Curly has a special place in the hearts of her owners.
A 27-year-old Bashkir Curly, Appaloosa horse, Kayla Bendickson purchased him in 2015 to use as her high school rodeo horse. She said he was great at roping, goat tying, pole bending and barrel racing.
“I won a lot of events on him, and won my first buckle with him,” said Kayla, a Grade 12 student at Lake City Secondary School in Williams Lake.
“But I started noticing down at a barrel race in 100 Mile House he ran me into a barrel the first day, then the second day he ran me into two barrels — both on his right side.”
Kayla and her mom, Twyla, took Curly to see a veterinarian in 2016 where it was confirmed their suspicion that Curly was, in fact, going blind.
Despite advice to retire Curly, Kayla continued to barrel race with him.
“He’d been doing it his whole life, and he knew what he was supposed to do,” Kayla said.
After taking a spill on a different horse, and being knocked unconscious, receiving a concussion and subsequent seizure, Kayla said it was Curly who helped nurse her back to health and give her the confidence to compete again.
“He did so much for me,” she said. “He really boosted my confidence back up. I’d been out for six weeks but he helped me out a lot. I just got on him and started riding a lot again, and then I was able to ride a faster horse from there. I’m just really grateful for having him.”
Twyla said it was amazing to watch the bond shared between the two while Kayla was recovering from her concussion.
“If she was off balance he would scoop her up, things like that. They just both love each other.”
Later, in 2017, when Twyla was competing at the Stampede Warm Up Barrel Racing event in Williams Lake, her horse came up lame.
“I needed a horse,” she said.
“Kayla said: ‘Why not take Curly?’”
That was in June 0f 2017.
“I just thought he’s done it his whole life, he’s 27, why not?” Twyla said.
Twyla went on to successfully barrel race Curly that weekend.
“It was just a really cool feeling to know he could do it,” she said.
“To see he could do it, and to know that he trusts you that much to race was amazing. A lot of people, before this, were telling us to put him down, but we couldn’t do that. He’s healthy, and he took care of Kayla when she had her concussion, so he deserves a good life.”
Curly still lives happily at Kayla and Twyla’s home in Miocene, east of Williams Lake, alongside his best pal, Fritz — another horse the family owns — and doesn’t have much of a hard time getting around the property.
“He doesn’t really run into anything,” Kayla said.
“He uses his whiskers to feel around before he gets to a fence or around a tree. We put his hay in the same spot. We have a feeder with big hay bales around it, and he’s been in the same field since we got him, so he knows where to go.”
Twyla said Curly still gets out on regular trail rides, and is just an amazing horse to have around.
“He’s just a really cool guy,” she said.
“Just to see his willingness to adapt, and how he still runs out in the field, is pretty incredible.”