Templeton resident Kathy Castellanos has been in love with horses since she had a rocking horse as a child.
"It's beyond love I think," she said. "They're part of me. I was born that way."
When she was 12 years old, a mentor in her 4-H club in Clairemont inspired her to start competing in trail riding competitions, and she's been doing it ever since, riding in multiple local, regional and national competitions and winning numerous awards. She won at several national competitions with her previous horse, Maverick, including the Grand Champion National Horse of the Year award in 2002.
"I'd won everything you could possibly win with a horse, so I needed a new challenge," she said.
Castellanos found her new challenge at a show in Reno, Nev., 12 years ago — an Arabian horse named RSA Exploitation +//, or X-Man for short. Although she may not have realized it at the time, X-Man would go on to earn accolades even more prestigious than Maverick.
This past year, after qualified at a local show in Watsonville and a regional show in Reno, Castellanos took X-Man to the U.S. National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show in Tulsa, Okla., where he was named the National Champion in Open English Trail and Amateur English Trail and the Reserve National Champion in Western Amateur Trail and Top 10 in Open Western Trail.
Castellanos rode X-Man in the Western Amateur Trail and Amateur English Trail competitions
and her friend and mentor Michael Damianos rode him in the Open English Trail competition.
"I can't imagine ever doing better than this the rest of my life," Castellanos said. "The judges, because he won both the amateur and the open class in English Trail, they said that he'd set a new standard."
Castellanos had her photo taken with X-Man for Arabian Horse World Magazine and had to put her ribbons and trophies from the competition in a horse blanket-lined wheel barrow in order to move them for the photo.
"The photographer's wife started laughing and said, 'I'm not sure we have ever had someone have to wheel barrow their awards over for their photos,'" Castellanos said.
X-Man end up in sixth place overall and scored the highest of all the purebred Arabian performances horses at the competition.
X-Man is also a member of the Legion of Excellence, as denoted by the +// after his name. The lifetime achievement award is issued by the U.S. Arabian Horse Association after a horse has accumulated at least 300 points in local, regional and national trail competitions.
"He's pretty cool," she said. "He's very intelligent and he tries really hard. He likes to please. The Arabian breed is very smart, very intelligent. They love people. They're the oldest light horse breed — all horses that are saddle horses that you ride came from the Arabian breed. I wouldn't have a horse if I couldn't have an Arabian."