angle-left Great Rides: Tapeppyoka Peppy

Great Rides: Tapeppyoka Peppy

Phil Rapp's father chose a horse that his son would turn into a dynasty.

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By Honi Roberts

A version of this story originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal. To subscribe, go to www.aqha.com/qhj.

Phil Rapp is a family man. The National Cutting Horse Association’s $9 million man is married to cutting’s all-time leading non-pro rider, Mary Ann Rapp, and they have two young riders in the family, Ryan and Emma. 
 
In 2018, Phil and Mary Ann retired their homebred Dont Stopp Believin, who has already joined the National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame. The fifth-generation horse is another star of the family of horses that has carried Phil to the winners circle since his teen years. 
 
Dont Stopp Believin ($457,714) is out of NCHA Hall of Famer Dont Look Twice ($824,545), who is out of Tapt Twice ($279,457), who is out of the great NCHA Hall of Fame mare Tap O Lena ($450,639), the first offspring of Tapeppyoka Peppy, a horse Phil’s dad purchased for him in the early 1980s.

“I had a lot of firsts with Tapeppyoka Peppy,” Phil says. “With her, I marked my first 75, then my first 76, rode in my first open cutting finals and won my first AQHYA world championship.”

It’s hard to believe now, but when Phil’s dad bought the mare, a teenage Phil was not very happy about it!

Tapeppyoka Peppy (Doc’s Oak-Senorita Peppy by Mr San Peppy) had been consigned to an August 1984 horse sale at the Rapp Ranch, and Phil’s dad, the late Jerry Rapp, bought her.
 
“Dad was really proud of her,” Phil remembers. “I’d hoped to get something older – this was my first youth or non-pro horse – but Dad figured that we could learn together. I was not impressed.
 
“ ‘Tap’ was just 4 years old at the time and trained by Lindy Burch, who’d made the finals at some futurities on the Pacific Coast with her. So in early September, I went to Lindy’s place to try the mare out, and we got along great. Then I took her down to Norco and won the non-pro.” 

Gradually, the teen started to see the chestnut mare from his father’s point of view.
 
In January 1985, Phil, then 15, went to the Arizona Sun Circuit, showed Tapeppyoka Peppy 12 times and brought home a check. That summer, he had the opportunity of his young lifetime, and spent six weeks at Tom Lyons Quarter Horses in Grandview, Texas.

“It was like an extended summer camp,” Phil says with a chuckle. “Of course, he owned Doc’s Oak. I turned back for Tom and loped horses for Tom, and every Sunday, he’d give us some money and a couple of us would go to Six Flags. Tom was a great guy and ran a real professional outfit. He was the best guy in the business to work for.”
 
They went to the NCHA Classic Challenge and Phil was fourth after his first go-round but so nervous that he locked up during the second.
 
“Later, I marked a 209 in the non-pro and thought I might win a buckle,” he says. “So, I said to Tom, ‘What’ll it take to earn a buckle?’ And I’ll never forget his reply: ‘You showed so bad, you don’t deserve a buckle!’ ”
 
Phil had been to the Youth World before but had never made the finals. Perhaps the 15-year-old wondered whether 1985 would be different as he drove to the show with his parents and Tapeppyoka Peppy.

“We made the finals and it felt pretty great,” he says. “Then we drew fourth in the finals. And won.” 
 
But that wasn’t the only memorable moment the show held in store.

“Tap was normally a quiet mare,” Phil says. “So when AQHA asked if I would carry the flag for them, I was honored. But ‘Ol’ Tap’ went absolutely crazy! Only then, I remembered that she was quiet until something startled her. She loved to go to shows and if a trailer door was open, she’d jump in. But she didn’t like to be startled, and all of her daughters were the same.”

Phil Rapp and Tapeppyoka Peppy.
PHOTO: AQHA Journal

The Next Phase

Phil continued to show Tapeppyoka Peppy in NCHA events. In 1986, they were NCHA Area 2 non-pro champions and the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association year-end non-pro champions. They were NCHA year-end non-pro top-10 in 1986 and 1987. In 1989, after winning the Arizona Sun Circuit amateur aged championship, “Tapeppyoka” was retired from the show pen, with $123,555 in lifetime earnings.
 
“She was still competitive and not burned out at all,” Phil says. “But we took her to breed to Doc O’Lena and got real lucky.”
 
The following year, Tap O Lena was foaled, and by 1993, the beautiful bay mare was showing the winning ways that would eventually earn her more than $450,000 at NCHA events and a ticket into the NCHA Hall of Fame. 

Tapeppyoka Peppy produced seven more foals, three with NCHA earnings. 

Was there one particular great ride that Phil recalls with the mare?
 
“Actually, Ol’ Tap was a vital part of many rides that were important to me,” he answers. “Winning the finals and the AQHA youth championship. Marking my first 75. Taking me to my first NCHA open finals. We shared a lot of firsts. She got me going and kicked things off for me in the cutting pen. She was the first good horse I had.

“Ol’ Tap was gritty and cow-smart and tough. She had big stops and was dependable – she was always there when I needed her. The tougher the cow, the better Ol’ Tap was. I hauled her all over, and she was always sound.” 

Then he adds with a soft laugh, “turned out my dad was a great judge of horseflesh, and I was very, very lucky. “

Tapeppyoka Peppy lived out the rest of her days with the Rapp family and died in 1996.

Dont Stopp Believin’s first foals will be 3 in 2020. Tapeppyoka Peppy’s family continues to impact the cutting horse industry decades and generations later. 

A version of this story originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal. To subscribe, go to www.aqha.com/qhj.