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The Collected Writings of Lori Roets Valone
Gypsy Vanner Horse

Originally published in the Salt Block Gazette, October 2007

Gypsy Vanner Horses
by Lori Roets

Meet the Gypsy Vanner Horse

They seem to float across the pasture on a cloud of white fluff… long, thick mane dancing in the wind…muscular… powerful… yet gentle. This is the Gypsy Vanner Horse - a magical breed that brings joy to your heart.

History of the Breed

The Gypsy Vanner Horse breed was started in 1996 when Dennis Thompson imported the first horses to the United States and created the registry for these beautiful horses who trace their origins to the Gypsy peoples of the United Kingdom. While on vacation, Dennis and his wife Cindy spotted a magnificent black and white horse in a field near the England – Wales border. Stopping their car to have a closer look, they began a journey into the world of these selectively-bred colored horses.

Although the terms Gypsy Horse, Gypsy Cob and Tinker Horse are sometimes used interchangeably with Gypsy Vanner Horse, there is, in fact, a difference. The Gypsy Vanner Horse represents the best of the best—representing over 50 years of careful breeding in the quest to create the perfect caravan horse. The Gypsy Vanner Horse traces its genetic roots to the Shire, Clydesdale and native British ponies such as the Dale.

As of mid-2007, there were approximately 800 horses registered by the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society(GVHS), the registry for these selectively bred horses.

Characteristics

To be eligible for registration, a Gypsy Vanner Horse must meet a 7-point breed standard, which includes being a “Golden Retriever with Hooves”. Smart, loving, docile — the temperament of these beautiful animals is unmatched in the equine world. This wonderful temperament can most likely be attributed to their heritage. The Gypsy Vanner Horse, bred to pull the Gypsy caravans, lived a largely nomadic existence.

 

Typically staked just outside the caravan at night on about 30 feet of rope, the Gypsy Vanner Horse often shared its grazing space with the Gypsy children who were ready to run and play. Frequently after a long day pulling the caravan, a family’s trusty Gypsy Horse was called upon to teach the children how to ride – most often bareback with only a halter and lead rope. A horse who displayed any signs of aggression was culled from the herd, leaving only the gentle horses to represent the breed.

The Gypsy Vanner Horse is a body type, not a color breed, and Gypsy Vanner Horses come in all colors. The British color terms of piebald, skewbald, blagdon and odd-colored are used to describe the color patterns. The most common color pattern worldwide is piebald – equivalent to black and white tobiano in North America. A Skewbald is red and white, brown and white or tri-colored horse. Blagdons are solid colored horses with a splash of white on their underbelly. If there is no splash of white, they are considered solids and fall under the heading of Odd-Coloured. Many are surprised to learn there are palomino, silver dapple, dapple gray and red roan Vanner Horses.

There are no height requirements for Gypsy Vanner Horses. Displaying a draft type body style, these horses are generally between 13-15.2 hands, but they may be smaller or larger and any size is equally acceptable. Most commonly, the Gypsy Vanner Horse is in the 14 – 15 hand range. In fact, many Gypsy Vanner Horses can be shown as ponies yet they can carry tall or heavy riders with ease.

A Gypsy Vanner Horse must have a short but well-proportioned back, well-rounded withers, strong neck, a deep, broad chest and well muscled, sloping shoulder. Their hindquarters should display heavy and powerful hips with a well-rounded croup. The tail should not be set too low. The head must be sweet and refined, with a clean throatlatch and jaw, flat and tapered slightly roman nose, and ears proportionate to the body. Eyes may be any color but should be wide-set, bright, alert and kind. The legs should be clean, with heavy to medium bone and a medium to large hoof, open at the heel with well developed frogs. The movement of a Gypsy Vanner Horse is very clean and appears distinctive and effortless at the trot.

Perhaps the most notable physical characteristic of the breed is the magnificent feathering, which should begin at the knees on the front legs and just below the hocks on the rear. Feathering should be thick, silky and cover the front of the hoof. Extra long, flowing manes, full forelocks and extremely thick tails are also desirable. Double manes are common, but not required.

 

 

Elegant and Versatile

While originally bred to pull the Gypsies colorful caravans, these horses have proven themselves capable of excelling at all disciplines. Their typically colorful coats make them eye-catching in exhibitions and shows. Their docile and eager attitudes make them easy to train while their work horse heritage gives them endurance.

These extremely versatile horses are comfortable working in any discipline. Many are stunned to see how graceful these heavy horses can be over jumps. For example, Clononeen Misneach, owned by Glenn Rainer Farm in Enumclaw, Washington, is only 13.3 hands yet she places consistently in the top 5 in the USEF “A” circuit Level 1 jumper classes (3’ jumps with up to a 3’4” spread), competing against warmbloods and other large horses.

The Impressionist N’Co, owned by N’Co Gypsy Vanners in Monclova, Ohio, is a two year old stallion with many firsts already to his credit in halter, English and Western Pleasure. He shows exceptional grace and presence in the show ring.

Wendy and Dodger, a beautiful matched pair of Gypsy Vanner Horses owned by Gypsy Woods Farm in North Stonington, Connecticut, make a striking driving pair and are turning heads at shows and exhibitions throughout the Northeast.

Owned by Purcell’s Gypsy Horses, WCF Gypsy Diva placed 4th out of 16 breeds at the “Battle of the Breeds” in Bozeman, Montana. Diva displayed her skill under saddle and in long lines in tests of both speed and precision including trail obstacle. Diva is also trained as a roping horse, as are many other Gypsy Vanner Horses.

EBV Charlie of El Brio Vanner in Chester County, Pennsylvania is the first Gypsy Vanner Horse to ever qualify for the USEF Breeders Championship held at the Dressage at Devon event in fall 2006. In order to qualify Charlie had to compete in three or more open in-hand competitions under three different judges, score 58% or higher, win his class, and be Grand or Reserve for the day; all of this from a horse that was a pasture stallion in the UK for the first 8 years of his life.

 

Availability

There are currently 11 farms in the Carolinas with Gypsy Vanner Horses, including several farms with outstanding breeding programs such as WR Ranch in Sapphire, North Carolina and Lazy R Ranch in Monroe, North Carolina. To find the nearest Gypsy Vanner Horse breeder, visit the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society website at http://vanners.org The Membership section contains a list of members by state – many with websites and e-mail addresses. Contact a GVHS member today and find out why so many people are falling in love with this amazing new breed!