a total of $125,057, taking the mare’s earnings to $147,491. “She was on it. The mistake was a mis- communication between me and her, and we missed the first stop. When I said, ‘Whoa,’ I knew she wasn’t ready. I should have waited another stride. I think that’s what probably cost her the Futurity because she probably could have went higher. But everything else was on it. She felt great everywhere.”

And, she charmed her way into Fappani’s heart.

Quarter Horse News
January 1, 2012

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