By Jerry Tardif
Here's a photo of a Bashkir Curly hybrid.
This Bashkir Curly breed is known for their curly winter hair.
They're also known to be hypoallergenic, that is, people with strong allergies to horses, cats, or other animals don't have that problem with a Bashkir Curly.
In size, they average slightly smaller than a typical horse and usually range from 14-0 to 15-0 hh.
Some curly horses shed out their manes and tails in the summer to a greater degree than the average horse.
The horse pictured (MicMac) is owned by a riding friend at the ranch where I board my own horse.
As mentioned above, he's actually a Bashkir Curly crossbred with a Belgian draft.
The draft influence makes him bigger at 15-3 hh and 1,400 pounds or so.
I've ridden "Micky" in the past and he has a very gentle and willing personality.
I recently rode him bareback and it was like riding a soft couch.
I'm not sure if that smoothness came from his draft side or that curly hair compressing softly under me.
As luck would have it, a woman with many allergies, including to horses, contacted my friend in late 2007 asking to meet Micky in an effort to test whether she could truly hope to find a horse that wouldn't send her into an allergic reaction.
She met him cautiously and kept slowly moving closer while letting Micky smell her, and finally touching and petting him.
To everyone's delight, she had no reaction.
My friend then let her ride Micky and she still exhibited no allergic indications at all.
A follow-up call a week or so later confirmed that she continued not to present any evidence of a reaction since her time with Micky.
Needless to say, she's now excited that she's found a breed that will enable her to ride horses again.
I've not yet seen a study to corroborate the Bashkir Curly's purported hypoallergenicity, but the experience related above appears to bear it out.
Like most horse traits, such as riding gaits, the degree of "curliness" also varies by horse.
Some can be much curlier than others, but there is no mistaking even a less curly horse during the winter months — it's quite unusual to see.
During the warmer seasons, the hair is straight.
But the hair inside the ears remains tightly curled year round and the eyelashes curl into circles requiring trimming so they don't touch the eye.
This all makes for a gentle, willing, and wonderful horse with a very interesting winter coat.
Besides being an avid trail rider, Jerry Tardif is a technology consultant and a horse and nature photographer in SE Connecticut — see his work at: www.jerrytardif.com.
He is also co-founder and President of QueryHorse.
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