Have you ever heard of a Gypsy horse? Up until the first two were imported from Europe to the United States in November, 1996 most Americans hadn’t. Also known as Gypsy Vanner, Gypsy Cob, Irish Cob or Tinker horse, it originated in England and Ireland and is a mix of Shires, Clydesdales, Fell Ponies and Dales Ponies. Exact pedigrees were often kept a secret, as the Gypsy people took great pride in the calm, affectionate horses that they’d specially bred to have enough strength and stamina to pull loaded wagons all day at a steady trot.
According to the website GypsyHorses.com, the breed is identified by its heavy-boned and compact body; short, thick and slightly-arched neck; broad chest; heavily feathered legs; and long, luxurious mane and tail. They stand from 13 to 15.2 hands high and although all different colors are possible the primary pattern is either Pinto or Piebald. Highly versatile, Gypsies are not only used as driving horses these days but also for Western and English Pleasure, Halter, and Dressage. For Montrose, Colo., breeder Syneva Blatchford, the Gypsy was perfect when it came to choosing a horse that both fit her needs and matched her favorite qualities. “I grew up on farms in Wisconsin and Colorado with Welsh, Shetland, POA, and Haflinger ponies, and liked that ‘cob’ body style,” she explained. “I also love draft breeds (especially the feathering on the legs), and Paints because of their markings.” While cruising Internet websites for Friesians one evening, she literally stumbled across a picture of a Gypsy Vanner and instantly intrigued, began doing research. “Gypsies had every trait I ever wanted, all wrapped up on one amazing little horse!” Syneva continued enthusiastically. “I like their compactness, beautiful markings, and the flash and flare that is comparable to the Friesian.” After learning what she could about the breed, she drove to Black Forest Shires & Gypsy Horses, near Colorado Springs, to meet these horses in person and fell “TOTALLY in love.”
Eight years later, she and her husband, Sid, have three stallions (all of which stand at public stud); two breeding-age mares; a maiden mare; and several weanlings and yearlings. “We have a couple of foals a year to sell, plus some yearlings and coming 2-year-olds,” Syneva says. “Although stallions are stallions — and must be TRAINED to be good — as a rule Gypsies are so calm that they really don’t act like they are studs. When we’re at an event, my boys are so well-behaved folks don’t even realize that I’m riding a stallion.” Those events include Competitive Trail, which is her forte, along with Versatility Ranch Horse Competitions, Breed shows, Expos and parades.
Her stallion, Luck of the Irish (aka Ziggy) was the first Gypsy Horse to compete in an Extreme Cowboy Race; has won Syneva two belt buckles on the Versatility Ranch Horse Circuit; and was the World Champion Trail Horse at the 2012 Gypsy Horse World Show. “I apprenticed for Doubletree Horse Farm in Delta, plus studied under a dressage trainer in Durango (both in Colorado) where I learned how to be a better rider by using my seat and legs to communicate with the horse.” Although she is “constantly looking to learn more,” her Gypsies are currently being trained with a mix of reining, dressage, and natural horsemanship techniques to create a highly versatile mount. Syneva adds, “Our training always starts with lots of groundwork to form trust with the animal.”
The trust part is never an issue with Gypsy Horses, most definitely, since from the time they are born the “babies totally glue themselves to people ... they are SO sweet and gentle.” Although it does make parting with them difficult, Syneva is well on her way to promoting the breed throughout the West, even shipping semen when needed. “I want to do this for the rest of my life,” she concludes, “I think they’re wonderful!”
For more information on Syneva Blatchford and her Gypsy Horses, please call (970) 417-2548 or visit her website at www.ESGypsyHorses.com. ❖