Over the years American dressage judges have gotten used to seeing horses of every shape, color and description enter at A. Even so, some Midwest judges have been amazed to see a grey and white Pinto stallion covered from stem to stern in curls. And in the Pacific Northwest, a small dun with a shiny black stripe has startled some judges into stepping out of the judge's box to get a better look.
Photo sidebar: Spartacus, ridden by Nicole Michna, is the only known Bashkir Curly in dressage.
Spartacus, owned by Sandra Hendrickson of Indianapolis and shown by Nicole Michna, is an American Bashkir Curly horse and his curly locks trace to the ancient horses of the Russian and Chinese steppes. Spartacus is the only known Curly competing in dressage.
Trainer Michna recalls the first time she saw Spartacus. "He was funny-looking, but he moved well. I thought the curls were real interesting. They grow on you."
For one thing, you don't have to braid the manes. To prevent matting of the ringlets, Curlies' manes shed each spring leaving a man that "looks professionally curled and clipped just the right length," according to Hendrickson.
Besides ringlets and curls, Curlies have other unusual traits—small nostrils, an extra layer of fat, and slanted, sleepy eyes to help them live through the Mongolian winter. Their tough, black hoofs are almost perfectly round and many Curlies with white legs still have four black hoofs.
The American Bashkir Curly Registry recently became a member of the USDF All-Breeds Council. The group will be sponsoring All-Breeds Awards and invites USDF members to learn more about these tough, athletic, trainable horses with the permanent wave.