I learned this week that Noble’s sire was recently euthanized. To non-horse people he would be “just a horse”, but horse people know
that there are those special horses that rise above the rest. For Katje’s person, he was one of those horses. I never met Katje, as he lives a continent away, but I have heard many endearing accounts of him. I am also madly in love with one of his last sons. So, I wanted to pay this little tribute to Katje as my way of saying “Thank you” to him and to the woman who loved him enough to let him go.
The Experiment – How Katje Came To Be
Katje, registered name Kaareltje (“little king” in Dutch), was the product of a breeding experiment in the early 1990’s. Breeders in the Netherlands imported
two American Saddlebred stallions to broaden the gene pool for their Dutch Carriage horses (known there as Tuigpaard). The goal was to improve the action of their gaits and to refine the horses. The experiment was eventually deemed a failure, as the resulting offspring were not fancy enough in their movement. But the experiment resulted in a number of nice horses who were successful in Grand Prix Dressage and even Grand Prix Jumping. Among those offspring was Kaareltje, son of Holland’s Golden Boy.
Katje’s Early Life
What I know of Katje’s life has been gleaned by conversations with his last owner, and from surfing the internet when I first answered the ad for Noble. The history is spotty, but this is what I know of his working life:
- Katje was born in Holland in 1992, and imported to the U.S. in 1995.
- According to his importer, Katje was part of a free-jumping exhibition in Holland before he was imported.
- As a young horse, Kaareltje won his materiale (under saddle) class of 52 at the prestigious Dressage at Devon.
- He went on to be trained and shown through Grand Prix Dressage (under the name Kalamino).
That seems to be where the trail ends, until my friend found him nearly eight years ago, living in confinement as most stallions sadly are. But she gave him a number of very happy years – in the sun, on green grass, with companions to share his days.
Katje’s Later Years
Katje’s last eight years of life were spent with love and good care. He served as schoolmaster for his new owner – in both Dressage and stallion keeping. He was reportedly a kind soul who endeared everyone who met him. Due to health concerns, he was gelded very late in life – but his owner was wise enough to collect and save semen for later use. As his health caused riding to be difficult, he was given an honorable retirement on pasture, with a miniature mare as his companion.
Katje has several foals out in the world – some even trained to Grand Prix Dressage. In 2012, Katje’s owner decided to make a major
investment in an attempt to extend the legacy of her beloved old man. She carefully selected four mares of high quality and had them bred with the precious saved semen. Katje’s fertility was not high, due to previous poor care and his health issues, so his owner was gambling that she would get a couple of foals from this effort – with the hope that one would turn out to be a filly to carry on his legacy. To her own astonishment, all four breedings produced foals – two chestnut colts, and two palomino fillies! Jackpot!
The two colts, one my own precious Noble, were found very good homes. The two gorgeous fillies
were not for sale, in spite of several offers. Katje was not your typical Dressage-type stallion – after all, he was intended to be a driving horse – but his heart and willingness to try helped him rise above. Thanks to carefully selected breeding, his offspring are athletically improvements over him – if they have half his heart, these babies will go somewhere! I look forward to what Noble and his half-siblings will do to extend Katje’s legacy!
Katje,was twenty two when he died. For those who do not know, that is relatively young for a horse to leave us. But Katje’s health
issues caught up with him. The decision to let go of Katje was not an easy one, I know from experience – but his health was failing and the outcome was inevitable. So, my friend made the humane choice to let him go before his situation became desperate.
Katje was loved by someone – and, through Noble, Katje became linked to my life and his person became my friend. I don’t know if I believe in an afterlife, but I do know this – if there is such a place, then good souls like Katje will be there waiting for us.
Be good to your horses!