As a child, Javier González Fraga never imagined he would become a professional horse rider. He grew up in Pontevedra, in the North of Spain and he came across horses purely by chance when he was seven years old. He was with his dad at a park when he saw some people riding and he told his father he wanted to try riding. Since then, he has never looked back.
In Spain everyone knows him as Fino, and he’s a common face at shows such as the Sunshine Tour and the CSI Casas Novas, as well as in national shows in Galicia, where he lives and trains.
His family didn’t have much money for the horse industry, but at 15 years of age Fino bought his first horse. He moved to Lugo, Spain to chase his dream of studying to become a veterinarian, and he was permitted to bring his horse with him to so long as he kept getting good marks. While he was studying he took part at some smaller competitions with his horse.
He describes himself as a self taught rider; he never spent too much time riding with the same person and built his riding style himself, while picking up on some concepts from Luis Jesús Escobar and the Spanish Olympic rider Sergio Álvarez Moya, whom he met through his veterinary studies.
At the time, Álvarez Moya was the rider for the great stallion Action-Breaker. It was Fino’s task to do the semen collection from Action-Breaker when the horse was at Casas Novas, in A Coruña. On those trips, he would always stay with Sergio to offer some riding help and learn from watching him train.
“I used to go to the collecting for frozen semen from Action Breaker when the horse was at Casas Novas in A Coruña, and I always stayed for a little while, helping Sergio to train and that helped me learn some concepts,” Fino explained. “Even though it wasn’t direct lessons with him, it helped me a lot to see him ride and to talk with him.”
After finishing his veterinary degree, the 37-year-old rider also earned a masters degree in Business Administration, and set his goals on a very special project. After spending some time in Argentina doing embryo transfers, he returned to Spain to build his own equestrian centre.
His dream was to create a “fabric of horses”, with his specialization in breeding and genetics, and now a masters degree in business, he created Marco das Pias, in A Coruña.
“I wanted to specialise in breeding, semen, genetics, foals… all that and it was something that I could combine with riding,” Fino said about his ambitious pursuits.
He sold an apartment that his parents had given him to buy the empty land where he would build his stables. Fino built it himself, juggling construction with time in the saddle, and often sacrificing the latter. There were times moments when he doubted himself, but he never gave up, even when he was forced to pass on other professional opportunities to keep on going with his dreams.
On the way he got help from some friends in Menorca, who gave him some sale horses. As sales slowly picked up, his stables also grew little by little. First, he built an arena, a couple of years later he built an indoor, and today he has Marco das Pias finished. Along with a small riding school for those just starting out through to advanced riders who compete, Marco das Pias is where he continues to develop his profession.
“I have clients from all over Spain who sends me their mares for insemination or their stallions to froze their semen,” Fino says. ” I also breed my mares, who produce around 15 foals every year.”
Fresh off competing in the winter’s Sunshine Tour in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain, Fino has been jumping the young horse classes with the horses he considers his sons, as he has known them since birth, and also the CSI4* classes.
“It’s very rewarding for me because I can do everything: I choose which mare and which stallion I want, I do the insemination myself, I take care of them, I’m the first one to sit on them, I train them for competition and then I sell them,” he says. “So it’s just one person who takes the horse from his origin to the sale. I studied for that and it’s my passion.”
These days at Fino’s stables there’s a star who may shine brighter than the others, the 11-year-old CDE gelding Lebron du Molin (Capiolo du Moulin X Veganum). This horse wasn’t bred by Fino, but is no less special than the others for the Spanish rider.
Lebron du Molin did a couple of shows with Spain’s Victor Pantín, but his owner had him in a field and mostly just hacked out with him, without a real focus on show jumping.
Things changed when the owner talked with Fino, and asked him to ride the horse. They started to show in the 1.20m classes, and the horse quickly moved up from the small classes to jump the Spanish Championship, where they were in first place until the last day.
“No one thought it would happen, not even me,” Fino said of the outstanding progression with Lebron du Molin. “I started to work more with him and now the horse is in his best moment physically, I know him more and we understand each other. I think that can lead to very interesting things if we keep taking it day by day.”
Fino describes the horse as a “free soul”, as he’s not submissive to the rider. He is very temperamental with a lot of personality, he always looks a bit grumpy in the stable and he always wants to be the first one to get his food. On the other hand, if you keep him happy and comfortable he’s a horse that will give you everything he’s got.
Lebron is part trotter and has a very special canter, and when he’s stressed or uncomfortable he tends to trot instead of canter. Fino has learned that the more comfortable he is the better he will jump because then his canter improves.
The chestnut took Fino to an upper level in his riding career and he’s very thankful for that, they are currently competing up to 1.55m at the CSI4* level and more recently they finished as the best Spanish combination of a very competitive CSI4* Grand Prix at the Sunshine Tour.
“I think he’s a horse who has all the strength in the world, for me, even if it sounds crazy, he gives me the feeling that he can jump anything, even one of the biggest championships. He’s also very clean and careful, he’s been jumping seriously for around two years and his improvement has been incredible to get to this height.”
At every level, Fino’s dedication to his goal has produced real results and a foundation that he can count on. It’s rare to find a rider at his level with such dedication to first obtaining, and then using his education to make a life for himself. With a firm eye on the future, Fino will certainly continue to be one to watch.