Surrounded by palm trees in an enchanting yet familiar place, Kat Dozzo met the horse of her dreams. At 17-hands tall, dapple gray, Hortelano was part of an elite breed of horses known as the Andalusian, or the Pure Spanish Horse.
His long, flowing mane and tail set him apart from other horses, and his versatility and skill make his breed ideal for jumping, pleasure and trail riding, and dressage, and equestrian sport known as the highest expression of horse training.
The Andalusian breed has been living in the Iberian Peninsula for thousands of years and was fairly popular among European royalty and with armies due to its agility and speed. It has been recognized as a distinct breed since the 15th century.
"He is majestic, like a Trojan horse," Kat says. "You would never know he is a stud; he has a kind disposition and is never upset."
Kat had taken a 10-day trip to Spain in Feb 2020 with the goal of taking lessons, and learning more about the Andalusian breed from Pedro Nadales, world-renowned Andalusian breeder. She'd first discovered the breed while training to compete in cutting shows and fell in love with the powerful horse.
"Their disposition, number one," she says. "You can have a stallion and it's like handling a gelding or an old trained horse. They don't fuss, they don't rear, they don't act like stallions. You get on them and they are total gentlemen. They take care of you. "
In March 2020, Kat's love for Andalusians inspired her to open Lazy Kat Ranch in Celina and Kat Andalusians, a world-class breeding facility that features some of the best bred stallions in the world and, of course, she imports them directly from Spain.
"Just getting on this horse and riding, with that big powerful neck and those gaits that come up, you feel like you're on a Trojan horse from heaven," she says. "I don't care who gets on one, you will have a smile and a brightness of your face that is just of God."
A Sign From God
Kat was five years old when she first discovered her love of horses. She'd been living on a ranch with her family just outside Conrad, Montana. Her Father was a doctor and wanted to teach his daughters a strong work ethic, so he purchased an old pig farm and bought about 1500 horses -- mares, colts, yearlings -- and put Kat and her sisters to work.
When they put young Kat on a horse for the first time, it wasn't calm like the Andalusians that she now raises. It took off at a dead run.
"Most kids would have cried," she recalls. "I just laughed and shouted 'I'm riding a horse! I'm riding a horse!'"
Eight years later, she was showing horses in youth class competitions. She rode in the Western Pleasure category, but as she progressed, she showed in several categories, often competing in 10 events on one horse during a single show. She won multiple awards both locally and internationally and became a prolific horsewoman.
When she was growing up, Kat's parents worked all the time, so she spent most of her time with her four-legged friends.
"I was not popular, never dated, was the ugly duckling, had acne, was clumsy and didn't get good grades, didn't care about school, but I loved my horses," she says. "So my horses were not just my best friends, they were my confidantes. I would cry on their shoulders, love them, and they treated me like a queen."
In 2018, Kat was taking cutting horse lessons at Punk Carter's cutting horse training facility in Celina. She had bought a small gray mare and was hoping to return to competition.
At 48, she'd spent most of her life raising and selling horses in Montana. She'd gotten married and divorced, moved to North Texas and worked as a receptionist at several different companies, including Frito Lay.
She remarried and got divorced again, and then in the late '90s, she met her third husband Mario, an Italian businessman.
He was 65, nearly two decades her senior. a friend had introduced them at a bar; a dance sealed their connection.
"Mario dances like he's stomping grapes, so we really hit it off," she says. "It was love at first sight. He told me I was the only person he had ever loved."
And she loved him. "I love his stories. He's so handsome. He's very hardworking and taught me a lot more about integrity."
But her love of horses would put a strain on the relationship. Kat would leave for training at 8 a.m. and wouldn't return home until 6 p.m.
"Mario was getting a little peeved because I was never home and having way too much fun," she says. "He said he better find land in Celina and build a house and barn or he'd never see his wife again."
They bought a small spread in Celina. A friend she had met at Punk Carter's, Karla Vargas, was thinking about purchasing a 46-acre Arabian horse ranch. Mario bought 15 of those acres for Kat, in part so she could be close to her friend Karla, who would later travel with her to Spain to meet Pedro Nadales, a world-renowned Andalusian horse breeder.
"We went to his place, there were all these palm trees, a beautiful arena, and stalls full of Andalusians," she recalls.
The Horse King
Standing in a stable, Andalusians all around her, Kat found herself faced with a difficult decision. She had fallen in love with Hortelano, the 17-hand stallion who had captured her attention and returned her to those feelings she first felt as a child riding her first horse. But this price was more money than she cared to spend.
Since she'd been in Spain, Pedro had wined and dined Kat and her friend Karla. He'd invited them into his beautiful Spanish home with tiled floors and high ceilings, and his stable where the world-renowned breed lingered in their stalls.
They'd spent the day riding horses, training with Pedro's daughter Gema Nadales, and learned better dressage methods, Piaffi, side passing, and cutting diagonals.
In the late afternoons, they'd head back to Pedro's home for wine and cheese. They'd sit and watch the setting sun and talk horses.
Gema taught Kat about the history of the Andalusian breed. She learned that they are known for their endurance and high step, and can travel 35 miles in a day. They're also surefooted and have high energy levels, as well as a calm disposition. They are sensitive and should be ridden twice a day.
By the end of their trip, after some savvy negotiation, Kat purchased Hortelano and another Andalusian, Brillante, from a different breeder.
"He was the last of his line," Kat says. "We rode him and fell in love with him."
The Horse Queen
Three years later, Kat is standing in her barn at Lazy Kat Ranch in Celina, feeding a carrot to ReBeueno. Country music plays softly in the background as Kat nuzzles with him. His stall neighbor, Moonshine, isn't interested in the carrot; only Kat's love. She nuzzles with him, and moves on to the next horse, a pure black Carthusian named Gitano. Kat says he's only one of three pure black Carthusians in the world.
Since her trip to Spain, Kat has continued taking cutting and dressage lessons. In November, she competed in the World AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) Show in Oklahoma. It was he fourth time to show in the cutting horse competition. She placed seventh in her division but plans to take top prize this year.
On her ranch in Celina, she raises 14 Andalusians. She took them to show in a dressage competition last year in Katy, Texas, and they trotted away with multiple ribbons.
"All of the judges adored them," she says. "They asked where these horses were coming from. Kat Andalusians got on the map that day."
She is turning Kat Andalusians into a world-class breeding facility. They are keeping the integrity and science of the Andalusian strong by ensuring improvement of the breed for generations to come, they point out on their website.
They do so by offering a PRE Andalusian Stallion Semen Straw service. To get semen for the straws, they bring the stud to a semen station that has both a dummy mare and a mare who is in heat. The stud mounts the dummy mare and ejaculates into a sleeve, which Kat compares to a horse condom. Then they either refrigerate or freeze the semen.
They collect sperm twice a week because the more a horse ejaculates, the higher the sperm count. "We don't breed to just anyone," Kat says. "We only breed to quality mares."
Like other businesses, her horse semen business took a financial hit last year when COVID hit. They had to lower the price of the straws from $5,000 in Hortelano's case to $3,500.
"If we sold 90 semen straws, that would be a great year," Kat says.
She's expecting three foals this year, two of which are from Hortelano, and currently has seven horses for sale.
Prior to COVID hitting, Kat planned to offer corporate events at the ranch and still hopes to do so when it is safe. She's set up a few clinics for the spring and dreams of offering line dancing in the barn, concerts in the covered area and swimming in her 3,000 square foot indoor pool.
A typical day for Kat starts at 7 a.m. She gets up and helps Mario (who suffered a stroke several years ago) get ready for the day. Then she puts on her boots and heads to the barn to ride her horses for hours. If you listen closely, you might hear her laughing and shouting, "I'm riding a horse! I'm riding a horse!"
Karen Chaney contributed to this story.
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