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Curly Horses Ideal For People With Allergies
Owners say there is a lot to love about the American Bashkir Curly Horse breed. The most obvious is the variety of hairstyles they have - from mane and tail ringlets to wavy crushed velvet to full poodle curl.
The hair is important to people who love horses but are allergic to them.
“Curlies are hypoallergenic like a poodle,” says Joan Olson, who raises them at High Desert Equine Center near Reno, Nevada. “We send hair to people and some people come to the ranch to test it out.”
While eliminating allergies is crucial, new Curly horse owners quickly discover a bonus.
“Curlies are truly different. They are so easy to get along with and they are easier to train,” notes Sue Davis, manager for the center’s arena and events. Olson “blames” Davis for becoming so passionate about the breed. Both belong to the American Bashkir Curly Horse Registry, of which Olson is president.
The breed history goes back to three “curly” horses found in a wild mustang herd first reported in Nevada by the Damele family in 1898. After an extremely harsh winter in 1932, most domestic and wild horses froze or starved to death. But Curlies were among the few survivors, and the Dameles started breeding them. After another storm in 1952, four Curly mares and a colt named Copper D survived. He became the first stallion used for breeding with Arabians, Appaloosa, Quarter Horse, and other breeds.
Two genes in the chromosomes cause the hair, and are the basis for the breed, Olson says. The name Bashkir comes from curly horses found in Russia that were thought to come from that region, but they actually came from the Loki region. There are no DNA connections to the U.S. horses, but there are similar traits between the Curly U.S. horses and South America horses.
“Crow and Sioux Indians considered them special, and they were ridden by medicine men according to cave drawings,” Olson says.
Curly horses come in all colors and patterns and are usually 14-to 15-hands tall, but they come in all sizes. They are stocky, heavy-boned with thick necks and legs. The double-sided mane falls on both sides of the neck.
“You don’t want to brush the hair; it gets fuzzy,” Olson says. Instead, it’s often braided to avoid tangling after being washed and conditioned. Curlies shed in the summertime, but Olson and Davis also clip the hair in the winter because the horses sweat when working and the hair remains wet for a long time.
The unique hair attracts interest, and currently the Curly registry has more than 4,200 horses in five categories.
“We have breeders from all over the U.S. and in Canada and Europe,” Olson says. Some owners compete with Curlies in dressage, jumping and other open competitions. They are priced similar to other breeds, starting at $2,000-$3,500 for colts.
Olson invites people to come to the center to test for allergies or to just check out the Curly breed. Her favorite visitor story is about a couple from New York City. The man wanted to propose while they were on horseback, but she was allergic to horses. They traveled to Nevada, took a trail ride, and he proposed to her on a Curly horse.
For more information about the horse breed, check out the ABC registry website.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, High Desert Equine Center, Reno, Nevada (ph 775 475-0100; www.hdequine.com; ilovecurlies@hotmail.com). American Bashkir Curly Horse Registry, (ph 859 356-0749; www.abcregistry.org).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #4