In the fall of 2022, Arno Honstetter rode the talented mare Ms Dreamy, owned by Frederick Christen, to finish fifth place at The Run For A Million presented by Teton Ridge. The $60,000 prize – the second largest in the German native’s career, was enough to push him to the precipice of a major milestone – a million dollars in earnings.
Just two months later, during the Cactus Classic, the talented professional passed that marker and joined an elite group of million-dollar earners in the National Reining Horse Association.
“Reaching a million dollars in earnings hasn’t always been the goal. When I came over here in the beginning, I never thought I could be a million-dollar rider,” Honstetter admitted. “But when I started getting closer, maybe to a half-million in earnings, I thought maybe I could do it.”
He added, “So this accomplishment means a lot. It’s what I do all day long. I love to ride, train, and raise horses. I gave up everything in my home country to come over here to try to be a horse trainer, so it’s pretty special.”
Honstetter grew up in Liggeringen, Germany, in the southern part of the country in the Bodensee on the Lake of Konstanz. His family didn’t have horses, but he’d always wanted to ride one. His parents purchased his first horse when he was eight years old, and while he tried his legs in an English saddle at first, he soon set his sights on western disciplines.
He was introduced to cutting, and when he was 16 years old, his father began asking where he could send his son to learn more about training horses. That’s when he met National Reined Cow Horse Association Hall of Famer Ken Wold and spent several years working with Wold in the United States, honing his skills in multiple disciplines, including cutting, cow horse, and reining.
“I learned everything about training, showing, and breeding horses there. We did everything on that ranch,” Honstetter recalled. “Kenny, his wife Ramona, and his mom were like family. It was probably the best time of my life.”
After spending four years with the Wolds, Honstetter moved back to Germany. “I started showing, and Andrea Fappani saw me show. I can’t remember what year it was – maybe 2004. We had a big show over there, and all these guys from the United States came over. Andrea asked me if I wanted to come work for him, and long story short, I ended up being there for several years.”
Honstetter spent eight years total with Fappani, the NRHA’s All-Time Leading Rider, but he also took a year to ride with NRHA Million Dollar Rider Randy Paul, as well.
Eventually, he went out on his own for several years before accepting the position of head trainer for Brenda Joyce and Rick Christen’s Story Book Stables, located in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2020.
“I thank Brenda and Rick for the opportunity they have given me, as well as all the owners over the years who have trusted me to ride such nice horses,” he said. “I thank Andrea Fappani, Randy Paul, and Ken Wold for what they’ve done for me, as well.”
Arno and his wife, Laura, welcomed daughter Tatum nine months ago. He added that he hopes to help Story Book Stables become even more successful in the future.
“My biggest goal is to train and raise nice horses and do a good job running the ranch. I want us to produce really nice horses here at the ranch more than just buying and training them,” he said.