I have had a lifelong love affair with horses. There is a special place in my heart reserved for the large and majestic draft horse breeds.

Evocative memories of bringing in the hay at my uncle’s farm with a team of Percherons, an old-fashioned wagon and hay loader and my grandpa guiding the horses with his gentle voice instilled this love when I was still a young child.

As an adult, I was delighted to discover the amazing and totally marvelous Gypsy Vanner breed. (Gypsy Cob)

Most Vanners are a bit smaller than the magnificent draft horses of my past. However, these chunky cobs with their flashy outfits can hold their own with any breed, large or small.

Up until the late twentieth century, the Gypsy Cob was not a recognized breed. Not much is known about the bloodlines of Gypsy Cobs because pedigrees usually were kept secret and only family members knew the details. However, as the interest in the breed grew, several breed registries developed.

The first registered horses were imported to North America in November 1996. There are three different registry classifications for the breed in the U.S., based on height.

If the horse is under 14 hands (56 inches, 142 cm), it is considered to be a Mini Gypsy.

If the horse is 14-15.2 hands high, it is known as a Classic Gypsy.

If the breed is 15.2 or taller, it is known as a Grand Gypsy.

Gypsy Vanners may not be the most practical breed for some of our rough and ready Canadian farm yards. With their abundant ‘feather’ and flowing manes and tails, I can just imagine what one would look like coming in on a rainy day from a muddy pasture full of burrs and other nasty prickly things that are wont to take up residence in horses manes, tails, and in the case of the Vanner, feathers. Not a pretty site.

Besides, they are far too exquisite to lend themselves to hauling lowly farm vehicles. The show ring is their natural habitat. Or, of course, pulling the Gypsy’s Vans, the purpose for which they were originally bred.

It is worth noting that in 2004, the breed became recognized by the United States Dressage Federation All Breeds Program, and can win breed-specific awards whenever it wins a dressage event or any event sponsored by the USDF. (United States Dressage Federation)

Vanners are truly wonderful creatures! With tendon feathers spindrifting gaily in the breeze, they prance and dance their way along country roads and disport themselves with professional pleasure in show rings across the continent.

Here’s a short video of these delightful show-offs of the horse world. I get goose-bumps, too, every time I see them.