Gypsy horse importations into the United States began in the mid-1990s, and different organizations formed to represent this draft-type equine. Although the gypsy horse may go by the name vanner, cob or caravan horse, they are all similar in type. In Ireland, they are also known as the tinker.
Gypsy Horse History
After World War II in Britain, the Romany created the breed, notes the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society, founded in 1996. To pull their caravans they sought the ideal horse, an animal smaller than the average draft horse but with more feathering than most drafts, a more refined head and additional coloration. Among the breeds used to create this gypsy horse were:
- the Clydesdale
- the Dale pony
- the Friesian
- and the Shire
Gypsy Horse Conformation
The gypsy horse is a cob type with obvious draft influence. While gypsy horses usually range between 13 hands and 15.2 hands -- with any animal under 14.2 hands officially a pony -- the height standards are not strict. These equines may weigh between 1,000 to 1,800 pounds, with the heavier horses showing a lot of draft blood. The horse boasts medium to heavy bone, large, powerful hindquarters and a muscular frame. The breed standard allows any color, with pintos and other spotted equines quite common.
A Horse With Hair
In some ways, gypsy horses resemble My Little Ponies come to life. They sport abundant mane and tail hair, along with profuse leg feathering. This feathering should start at the knee and should cover the hooves. Many horses have double manes, and some even have mustaches or beards. The forelock is so long it may reach past the muzzle.
Gypsy Horse Temperament
Gypsy horses have very good temperaments, and they are suitable for novice horse people and children. Gypsies should be sensible horses, with very little of the "fight or flight" reaction seen in other breeds. A gypsy horse should work well with his handler, and it usually easy to train.
Gypsy Horse Disciplines
Since gypsy horses were originally bred to pull Romany wagons, they make fine driving horses. They also make good pleasure and trail mounts. Because of their tractable disposition, they serve well as therapeutic riding horses. There's no reason a gypsy horse owner can't do some lower level dressage with their animal.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.