Harry Lodholm wouldn’t ride anything else. Neither would Cecilia Sauter.
They’re talking about Curlies, a breed of horse growing in popularity on the Key Peninsula. The Curlies are a stockier and sturdier version of the wild Mustang horses from Nevada.
Curlies have curly hair. Their manes and tails are also curly.
“The only horse I’d ever own would be a Curly,” said longtime Key Peninsula resident Lodholm. “They’ve got stamina, a natural gait, and their hardy. I wouldn’t ride anything else.”
Sauter, a Peninsula High School student who trains in Denault’s vaulting program with her Curly, bought one for two reasons.
“I’m allergic to regular horses. Curlies don’t have the dander they do, so I’m not allergic to my Curly,” Sauter said.
Sauter also suffers from back and knee problems. When riding other horses, her muscles hurt.
“With my Curly, I’m never sore,” she said. “It’s good therapy for me, a way to relax and pleasure ride, too.”
Teacher and trainer Tammy Denault offers the only therapeutic riding program on the Key Peninsula. “They’re so smart, they get bored really easily,” she said. “Curlies are so mellow. That makes them perfect for a therapeutic program.”
Tames Alan, too, benefited from riding Curlies. Although she had polio as a child, she rode horses as part of her therapy.
“I’ve ridden all types of horses, and Curlies are so smooth to ride,” she said. “I even had a woman who had a hip replacement buy some Curlies.”
The American Bashkir Curly, or Curly for short, is a rare horse providing the Key Peninsula with an unusual business.
With approximately 2,000 Curlies in existence, the Key Peninsula has 26 living there. About 14 foals are expected in late spring.
It costs $500 to breed a pair of Curlies at Celtic Curlies, one of the Key Peninsula’s four Curly stud farms.
The cost of a weaned foal, with basic “ground” manners, according to Alan, owner of Celtic Curlies with her husband, Jim, runs about $1,500.
An extensively trained 1- to 2-year-old Curly from Tammy Denault costs between $2,000 and $3,000.
Overhead is fairly low for Curlies, running only about $35 a month, said Alan.
“The low cost is due to the Curlies’ strong immune system. They don’t need to be vaccinated,” she said. “Their hooves are so strong they don’t need horseshoes, either.”
Curlies eat alfalfa and grass hay, explained Alan, excluding the need for expensive grains.
It seems to be the Curlies’ calm, sociable behavior that attracts most people.
“Curlies are the dogs of the horse world. They follow you around, smelling everything,” said Denault. “They’re so smart, they get bored really easily. if you teach it something, it’ll learn it and want to learn something new right away.”
Local veterinarian Bo Weeks, who specializes in horse and llama care, agreed with local owners.
“Curlies have a bit of wild horse, or Mustang, in them. It makes them quicker to learn,” he said. “They’re tougher, smarter. But their real advantage is their relaxed, quiet demeanor.”
By: Wendolyn Joy Schroeder
From: The Peninsula Gateway, February 3, 1999