Do you or someone you know love horses but suffer from allergies to them? Do you struggle on with watering eyes and a runny nose or have you decided that regrettably horses just aren't for you?

Debbie Monk has a severe allergy to horses. If she comes into contact with horse hair she struggles to breathe, her face swells up, her nose and eyes run and it can often lead to an asthma attack.

She has always wanted to own a horse after her dad put her on a police horse aged 5. 

Sadly, Debbie decided there was no way she could realise her dream and instead settled for watching her daughter ride - from a safe distance, of course. 

But seeing how much fun her daughter was having, made her more determined than ever to get in the saddle.

"I did some research and came up with the idea of getting a camel," reveals Debbie. "I spent lots of time looking into one hump or two and the logistics." This involved jumping through several import and export hoops and being able to prove that she had a suitable paddock and shelter to keep the animal in. Debbie had an architect design a field shelter that met with the DEFRA requirements and contacted a breeder in Bulgaria. 

She chose a mother and son and was all set to have them imported when she stumbled across hypo-allergenic horses.

Her daughter was on the internet one day and saw a stallion called Painted Dunn Deal who is an American Bashkir Curly horse, one of the few horses of that breed standing at stud in the UK. The breeder has severe asthma and is also allergic to horses.

Debbie set off to Hampshire to meet the stallion then a few weeks later saw one of his foals for sale.

"It was just love at first sight," she says. "I was so nervous because there was a whole herd of young horses in with him but Rheuben just stood there and I could stroke him all over. I didn't have any reaction to him at all. He was around six months old and I had to have him." 

Their curly appearance has led people to believe the horses are suffering with Cushing's disease but the truth is their coats are made from a completely different type of hair to 'regular' horses.

Debbie can't keep Rheuben with non-curly horses because their close contact would result in Debbie's allergy resurfacing. So, she bought his half-sister Madeleine (pictured below with Rheuben).

Facts about the Bashir Curly

  • The hypo-allergenic gene is dominant so Curlys can be cross-bred with anything and still retain their allergy-soothing coats! Rheuben is Bashir Curly X Thoroughbred.
  • The breed are mainly very stout, sturdy, pony types. They have excellent hooves and can withstand extremely low temperatures.
  • They tend to be intelligent, willing and people-orientated. 
  • In the spring, Curly horses shed all or part of their coats. It comes off in swathes and can be used for many different things. It is very similar to a coarse Mohair. Debbie uses Rheuben's wool to make hats!