Linking your favorite traveling artists across the globe
Vanner, "a horse suitable to pull a caravan" described in the English Chambers dictionary, is the breeds vision word. For half a century the Gypsies of Great Britain focused on a vision to create their perfect caravan horse. Until an extensive journey to understand Gypsies and their horses uncovered their vision and gave it a name, all horses raised by the Gypsies of Great Britain were referred to as colored horses.
On November 24th 1996 the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society (GVHS) was founded and became the first society in the world to recognize a selectively bred horse raised by Gypsies as a breed.
The Gypsy people or Roma, as they are also called, have been horse traders for generations. They were an itinerant people whose livelihood depended on the stock they produced. The perfect caravan horse or Vanner, they envisioned, was a small draft horse with more feather, more color, and a sweeter head. A sturdy horse with magical looks and impeccable temperament, able to pull a heavy caravan was their goal. As their primary means of transportation, these horses pulled the wagons that held all that was precious to their owners. A Gypsies selectively bred Vanner horses, are handled daily, often by the youngest family members. Any horse without a good temperament is immediately culled from the breeding stock.
Most Vanner Horses are Piebald (Black and White) or skewbald (brown and white) but all colors are acceptable to a Gypsy. His breed is a body type and not a colored breed. A beautiful Gypsy Vanner Horse® looks striking in front of a brightly painted Vardo (another name for caravan).
Part of the reason for the colored Gypsy horses was that as horse traders, the Gypsies' solid stock was in higher demand as carriage horses and, during WWI and WWII as part of the war effort. This left the Gypsies' with well bred but more colorful stock. Gypsy breeders have judiciously culled and sold off any animal that did not meet the high standards for temperament, conformation, and soundness.
In historic photos you’ll notice that the horses were not as robust or heavily feathered as the breed we know today. Feathering is an additive or cumulative gene; and was focused on, when the vision to create a specific horse was born, over 50 years ago. The breeds that created the robust look and heavy feathering of the Gypsy Vanner Horse® are the Shire, Clydesdale, Friesian, Dales Pony and to a lesser degree the Fells Pony. The Dales Pony being the heaviest pony breed in Great Britain maintained the heavy bone, robust body and the reduced head size desired by Gypsies.
It seems a shame that just as the horses began coming into their own, the traveling lifestyle has almost disappeared. In a small way, part of the Gypsies culture will be preserved through these Horses.
The name Gypsy Vanner Horse® accurately describes both the people, vision, and function envisioned for the breed. We at BellaDonna Gypsy Farm, strive to produce horses that reflect the best of a Gypsies 'Vanner' vision.
The Gypsy Vanner Horse® is a versatile breed that excels in most equestrian activities, to include dressage, driving, English and Western style riding. Some are even used in jumping competitions. The United States Dressage Federation now officially recognizes the Gypsy Vanner Horse as an accepted dressage horse.
The Gypsy Horse is also known in the US as a Gypsy Cob or Gypsy Vanner; and in its homelands of England and Ireland, it is known simply as a “cob” or “proper cob”.
Described as “a people-sized drafter", the Gypsy Horse possesses the heavy bone and broad body of a draft horse, but on a smaller scale than the Shire and Clydesdale from which the breed is derived. This heavier body build gives him a broad back and great stability. Moreover, his rider is relatively close to the ground. Thus, while not a high performance horse with respect to great speed and incredible agility, he makes a very stable all-around mount well suited to most equestrian sports. Gypsy Horses are being used in dressage, Western riding, Hunt Seat, jumping, and of course, driving. Coupled with this stable body type is a docile and easy-going personality.
Because the Gypsy Horse lived and worked closely with the entire Gypsy family, he was bred to be gentle, easily managed, and kind. And what an appearance! With the extravagant feathering and bold coloring typical of the breed, his appearance evokes joy in all who see him. This breed has it all!