QUESTION: Where did curly horses come from? ANSWER: No one knows for sure. Research is continuing in that area. Several theories exist. Some people think that they came over the land bridge that linked Russia to Alaska centuries ago. The Curly horse in America was given the name of American Bashkir Curly by the founders of the American Bashkir Curly Registry in the belief that the horses were decended from the horses in the Bashkirky region of Russia who were thought to have curly hair. The ancient Chinese depicted curly haired horses in their works of art around 161 A.D. Horses with curly hair have also been found in South America. Curlies have been a part of the history of the Native American peoples for over 100 years.
The ancient legend among the Sioux and Crow tribes state that the curlies first appeared to the people as large, red, curly dogs. Thus they were called large, curly, red dogs as the Indians had not seen horses prior to this and did not have a term for them. Curly horses are also found among the Indian tribes currently living in Alaska.
QUESTION: Are Curly horses rare? ANSWER: Currently there are slightly over 2,000 registered world wide. At the time the American Bashkir Registry was founded in 1971 there were very few curlies left. The registry was begun in Ely, NV by a handful of breeders who had a deep love for these wonderful horses and a desire to preserve and promote the breed. At the time the ABC registry was started the first horses in the registry were those that had originated in the wild herds of horses in the Nevada Mountains. These horses had been incorporated into the ranchers herds following heavy losses of the domesticated ranch stock due to a particularly severe winter in 1932 and other years. Due to the limited number of curlies they were crossed with whatever breeding stock the rancher had available. The Damele family were among the ranchers who were instrumental in saving the Curly horse and many curlies can be traced back to their horses. While a number of ranchers in central Nevada were saving curlies for future generations, mustangers who rounded up horses from the wild herds to sell for slaughter took a heavy toll on the number of curlies living among the wild herds The curlies living among the Native Americans also saw a reduction in numbers. This was due in part to a change in lifestyles as the peoples were forced into reservation life. Their numbers also suffered loss as the Indians fought to maintain the right to live as their ancestors before them. Curlies were with Sitting Bull at the battle of Little Big Horn. Curly horses were with Big Foot's people when they were slaughtered at Wounded Knee by the white army. Only the horses that were turned out to graze away from the compound were spared. There are still a number of curly horses today that are descended from the horses that were with Sitting Bull and Big Foot. Some of these curlies can be found on the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. As a side note. Curly horses were prized among the Indians in the 1800s. They were believed to be sacred and for use by only the chiefs. They were used to run buffalo and were felt to have the power to insure a successful hunt for the chief. Many curlies from Native Amerian blood lines have what is called "medicine Marks". These are small roan or black spots.
QUESTION: How are Curly horses differenct from other breeds. ANSWER: Besides their curly hair, curlies have an exceptionally high concentration of red blood cells in their blood. This may be one of the reasons they are known for their endurance as this enables their blood to carry more oxygen. They have a double mane that splits down the middle, falling in ringlets on both sides of the neck. Many curlies also shed some or most of their mane and tail in the summer. Some curlies are found to have no ergots. Curly horse hair is round in structure rather than flat like regular horse hair. It is more like mohair and is used in weaving just like wool. Many people who re allergic to horses have found that they are not allergic to curlies. Curly horses may have winter hair that is 3 to 5 inches long over their entire bodies. Their hair may be tight curls like wool or marcel waves or have the look of crushed velvet. Curlies are born with thick kinky coats, curly eyelashes and curly whiskers. They will have tight curls inside their ears. Curlies have wide set eyes that have an unusual oriental slant to them. This gives them a wider field of vision to the rear. It gives them a kind and sleepy look. Curlies have round, very hard hooves. They generally do not require shoes. Curly foals run with their tails held up over their backs like white tailed deer.
QUESTION: What are they good for? ANSWER: Peformance wise curlies can just about do it all. They are very intelligent, love to learn new things. They have a remarkable memory. Curlies have a calm and gentle nature. They seem to have an inborn love for human companionship. They were working ranch horses for the early ranchers in Nevada. Today you will find them in all areas of ranch work. In the world of horse shows and gymkhanas curlies have won in a wide variety of events: barrel racing, pole bending, roping, western riding, reining, English equitation, western pleasure, hunter jumper, gaited pleasure, driving and dressage. Curlies have won in competitive endurance trail riding. They have also found a loyal following among outfitters and those who do mountain riding and hunting.
QUESTION: Why did you decide to breed curlies? ANSWER: I had read an article in the January 1995 issue of Horse Illistrated. It told of a unusual and rare breed of horse known as the American Bashkir Curly. It told of their gentle and easy to train nature and their seemly inborn will to please. I wanted to breed horses but I had never worked with foals or stallions. I felt that I needed a breed that was easy to work with. I also like the idea of helping to save a rare breed. To know them is to love them has almost become our family motto. We have been delighted with our experience of raising curlies. We have learned as we go and they have been forgiving of our mistakes. We use kindness in training our horses. Curlies may forgive but they do not forget if you mistreat them. When learning how to teach one of our yearling fillies to lunge, I was working along side a horse trainer friend of mine who was also teaching her yearling Quarter horse filly to lunge. Per the instruction of my friend I very lightly tapped my filly on the rump with a dressage whip as I cued her to move forward. Miss Bee Bee thought that my tap on her rump was punishment for some wrong that she had committed which she didn't understand. For 2 full weeks following our lession she would not come up to me for hugs, treats and scratches. Her look told me that she felt I had abused her.
FUN THINGS ABOUT OUR CURLIES. We have found curly horses to be a lot like puppies or kittens. They thrive on human attention and affection. We have had them follow us into the office at the stable. When my husband has been fixing the corral fence they circle around his truck and explore the contents of his tool chest, running off with his tools.
We should have named one of our fillies Houdini as she is quite the escape artist. She can jump the fences in the exercise paddocks but she prefers to get down on her knees and belly and inch under the fence like a dog. She has managed to escape from her box stall on occasion by laying down on her side and scooting under the chain. One day she had just finished the escape from her stall when some friends of ours entered the barn and saw her laying in the alley. They thought she was dead as she was resting from her adventure.
Our teenage daughter began showing our 4 year old stallion when he had only been trained to ride for a month. He performed like a veteran. More than one judge was surprised to learn that he was a stallion. They commented they would have never quessed he was a stud from his calm and gentle nature.
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