Kathy Castro- Founder
If we are truly lucky, we find that horse that changes us deeply. Santana taught me about trust and compassion. He was in my life for a brief 6 years, but he left me with a lifetime of learning. Don’t turn your back on that dirty, unwanted, hyperactive horse with the scraggly coat. They have so much to teach you. His memory will forever live on with the Santana Center. I am honored to share his messages with those who want to hear them.
Nicole “Nikki” Dorenzo
Nikki is Kathy’s daughter, and began riding at the age of 8 when Kathy took her on her first trail ride. Following the trail ride, Kathy found her a little quarter horse to lease, and so began Nikki’s lifelong passion of horses! She fell in love with Santana the moment she first saw him, dirty and disheveled in someone’s backyard. She moved out to San Diego in 2004, and has worked with hunter/jumpers, lesson programs, and most recently worked as a buyer in the purchasing department of Mary’s Tack and Feed, a high end equine retail store in Del Mar. She recently moved with her family to Northern California and is a stay at home mom while she finishes her degree at UC Davis in Animal Science Management. Nikki is active in the California horse community, as well as contributing much time and effort to the Santana Center.
We are a family of horse lovers. My husband Cullen and I both grew up around horses, and our love of horses was passed on to our daughter, Abbie. We became involved with the Santana Center at its inception, and continue to feel the value of it’s mission. There are many wonderful horses that need homes, and need to be loved. Please consider adopting.
I got my first pony for my sixth birthday and have been involved with horses one way or another ever since. I started out riding western and over the years moved through hunt seat, dressage through first level, and many miles of trail riding.
In spring of 1994 I decided to run a full time stable or die trying and opened my current business, Hill Top Equestrians. I have nine stalls here and have been involved in therapeutic riding instruction, dressage, lessons to beginners on up, starting green horses, and working with remedial cases both equine and human.
The emphasis here in on natural horse handling and working with horse and human as a partnership. We try to focus on empathy and communication as opposed to force and intimidation. I try to present students with a whole spectrum of experience; grooming and hoof care, lots of ground work, safe handling on the ground and mounted, and forming a bond based on mutual trust and respect.
Diane’s first Shetland pony, at age 3, was the beginning of a lifelong bond with horses. From Westerly, RI, her family had several horses during her childhood, participating in numerous equine activities from A to Z. She was a member of a CT 4-H horse club, from age 5-18 – Diane continues sharing her equine knowledge within the RI & CT 4-H clubs that she has been leading for the past 19 years. She is a volunteer within the CT 4-H Horse Advisory, as well as a member of the New England 4-H Horse Committee and the New England 4-H Judges School. She met Santana’s founder, Kathy Castro, after inviting Kathy as a guest speaker, to the RI 4-H Horse Program, a program that Diane helped run for over 13 years. Fox hunting, driving, a therapeutic riding background and instructor/owner of Woodville Equestrian in Hope Valley, RI, Diane enjoys networking and assisting the Santana Center in its mission.
I began riding at age 8 and have had horses most of my life. I have competed in many disciplines, but jumpers and 3 day eventing were my favorites. In high school I worked as an exercise rider at DRC as well as volunteering with a handicapped riding program. I went to Michigan State University and completed a degree in Equine Management where I landed a great opportunity at a successful breeding farm and was able to continue my love of eventing with some top riders and trainers. After that, I managed a farm where I trained and gave lessons for a couple of years. Currently I’m a stay at home mom who has begun the journey back to horses with my own kids.