What catches our eyes first when we take a look at a Gypsy- (Cob, Vanner) and Drum Horse? Of course.... it's the hair. The abundance of mane and feather gives this breed the exotic and magical appearance, but this is just the icing on the cake.
First we need to draw our attention to the conformation of the horse. Gypsy Horses should have the same basic conformation points as any other horse.
The head should be in proportion to the body, neither too small nor too big. The eyes should be large with an intelligent and kind expression.
The neck should be slightly arched, well-muscled, clean through the throat, not too short and tie in well at the shoulders and withers.
The back should be short with a well-sloped shoulder who's angle compliments the angle of the well-rounded croup.
The barrel should be deep with well-sprung ribs and a solid covering of muscle. The flank should be as deep as the girth.
The general appearance of a Gypsy or Drum Horse should give the impression of intelligence, kindness, strength and agility. They should be of good bone either medium weight or heavy weight, be well muscled with a sturdy body.
Gypsy Horses may be any color, either solid or colored.
Drum Horses must be at least 16hh and may have any base color but must express an obviously pinto pattern.
In order to be a traditional Gypsy or Drum Horse it needs to have at least as much hair as in a Clydesdale or Shire Horse. Mane and tail should be long and thick. Abundant feather starting at the knees and hocks, preferably with hair running down the front of the legs as well as the back. The feathering may be straight or curling and should cover the hoof.
And last, but not least; the disposition of a Gypsy Horse is what we love so much and what the breed is known worldwide for. Gypsy Horses are not only beautiful to look at but they are a very gentle and intelligent breed. Because of their temperament they are the perfect horse for the whole family (they also love children). You need to experience it for yourself in order to understand why this breed is different from any other.
In England and Ireland, gypsy horses are officially titled as "Romany Horse", "Coloured Cob" or "Irish Cob", but in the U.S. they are known under many different names like: Gypsy Horse, Gypsy Cob, Irish Tinker, Gypsy Vanner, etc. Those names refer to the same breed. The only difference between a Vanner and a Cob is basically their size. Cobs range in sizes between 13.1hh and 15.1hh and Vanners between 15.2hh and 16.2hh.
Registering a Gypsy Horse
There are currently four registries for this breed in the U.S., the "Gypsy Cob and Drum Horse Association", the "Gypsy Horse Registry of America"(formerly known as the "Gypsy Cob Society of North America") the "North American Gypsy Horse Association"and the "Gypsy Vanner Horse Society". But despite their names they do allow Gypsy Cobs and Vanners of all sizes in their registries. The majority of the Cobs imported to the U.S. are mostly from England and are not of lesser value than the ones that are called Gypsy Vanner horses as some who are new to this breed may believe. It's just a preference of the owners here in the US in regards to where they want their horses registered and in no way makes them horses of lesser quality. The cob sized horses of good quality as well have become harder to find on the british isles and therefore have become more expensive.
A good deal of vanner sized horses are registered with the "Gypsy Cob and Drum Horse Association" and many Cobs are registered with the "Gypsy Vanner Horse Society".
Feel free to compare both breed requirements:
Breed Standard with the GVHS - Breed Standard with the GCDHA
Where to register? After comparing those two standards you gotta ask yourself: What is the difference between a Gypsy Vanner and a Gypsy Cob? It's just a name and again, the different registries here in the U.S. don't distinguish between the sizes anyway! So don't get yourself confused; I think they all do a great job and working hard to promote and preserve the true gypsy horse type (vanner and cob type) and all have strict regulations when it comes to registering your horse but none is the only true and better one.
The Gypsy Horse often shows a broad stripe on it's head or has a complete white face, which isn't typical for the Tobiano. It could be a heritage of the Clydesdale influence in this breed.
Back in the earlier times, colored horses were at times less popular and cheaper to buy. The reason for this is simple, it originates back to the use of horses for the military. The horses had to be bay and not noticeable.
On the other hand, the gypsy people (aka Pavee, or Travellers) from the British Isles have been known for their preference for lots of color.
Nevertheless, there are solid colored Gypsy Horses. From some old pictures of the 60's, one can get the impression that there weren't so many colored ones among the breed. Lately solid colored Gypsy Horses are bred less and this circumstance certainly helped these horses to become more popular these days. Meanwhile as a result of breeding for color, a considerable part of the Gypsy Horses might be homozygous for the tobiano factor.
Like all draft horses and any other robust breed, Gypsy Horses are late developers and only fully grown when they are about five years old. On the other hand, they are long lived and perform well up into their 30's.
Therefore it's worthwhile to give your Gypsy Horse enough time while it is still young in order to keep it healthy and happy. That means to break in your horse only when it is about 3 or 4 years old and only to wean your mare's foal when it is about 6 or 7 months old!
Out of the FAQ page from the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society:
What can Gypsy Vanners do?
Gypsy Vanners are very versatile. Of course they were originally bred for pulling so they excel at any driving activities. Americans in particular are finding them very fun and comfortable for riding. Because of their steady nature and that they are less likely to spook, they are getting to be very popular for trail riding*. You can see them in the dressage ring, or in the show ring under western saddle, hunt seat, and saddle seat. They can be used as a hunter hack because they will jump. They have even been seen herding cattle. As a family horse there is nothing to beat a Gypsy Vanner.
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