Manuel Fernandez Saro – or Fanfa as he is known to those in the jumping world – was born on January 27, 1975. Fanfa started to ride when he was 7 years old and took up jumping at the age of 10. During his early years in the sport, Fanfa’s father Manuel was an influential figure – driving his son from show to show.
Fanfa’s international career began early on; as a junior rider he jumped his first Grand Prix classes with a horse called Nogay. When he was 17, Fanfa made a big leap – left home and took a year to work for Olympic Champion Piet Raijmakers at Zangersheide in Lanaken, Belgium.
Fanfa’s international career began early on; as a junior rider he jumped his first Grand Prix classes
Returning home to Spain a year later, Fanfa and his friend Juan put their money together and bought a mare called Relax – and she would help put Fanfa on the map. With Relax, Fanfa finished second in the Grand Prix of San Sebastian – and from there on things started to roll. Fanfa was offered to ride horses for other stables and owners, and one of them was no other than the German icon Paul Schockemöhle who gave him the ride on a horse called Lantendo. At the time, Latendo was seven – and very delicate and special. With a lot of hard work and patience, Fanfa slowly built up Latendo’s confidence.
At the age of 8, it all started to pay off and Latendo jumped double clear in the Grand Prix of Madrid to finish fourth. From there on, Latendo went from strength to strength – jumping at big venues such as Barcelona, Jerez, La Baule, Madrid and Rome – looking set to become a real championship horse. Very sadly, Latendo’s life was cut short by cancer – he passed away when he was nine, just when his career had started to flourish. It was a big loss for Fanfa, who was aiming this special horse for the 2002 World Equestrian Games on home soil in Jerez.
At the age of 25, Fanfa went from collaborating with Paul Schockemöhle to start working at the German legend’s stables in Mühlen, Germany – where he stayed for 6.5 years. During Fanfa’s time in Mühlen, he met Deborah Jackson – who later would become his partner and wife.
Fanfa’s time in Mühlen further helped him build a name for himself on the international circuit, and also gave him the chance to compete several great horses – such as Canabis Z AKZ, Chacco-Blue, Commodoro, Francesco de Jojo, Gio Granno, Grandino, Quigolo and Quick Silver.
At the age of 25, Fanfa went from collaborating with Paul Schockemöhle to start working at the German legend’s stables in Mühlen, Germany
In 2005, Fanfa competed at his first international championship for Spain – at the Europeans in San Patrignano, Italy. There, Fanfa produced one of only five double clear rounds in the individual final – riding Paul Schockemöhle’s Cattani, a horse produced by Fanfa all the way up to championship level. Shortly after, Cattani was sold to Norway’s Geir Gulliksen – and went on to jump at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and at the 2009 European Championships at Windsor.
In 2005, Fanfa competed at his first international championship for Spain – at the Europeans in San Patrignano, Italy – with Cattani
The following year, Fanfa competed at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen with Quin Chin – that at the time was only 8 years old. Quin Chin had started his career under Fanfa when he was a 5-year-old, and also jumped at two FEI Jumping World Breeding Championships for Young Horses – winning gold when he was six, as well as bronze when he was five. After the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Quin Chin went on to continue his international career with Taiwan’s Jasmine Chen and Mexico’s Juan Carlos Franco Hernandez – jumping at three consecutive World Championships with three different riders: Aachen in 2006, Kentucky in 2010 and Caen in 2014.
In 2006, Fanfa competed at his first World Equestrian Games – in Aachen, Germany – with Quin Chin
After a period of time back in his home country Spain, Fanfa was approached by the famous horse trader Jan Tops and took up a position at his stable in Valkenswaard, Netherlands – where he spent one year. Following his time at Stal Tops, Fanfa decided to venture out on his own – setting up his own business – MFS Horses – in Sevenum, Netherlands, together with his wife Deborah.
A few years later, at the European Championships in Herning in 2013, Fanfa was back flying the Spanish flag – competing with Bonaire 5. In 2015, Fanfa was part of the Spanish team at the European Championships in Aachen with Enriques of the Lowlands.
At the European Championships in Herning, Denmark in 2013, Fanfa was back flying the Spanish flag – competing with Bonaire 5
In the summer of 2015, Fanfa got the ride on the 11-year-old gelding U Watch. Together, the two showed a meteoric progression. After starting out in the 1.40m classes in the late summer of 2015, the two found themselves as a part of the Spanish team for the Olympic Games in Rio a year later. U Watch was also Fanfa’s partner at the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona in 2016 and at the European Championships in Gothenburg in 2017. After the Europeans in Gothenburg, U Watch went back to his owner’s nephew in Spain that has continued to compete him internationally.
At the World Equestrian Games in Tryon in 2018, Fanfa had produced yet a new horse for championship level – Cuidam.
In 2016, Fanfa competed at his first Olympic Games – in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – with U Watch
During his career, Fanfa has jumped to several top five finishes in five-star Grand Prix classes at venues such as Barcelona, Bordeaux, Gijon, La Baule, La Coruna, London, Lummen, Madrid. With the Spanish team, Fanfa has podium finishes in Nation Cups at prestigious venues such as Falsterbo, Gijon, Linz, Lisbon, Lummen, Rome and Rotterdam.
Fanfa has also had success as a coach and trainer, helping Singapore’s jumping team win gold at the South East Asian Games in 2015.
During his career, Fanfa has jumped to several top five finishes in five-star Grand Prix classes and Nations Cups
Next to his own championship mounts, Fanfa has also played a part in several other top horses' careers – such as: