The Gypsy Vanner is one of the most beautiful horse breeds there is. If a magical steed from a fairy tale came to life, chances would be a Gypsy Vanner.
Gypsy Vanner horses are also known by other names like Traditional Gypsy Cob, Irish Cob, or simply Gypsy horse. The name Gypsy Vanner derives from the fact that this breed was selectively bred to be the perfect horse to pull the Gypsy caravan.
The popularity of these horses is growing day by day. Besides their stunning good looks, eye-catching coats, and beautiful feathering, these horses are also known for their great temperament. They were initially bred to pull caravans, but they also make excellent riding horses. Whether you are an expert or a novice, a Gypsy horse is ideal for all riders, Clydeincluding children.
The origin can be traced back to the Gypsies of Great Britain. They wanted to breed a horse powerful enough to pull their caravans due to their wandering lifestyle. The horse not only needed to be strong but also hardy enough to endure the tough life on the road. Apart from the physical traits, the horse also needed to have an excellent temperament that allows them to be handled easily, even by children.
The first two Irish Cob fillies were brought to the United States in November 1996 by a couple, Dennis and Cindy Thompson. The Gypsy Vanner Horse Society, the breed’s registry, was also established the same year. In April 1997, they brought the first Gypsy Vanner stallion, named Cushti Bok, to the US. Cushti Bok was joined by another stallion named Gypsy King, a year later.
This is a beautiful breed that is smart, intelligent, athletic, and has an unflappable demeanor. The combination of intelligence, strength, and calmness makes it ideal for equestrian activities like trail riding, jumping, and driving. The Gypsy Vanner is friendly and likes being around people which makes them great companion animals. They are kind, calm, and docile, easy to train and handle.
They make excellent riding horses because of their excellent temperament. They are reliable and do not spook easily.
They are considered cold-blooded horses. Typically, a cold-blooded horse is large in stature with a calm temperament. They are mostly draft horses that originated in colder regions. The only trait that resembles hot-blooded horses is that they are extremely athletic.
One of the Gypsy Vanner’s distinctive physical characteristics is heavy feathering starting at their knees and hocks. They also have a long, full mane and tail. They also have significantly long hair that needs a lot of grooming.
Compared to other lightweight riding horses, they have a slow metabolism. It is thus prone to quick weight gain and other metabolic problems.
To keep their weight in check and prevent metabolic issues, many owners put them on a high-fat, low-sugar diet. These horses do great on a diet of good quality hay and ration balancer. They do not need to be fed concentrate due to them being prone to weight gain. The tendency to gain weight so quickly means that some Gypsy Vanners are muzzled when left out in lush fields in the summer.
Breeding And Uses
They were originally bred to pull caravans, however, they are very well suited for several other equestrian activities as well. They make fantastic cart horses and you will find them at many driving competitions and shows. You can also see them pulling carriages at fairs.
The calm demeanor of the Gypsy Vanner makes it an excellent riding horse. They are great for both Western and English riding, dressage, jumping, and trail riding. They also make great family horses because of their kindness, patience, and forgiving nature.
They are also immensely popular in therapeutic riding programs.
Gypsy Vanner heights are not uniform. The smaller horses are used for riding while the bigger ones are used to pull carriages. An average Gypsy horse is 14.2 hands high. However, their height can vary between 12.2 to 16 hands.
If they are below 13 hands, it is referred to as a Mini. The ones who are between 14 and 15 hands high are the classics while the taller ones over 15 hands are considered grand-sized.
They can weigh anywhere between 1,100 to 1,700 pounds.
What Breeds Make Up The Gypsy Vanner?
The Gypsy Vanner was initially bred from the Clydesdale and Shire, two of the tallest horse breeds. The Gypsies sought their strength and size while selectively breeding Gypsy horses. The original Gypsy horses were taller than the ones we see today. However, large horses soon fell out of favor.
The Gypsies needed strong, hardy horses with great stamina, endurance, and courage. So they began using the Dales pony. The outcome was the Gypsy horse we see today with strong bodies, the ability to pull big loads, but in a smaller stature.
The Gypsy Vanner is a body type and not a color breed. Hence, the breed registry accepts horses of all colors, markings, and patterns.
They can be found in the following color patterns:
- Piebald: Piebald is the pattern of unpigmented spots on a pigmented background. So a piebald Gypsy Vanner is one that has colored splotches, mainly black on a white background.
- Skewbald: Skewbald is the color pattern of having white patches on a non-black background. The horses can be any color like brown, bay, and chestnut, besides black. Horses that are bay and white are sometimes referred to as tricolored.
- Tobiano: Tobiano is a color pattern characterized by white, or pink-skinned patches on a base color coat.
- Blagdon: Blagdon is a color pattern with a splash of white on a horse’s belly with a darker colored coat.
What Do They Look Like?
The Gypsy horses should look like a small Shire, a British breed of a draft horse. They have a short back in proportion to the overall body. They have a deep, broad chest with strong, powerful ribs. They also have well-developed muscular sloping shoulders. They have a strong neck and stallions have a well-arched crest displaying a bold look.
The front legs of a Gypsy Vanner are muscular with well-developed knees. The hocks on the hind legs are broad and clean. They also have an energetic, distinctive, and effortless trot.
Gypsy Vanners have abundant feathering on all four legs beginning at the knees on the front and the hocks at the rear. They also have a characteristic flowing mane. Double manes are also quite common among Gypsy Vanners.
Their strong and muscular stature combined with powerful legs makes them agile and athletic, perfect for riding and dressage.
What Are They Used For?
They are used for a number of activities including:
- Carriage pulling
- Cart pulling
- Western and British riding
- Trail riding
- Therapeutic riding activities
Where Do They Live?
They originally came from England, Ireland, and Wales. However, they are now being bred in a number of countries, including the United States of America, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Australia, France, New Zealand, and a few others.
Gypsy Vanner breed associations have been formed in North America, New Zealand, Europe, and Australia.
The Gypsy Vanner breed association includes:
- The Gypsy Vanner Horse Society formed in 1996
- The Irish Cob Society formed in 1998
- The Gypsy Cob and Drum Horse Association formed in 2002
- The Gypsy Cob Society which was later renamed as the Gypsy Horse Registry of America was formed in 2003
- The Australasian Gypsy Horse Society formed in 2007
- The New Zealand Gypsy Cob Association formed in 2012
There are almost 2200 Gypsy horses in the US.
How Long Do They Live?
Gypsy Vanners are pretty hardy horses and generally live healthy lives. However, they are also prone to some health issues like:
- Scratches: These are crusty scabs on the lower legs of a horse that can lead to swelling in the legs and sometimes lameness in extreme cases.
- Mallenders and Sallenders: It is caused due to the excess production of keratin which is also responsible for the beautiful feathering in Gypsy Vanners. Overproduction of keratin leads to the formation of thickened scabs at the front of the hocks and the back of the knees. There is no cure for Mallenders and Sallenders but it can be actively managed. If not treated, it can result in bacterial and fungal infections.
- Chronic Progressive Lymphedema: This condition is characterized by the buildup of lymph fluid in the lower legs resulting in excessive swelling.
Smaller horse breeds tend to live longer than larger draft breeds. Since Gypsy Vanners have draft genetics, they do not have extraordinary lifespans. The life expectancy of an average Gypsy Vanner is between 25 and 30 years.
How Fast Are They?
Gypsy Vanners were not built for speed as they were primarily used to draw caravans. Yes, they are fast as all horses are, but not as fast as probably an Arabian or a Thoroughbred.
They are considered some of the best riding horses especially for beginners due to their calm and patient temperament. They are powerful horses and are build to pull large loads. However, they are gentle enough to be used as children mounts. They are often used in horseback riding schools to train riders with absolutely no horse riding experience.
How Much Do They Cost?
There is no doubt that they are an expensive horse. It is an elegant and beautiful horse, however, not very common in the United States.
A horse’s cost depends on various factors like gender, age, training, conformation, and pedigree. The price range of a Gypsy Vanner is between $4,000 and $30,000.
Are They Good For Beginners?
Gypsy Vanners are excellent horses for beginners. The best beginner horses are well-trained, mild, have an even temperament, and do not spook easily. Most large draft horses have a calm demeanor necessary for being a good beginner horse. The Gypsy Vanner also has similar traits.
They are known for their great temperament. They are mild-mannered, well-behaved, and like to please people. Thus, they are very easy to train and can also be easily handled. They are extremely patient making them great for beginners who have no riding experience.
The Gypsy Vanner, besides being strong and athletic, is also an extremely intelligent horse. It has great retention power and easily retains whatever has been taught. They are gentle, calm, and quiet so much that even children can learn horseback riding on them.
Conclusion / Summary
We cannot stress enough about the excellent temperament of a Gypsy Vanner. Calm, collected, well-behaved- the Gypsy Vanner is the ideal horse for anyone. However, all these qualities also make it an expensive horse. It is, in fact, one of the most expensive horse breeds in the world.
Owning one means that you will also be spending a considerable amount of money on its diet and grooming. Remember, beauty comes at a price. The grooming requirements of a Gypsy Vanner far exceed that of other horse breeds. If you are willing to invest then it is the perfect horse for you.
This horse breed makes a great family horse. They are also excellent for experienced and inexperienced riders alike. Whether you want to use the horse in a competition, or just for pleasure, they are great for both. So if you want a horse that can both drive and ride, you know what to get.
Even though they have a draft horse heritage, they are not as tall. So if you have health issues that make mounting and dismounting a horse painful, the Gypsy horse is just right for you.