The Gypsy Horse Fair


Appleby Horse Fair in England is the largest traditional horse fair of its kind in the world.  It is the largest remaining gathering of Romany and gypsy people.  And, of course their amazing Gypsy Cob horses.  It was set up by Charter under the reign of James II in 1685 and survived an attempt at closure by Westmorland Borough Council in 1965.  It has been an annual event since that time, much to the unhappiness of the current “constabulary” of the town.  This was made clear by the sign at the entrance to the Fair suggesting that the public “reconsider attending this event”.  But it is understandable as the horses rule the town for that one-week.   Americans are often in dismay as horses walk up and down town sidewalks, are tethered outside of hotels, shops and taverns, and drive the roads at will with no thought of autos.  Young people wash the horses in the River Eden and are then ready to lead them into the Fair.   The tradition of racing and trotting the horses along Flashing Lane takes place throughout each day and can be considered a potentially dangerous event with “watch your back” being heard constantly as horses come driving and riding by at breakneck speeds.


For one week the Gypsies from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland gather in Caravans and truly elaborate Vardos on Fair Hill, to celebrate their history, music, folklore and family relationships, but most importantly to trade and barter in livestock, primarily their highly valued Gypsy Cob horses. One of America’s largest breeders of Gypsy Cobs, Linda Brown of Wizards Spell Ranch in Burleson, told a Gypsy child that she was from Texas. And then watched as this wide-eyed child ran to her father saying “ Daddy, Daddy, Cowboys and Indians!”   There is no one you pay to park your vehicle, or to get into the Fair, or decide where each of the Gypsies sets up their campsites or their individual trailers of wares.  Apparently tradition, respect, and history dictate “ the rules” of these nomadic communities.  The world over, Travelers or Tinkers or Romany have faced the challenges of poverty, racism and more, through the ages. While the general public tends to lump all nomadic people together as "Gypsies", the truth is, they are widely diverse in their customs, traditions, language and origin.


 

As one walks the Fair you would see horses being sold between Gypsies by a slap of the palms.  It is not unusual to see a horse change hands several times over the week.  As one walks the Fair you would see Palm Readers, Fortune Tellers, elaborate flat carts and wagons for sale, and listen to family history of the Gypsies.  But Linda Brown didn’t need a Fortune Teller to let her know her future includes many of these amazing colorful (mostly black pintos) horses with heavy feather, long manes and tails, and incredibly calm temperament.  More info and photos of this Fair and the Gypsy Cobs can be seen at GypsyCobsInTexas.com or at the upcoming Equine Expo of Texas in Fort Worth EquineExpoOfTexas.com.


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