As New York countrywoman Debbie Susice which horse curries favor with her, and she’ll give you a straight answer—a “Curly.”
“Just think of a fuzzy puppy, only much bigger,” Debbie enthuses about the American Bashkir Curly horses she and her husband Frank raise and train in rural Croghan. “Smooth-coated in summer, they grow long ringlets in winter. By February, they’re their curliest.”
Horse fanciers who’ve combed the country in search of Curlies—there are only 1,600 of them registered in the world, seven on the Susices’ farm—often end up turning to Debbie. “We’ve had customers from all across the US and Canada,” she advises. “Our line recently crossed the ocean, too, starting a Curly farm in Sweden.”
Actually, those horses could be close to home there.
“An ancient breed,” Debbie details, “Curlies might have originated in the Ural Mountains of Russia, where they flourished in the bitterest weather. Besides their thermal curls, which are similar to sheep’s wool, these hardy animals have an extra layer of body fat and narrow nostrils that warm cold air as they’re breathing.”
In terms of equine beauty, the shaggy steed is a bit of a maverick, admits Debbie. “A Curly’s wide-bodied, short-legged, stocky and big-boned, with a massive head and almond-shaped eyes,” she points out. “But those traits make it sturdy, sure-footed, and very versatile.
“An ideal mountain pack pony, the breed can also be used under saddle, in draft, and hitched for driving. Thanks to their stamina, they’re naturals for endurance riding, and they take frigid hunting trips right in stride.”
With 100 miles of state horse trails winding beyond their pasture, Debbie, Frank, and son Alex, 16, spend many weekends on horseback. For disposition and ease in handling, they maintain, Curlies run rings around others.
“Their temperament is gentle, low-keyed, and docile,” Debbie describes. “Plus, they’re great with kids and novice riders. Curlies are curious, intelligent, and quick learners, and they relish human attention.”
Still, there’s another outgoing side to her four-legged favorites, one that’s much in evidence about now.
“Curlies prefer being outside year-round and only drop into the barn for feeding,” Debbie notes. “During these cold and snowy Adirondack Mountain winters, our horses are in their glory.”
Editor’s Note: For more on their Curly horses, contact Debbie and Frank Susice, RD 1 Box 208B, Croghan, NY 13327; 315-346-1049.
From: Country Woman Jan/Feb 1997