Have you ever had the luck to meet a Curly horse?
And no, I’m not talking about the tell-tale coat of a horse with Cushing’s Disease. Rather, Amercian Curly Horses are a distinct breed, and are aptly named for their curly coat. They’re a rare breed, and even more rare are Curly Mustangs in the wild.
Yet one couple, Heather and Zak Smith of Mimir’s Grove in Olympia, Wash., has plans to adopt not one, but two Curly Mustangs, including a very rare and yet also hard-to-place Curly Draft Mustang stallion. Their story is below, told by Heather:
We leave November 6th, for the November 7th Checkerboard, Wyoming region’s Mustang adoption. We plan to adopt a very rare, but also hard to place mature Curly Draft Mustang stallion.
Mimir’s Grove has been raising, breeding, and promoting American Curly Horses for several years now. All domestic Curly Horses’ are of Mustang decent. As a piece of our regenerative agriculture practices, we have hopes of adding draft horse assistance to our farming practices. Curly horses are, themselves, as a breed, incredibly rare, with fewer than 4,000 world-wide, it has been something of a dream come true to have a small herd of them here.
It has just come to our attention that, rarer than rare, Curly Draft Mustangs exist, in Wyoming, in a holding facility, where what appear to be the very last draft style of Curly Mustangs have just been rounded up. Along with the young, easier to gentle individuals are older stallions, which are more challenging to tame and less likely to find a good home. They are all awaiting their fates, be it to new homes through the next auction, or fated to living out their days, gelded, in long-term holding facilities.
I have many years’ experience gentling, training, re-starting, re-habiliitating, and rescuing domestic horses. However, a long-time dream of mine has been to adopt a Mustang, gentle them, and have them be part of the Equine Assisted Learning activities here at Mimir’s Grove. Helping humans learn more effective communication practices, anger and addictions management, along with self-awareness and coaching to realize goals and dreams.
A long-time dream of Zak’s has been to gentle, train, and work each day in the forests and farm lands with a kind team of draft horses. Draft-horse-powered farming and forestry diminishes dependence on fossil fuels, helps produce sustainably harvested farm and forestry products and does not compact the soil as much as traditional farming or forestry practices.
It would seem both dreams could be realized in one moment, as one of these Curly Draft Mustangs are strong enough and could be trained to help with the farming and forestry tasks at hand, meanwhile educating all who get to bear witness to their transformation about themselves, effective communication and so much more. But we need help.
Taking on a wild horse is a huge responsibility and requires a few resources which we aren’t quite prepared for. As many of you might know, hay prices were high this year as we had an unusually warm and dry summer, resulting in only one hay cutting for many farmers as opposed to two. We need more hay to take in another horse, especially a big one.
Additionally, Mustangs fresh caught out of the wild, require special transportation and living accommodations. While we have a truck and horse trailer, going and getting one of these last remnants of the “Great American West” requires a four horse slant load or stock type horse trailer, which we do not yet possess. Their living accommodations include a six foot high, sturdy corral. Our son’s safety also hinges on this corral’s ability to keep him out until this Mustang is gentled. Our horses live a grand life out on a Paddock Paradise track, however it consists of three strands of electric, not convincing enough to keep a wild Mustang in or our toddler son out.
If you would like to help preserve a piece of America’s heritage, make a positive difference in several lives, and help make this dream a reality; we are gladly accepting help. To each who participate in this journey with us, we will be keeping an updated account, with pictures, video, and information, on Mimir’s Grove’s website, facebook and Twitter pages and would be very happy to keep all who assist us informed about how the adoption, gentling, and training is progressing.
And now here’s more on the Curly breed, with some of the information coming from the International Curly Horse Organization website:
Traits – Curlies are known for their calm, intelligent and friendly personalities. They show an easily trainable temperament. They are also known for having a tough constitution and great stamina. Most Curlies greatly enjoy being around people, starting at birth. Curlies are typically not flighty, and they tend to possess more reasoning than most breeds. They are very reliable and have a great work ethic.
Origins – The origins of the Curly is one of the horse world’s greatest unknowns! Research is still very much in progress to try to unlock the secret of this mystery!
Curly horses were documented in Asian artwork as early as 161 AD. Charles Darwin documented curly horses in South America in the early 1800s. The early Sioux Indians regarded curly horses as sacred mounts that were reserved for Chiefs and Medicine Men. Other early artwork, shows Curlies carrying warriors in the Battle of Little Bighorn (June 25, 1876).
It was once believed that these curly coated horses were ancestors of the Russian Bashkir of Bashkortostan, hence the initial name Bashkir Curly Horse, however in recent years this was found to be untrue and unfounded.
Some have suggested that they came across the Bering Strait land bridge during the last ice age, but no fossil evidence has been found to support that. Others suggest that curly coated horses were imported while the Russians occupied parts of the West Coast of North America. However, Shan Thomas’ research, in Myth and Mystery: The Curly Horse in America, shows there was no mention of the importation of horses into North America by Russian settlers in their ship logs.
Another suggestion is that Norse or Celtic explorers brought curly horses to North America prior to 1492 but this theory has yet to be fully investigated.
What is known, is that the original stock used to start the current day Curly Horse registries can be traced back to a fateful day amidst the wild Mustang herds of Eureka, Nevada. During the early 1900s, rancher John Damele and his sons managed to catch one, break it to ride and sell it; thus starting their relationship with the breed.
Build – The Curly has a characteristically long stride coupled with bold movement. They have tough hooves, strong bones and exceptional endurance. Most Curlies stand between 13.2 and 15.2 hands (1 hand equals 4 inches), though they can range in size from Miniature horses to Draft horses.
Coat, mane and tail – The unique genotype that gives Curlies their hypoallergenic property is best displayed while they are sporting their luxurious, thick, winter, curly coats. Their coats can be expressed in a varying degree of curl. Typically the coat in the summer shows a slight wave in it, but not as curly as the winter curls.
Genetically Curlies are a breed “type” and typically are heterozygous for their external curls, meaning two Curly coated parents have a 75 percent chance of producing a curly-coated foal. A curly-coated parent bred to a non-Curly only has a 50 percent chance of producing a curly-coated foal. As opposed to a homozygous individual, when bred to any other horse (curly or not) will produce a curly-coated foal 100 percent of the time.
Curlies have split manes (their manes fall on both sides of their neck) and are not braided or clipped when shown in competitions. Curlies can be found in every color and pattern known to horses.
Hypoallergenic – Curlies are acclaimed to be the only hypoallergenic horse breed. Most people allergic to horses can interact with Curly Horses without suffering any allergic reactions, or, at least greatly reduced allergic reactions. About 15 percent of the human population is allergic to horses. Research indicates a protein is missing from the genetic makeup of Curlies, this may be the cause of allergic reactions to horses. Unfortunately the study was never officially published. Members of the Curly Community are working towards funding more research on this.
To be hypoallergenic means to have a decreased tendency to cause allergies; hypo means less, not none. Hypoallergenic pets still produce allergens, but because of their coat type and genetic differences they typically produce less than others of the same species. People with severe allergies and asthma might still be affected by a hypoallergenic pet.
Versatility – While eye catching and unusual in the show ring, Curlies also have the movement, endurance, and heart to excel in competition. Curlies have been shown at upper levels of dressage and show jumping. They have proven to be reliable mounts and patient teachers for the weekend competitor. Curlies are characteristically quiet, level headed horses, and make excellent first horses for supervised beginner riders and children. Curlies have also been used for combined driving, western riding, ranch horses, trail horses, and are even crossbred to gaited horses for saddle seat and trail extraordinaire mounts. The only sport which Curlies are not competitive in is horse racing.