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Curly Horse Types
by Donna Vickery
What is a type?
Horses in general can be classified by type regardless of breeding, to the purpose for which they are best suited.
Curly Horse Classification: There are several distinct types of Curly Horses. Curly Horses also come in all sizes. And, there are a number of distinctly divergent bloodlines in the history of the breed. With all this variety, some curly Horses are classified more by their bloodlines or heritage; that is, by their breeding. Some Curly Horses are classified more by their type and/or their size. Curly Horses with shared bloodlines or history, may or may not share the same type. Because of the many different breeding and types that exist, breeders and owners of Curly Horses may also vary widely, in their interests, disciplines, and in their opinions of what is valuable and what is not. Breeders agree that all the core Curly Horse breed traits are most important, while other traits that are type or breeding specific, while important, are personal preference.
Curly Horse Types: - In the Curly Horse breed, there are some horses that fall into distinct type classifications. These include pleasure gaited, sporthorse, stockhorse and drat types. These types will have traits in common with the breed(s) or bloodlines of horses that they have descended from, as well as retaining all the traits Curly Horses are known for. The following list is a generalized guide to North American Curly Horse (and pony) classifications and types.
The Versatile Saddle Horse Type: The Curly Horse is unusual in that overall, it essentially includes all America's early horses in one breed. Therefore, some Curly Horses are not of any particular type, but are a blend of types. The are saddle horses without singular breed influence. They are definitely Curly Horses, however, and will display all the genetic core traits that the Curly Horse breed is loved for.
The Curly Mustangs - This is a distinct heritage classification in the Curly Horse breed, and not technically a type. Wild dominant gene Curly Horses still exist in wild horse herds in the American west. They are small in numbers and their numbers are decreasing. Wild Curly Horses are still occasionally found in Bureau of Land Management wild horse gathers and offered for adoption by the BLM. Wild horses exhibit strong survival traits. Their heritage (more or less) traces back to original horses of early America, and may still resemble the using horses of that day. The Curly Horse breed trait of a more quiet nature along with its high intelligence, may still be seen in wild caught Curly Horses, emphasizing this as possibly having a genetic component. If wild Curly Horses are not all rounded up and adopted out, perhaps we will be able to learn more about this in the future.
The Curly Sporthorse - This is a type enjoyed for its athletic conformation and lovely long-strided movement. They compete in such disciplines as dressage and hunter under saddle. They will often have Warmblood, Thoroughbred or Standardbred influence. The Curly Horse as a breed typically exhibits long athletic movement to begin with, and there have been moderately successful Curly Sporthorses in the past that had little to no known outside sporthorse breeds in their pedigrees.
The Gaited Curly - Gaited Curly Horses are soft-gaited. They are recognizable by lighter and more angular conformation, a different set to their hind legs, and are usually "eastern bloodline Curlies", which are dominant gene Curly Horses with influence of the Missouri Foxtrotter or the Tennessee Walker, or other soft-gaited breeds. Rarely, a so-gaited Curly is found among "western bloodlines", most certainly tracing back to saddle horses of long ago that were enjoyed for their comfortable four beat gaits (for example, some foundation Appaloosas, Morgans and Colonial Spanish Horses have a soft gait or an "Indian Shuffle". There is a simple DNA test for a gene that has been found to be responsible for soft gaits.
The Curly Pony - This is a classification defined by height. Ponies can be found in all types. Generally, a horse is classified as a pony if it matures under 14.2 hands high (hh) (measured in height at the tallest point of its wither). Since the Curly Horse is not a typically a tall breed on average, a "Curly Pony" often refers to Curlies under 14hh. There are few bred for Curly sport ponies. Most do have ponies or miniature horses in their pedigree. Some are used for cart ponies, and many are used for hypoallergenic pets, for petting zoos or children's small therapy horses. There are a few who breed for Miniature Curly Horses, as well.
The Curly Draft Horse - These are rare. There are a few dominant gene Curly Drafters that have some Suffolk Punch influence, or other draft breeds in their background. Curly Drafters are similar to the old-fashioned versatile working homestead horses of early America. When compared to draft breeds, today's Curly homesteader is typically more moderate and versatile in size.
The Curly Stockhorse - This is another rare type of Curly Horse. It is a ranch horse that traces back to some of the same horses that started out the Quarter Horse breed. There once were a few registered Quarter Horse that were (dominant gene) curly, until AQHA decided to ban them. The Curly Stockhorse will have longer hindquarters and longer underlines than some other types , and are thicker muscled with more muscle expression. They are bred to work cattle all day; they will catch a cow, they are substantial in size, athletic, versatile and comfortable to ride.
We will be exploring Types more in future issues. This will cover what each type looks like, what the current version of that type looks like in the Curly Horse, and what is needed to set that type in the Curly. These will be educational articles, that even Non-Curly horse people can learn more about typing horses.