Gypsy horses have it all — beauty and a good personality

Gypsy Vanner horse owners competing at Westerner through Thursday

No offence to Clydesdales, but Gypsy Vanner horses look like smaller, cuter cousins.

The have the same hairy fetlocks, luxurious manes and long, swishing tails, and are a version of a draught horse.

Paradise Gypsy Vanners owner Charlene Oakes said she first heard about the breed years ago from a woman who worked for her.

When she saw a photo of the breed, she was hooked.

“I think it was the hair,” she said, laughing. “They’re beautiful and they come in all sorts of colours.”

Solid black, white or chestnut, palomino, buckskin — name the colour, and you can find a Gypsy to match.

Besides their good lucks, they have a good attitude.

“The reason they had them in England was because of their temperament,” said Oakes.

“They are so calm and they are so quiet, yet they’re a draught-style horse, so they are sturdy and strong to pull carts and carriages and that sort of thing.”

Human Gypsies — who prefer to be called Roma now — commonly used them to pull their caravans.

After deciding to get a Gypsy, the Ponoka woman kept an eye on the market for two or three years to see who the breeders were before buying her first horse.

That horse produced a foal, who she later sold to a woman from Texas. Her horse had another foal, and Halo, who accompanied Oakes to the Westerner Days competition, is the granddaughter of her first horse.

Halo did herself proud in the competition on Wednesday, where numerous Gypsy owners took their horses before the judges.

“She got first in the halter class and reserved champion mare,” said Oakes.

Kate Walls said the breed has been in North America since 1989 and there are only about 10,000 on farms, compared with other horses that can be counted in the millions.

“They’re much more like dogs than horses. They are very easy to train, and trustworthy and gentle, and overall great family horses.

“And they’re absolutely beautiful.”

While relative newcomers to the North American equestrian communities, Gypsies have been embraced.

“We’ve had a lot of success breeding and selling the horses in Canada and the United States,” said Walls, who has owned the breed since 2008 and raises 24 Gypsies on her rural property, Gypsy Horses of Horn Hill, south of Red Deer.

The gypsy competition continues in the Westerner barns on Thursday.

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