50-Year Breeders: James Fanello

50-Year Breeders: James Fanello

The Ohio natives bred their first foal in 1968, and have owned and enjoyed horses for more than 50 years.

mare and foal at crofoot ranch

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After they married in 1957, Jim and Kathleen Fanello settled down to start their lives together. That life, Kathleen insisted, would include horses. She’d grown up having riding horses, although she’d had to get out of them when she got her first car. But now an adult, she wanted them again.

“I said, we have to have horses that are pretty and have a lot of muscle,” Jim says. “So we went to the Quarter Horse. That’s how we got started.”

The Ohio natives bred their first foal in 1968, and have owned and enjoyed horses for more than 50 years. They maintained a small horse operation for their entire career, never having a broodmare band of more than five mares at its peak. In that time, they have registered 131 foals, more than half of which were shown. They always bred to outside stallions, carefully selecting top-quality sires to best match their mares.

That very first foal, Bee Nifty Bailey, was a son of Nifty Bee produced out of the mare Bailey Jones, a 1963 daughter of John P Jones, himself a grandson of Bert.

The Fanellos focused their breeding program first on halter horses, then performance horses and currently are focused on reining horses.

While the family rode at home, they employed professionals to show their horses. They would typically keep one or two foals from every foal crop, and sell the remainder as yearlings.

“We enjoyed them regardless of what they looked like,” Jim says. “We’d continue to breed horses we enjoyed looking at, and that had real good show records. We eventually worked our quality up as we bred our horses.”

Their breeding program has to date produced the earners of more than 1,500 AQHA points in all divisions and more than $112,000 in National Reining Horse Association competition.

Among the horses they bred are two AQHA reserve world champions. Mist T Solo is a 1977 gelding by Swift Solo and out of the Hired Hank mare Misty Tolan. He earned two reserve champion titles in western riding at the Youth World Show with Shannon Barth in 1990 and 1991. Their second reserve world champion is the Paddys Irish Whiskey gelding SV Whiskey Whiz who is out of the Topsail Whiz mare Sure Enough Whiz. In 2017, the horse won a silver trophy in youth breakaway roping with Josh Briggs.

The Fanellos bred AQHA Champion Red Rose Redford, a son of Robert Redford out of the Rube Williams mare Rosie Rube. The sorrel stallion, foaled in 1980, earned 21 halter points and 19 performance points.

One of their favorites mares is Can Can Lena, a Paddys Irish Whiskey daughter they bought as a 4-year-old. The mare gained fame as a freestyle reining partner with horsewoman Stacy Westfall, and produced foals that earned more than $50,000 in NRHA competition. Another favorite was the 1996 Gallo Del Cielo mare Roosters Lil Anna, a cutting mare who produced six foals.

One of their newest broodmares is Lil Rene Gun, an earner of more than $40,000 while ridden by the Fanellos’ trainer, Sam Schaffhauser. The mare’s oldest foal is a yearling by legendary American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame stallion Hollywood Dun It.

One of Jim’s favorite halter broodmares was the Eddie Red Rose mare Edred Daisy Gold, the dam of four performers – “she was built like I like a horse to be built,” he says.

Youth have always been an important thing for the Fanellos. Their children, Vincent and Michelle, just had a passing interest in the horses, but Jim and Kathleen supported local 4-H kids, identifying good kids and giving them horses.

“A lot of times, they’ve done real well with them,” Kathleen says proudly. 

The Fanellos live on the same farm at Lucas, Ohio, once owned by Jim’s dad, raising hay and alfalfa for the horses, and stocked with 35 head of beef cattle.

They are still raising a handful of foals per year, eagerly anticipating their arrival to see what color and markings they will get.

“We like animals,” Kathleen says. “Horses fit our style.”

Jim continues, “we enjoyed all the time we’ve been associated with the horses. We’ve enjoyed trying to develop the breeding to satisfy our eye appeal.”