In the spirit of honoring excellence and commitment within our vibrant community, the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) proudly presents the distinguished 2023 Professionals of the Year awards. Since its inception in 2012, these accolades have served as a beacon, spotlighting individuals who epitomize excellence as leaders of reining.
The essence of this honor lies not only in remarkable achievements within the show arena but also in the profound impact these individuals make through their unwavering support and contribution to our association and its members. The recipients of the 2023 awards embody integrity and sincerity, serving as paragons within our industry, tirelessly striving to advance and uphold the cherished ideals of reining.
Nominees for these prestigious awards, including NRHA Professional Horseman of the Year, NRHA Non Pro Coach of the Year, NRHA Youth Coach of the Year, NRHA Becky Hanson Horsewoman of the Year, and NRHA Up-and-Coming Professional of the Year, are sourced from NRHA affiliates and the discerning eye of the NRHA Professionals Committee. Subsequently, NRHA Professionals cast their votes for those who will join the illustrious ranks of our esteemed honorees.
Horseman of the Year: Brian Bell
Valley View, Texas
NRHA LTE: $2,659,353
Brian Bell started his reining career at 18 years old, winning the NRHA Youth 14–18 World Title. After immersing himself in reining, he became an NRHA Million Dollar Rider in 2013. In 2023, he accomplished his goal of winning the NRHA Level 4 Open Futurity on Crystalized Whizkey.
Not only has Bell competed and earned titles at all major NRHA events, but he is also known for his efforts to support the reining community outside of the show pen.
Supporters of his nomination said Bell has always been a strong supporter of grassroots and weekend shows in his region; he also hosts an annual affiliate show in Hamilton, Texas, because he saw a need for it in his region. He is very passionate about helping non pros and increasing inclusivity in reining. He also contributes to reining’s international growth through clinics.
Along with these efforts, he participates in every aspect of the business, including attending judges’ seminars.
Becky Hanson Horsewoman of the Year: Josiane Gauthier
Lucama, North Carolina
NRHA LTE: $688,039
Josiane Gauthier and her husband, Russell, had the opportunity to purchase Sunny Pines Farm in 2016 and have been running JG Performance Horses on their ranch since. Along with competing at aged events and making the finals of every NRHA major event, Josiane runs a breeding program and is known for her strong green reiner and non pro programs.
“Josiane is not just a coach. Josiane is ‘THE COACH!’ She doesn’t just preach to you, she leads the way, she guides, she is the way maker,” said the Southeast Reining Horse Association recommendation letter. “She empathizes with you. She shares in your success and your trials. She truly cares! You can always tell a JG horse from a mile away. They just carry themself differently. They have swag. They are healthy. They are confident. They know that they are loved and very well taken care of. Her clients are also this way. We just present different; a good difference. We have the best supportive community. This stems from a great leader and team.”
Non Pro Coach of the Year: Martin Muehlstaetter
NRHA LTE: $1,379,569
Martin Muehlstaetter was born in Villach, Austria. Before heading to the states, Muehlstaetter began riding horses there at a young age. He now resides in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he and his wife, Kim, own and operate Muehlstaetter Performance Horses.
“Not only is Martin one of the very top professional reining horse trainers in the country, but he is also an excellent non pro coach,” read Muehlstaetter’s recommendation. “He has the top non pros in the country come to ride with him because he prepares their horses properly and then gives each non pro high-quality time to be able to prepare them so they can be competitive at the top level as well.”
Up-And-Coming Trainer of the Year: Luca Fappani
NRHA LTE: $788,051
Luca Fappani became an NRHyA member in 2015 and competed in the highest ranks as a non pro before becoming an NRHA Professional in 2023. In his first year competing as a pro, Fappani took home the NRHA Level 2 Open Futurity Championship, amassed over $375,000 and was 7th in the list of NRHA Top 20 Professionals.
“Luca always has a good attitude at work and gets along well with his peers. He is a sponge,” said NRHA $4 Million Rider Casey Deary. “He is always asking questions and trying to improve. Many of the questions are about trying to breed a better reining horse to ensure a strong future. Luca takes instruction well and is happy to give instruction to assist his peers. He has a lot of natural feel on a horse that allows him to adapt as needed. He handles the stress of major event finals like someone who has been there many times before. The entire world knows that Andrea and Tish Fappani are incredible horse people, but if a child is a reflection of the people that raised it, they are pretty amazing parents as well.”
Youth Coach of the Year: Matthew Flarida
NRHA LTE $340,152
Matthew Flarida grew up in Western Ohio, where he learned his father, Mike Flarida, a two-time NRHA Open Futurity Champion and an NRHA Hall of Famer. Not only has he made the finals at all major NRHA events, but he is known for helping youth in the show pen and helping them become better horsemen altogether.
“Matt started coaching two sisters, Victoria and Tessa Watchous, when they qualified for The Run For A Million (TRFAM) Rookie class in 2022, and they have come so far since they joined his program,” read Flarida’s recommendation. “Matt has helped them to better prepare their horses to show and achieve a lot of personal milestones. He has gone above and beyond to put the time and effort into the girls getting time in the saddle and improving. They travel several hours each way from either their home in Kansas or from school at OSU [Oklahoma State University] to take multiple lessons each week. They qualified for and competed at TRFAM again, as well as the NAACs [North American Affiliate Championships] in 2023. He not only coaches their riding and showing but has put equal effort into sharing his knowledge of the importance of good horsemanship and caring for their horses.”