July 2009

The Versatile Gypsy Horses
Pete Lichau of Rose Gate Farm, Argyle, Texas riding A Wizards Spell Sir Winston.
They Really Can Do It All!
by Marilyn E. Short, Photos Linda Brown

Sir Winston, Gypsy Horse Stallion, working nicely for trainer, Pete Lichau

For generations the Gypsies, the Romani, nomadic people of England and Ireland, have kept a great secret.  They maintained their wandering way of life by traveling the roads in extremely ornate wagons known as vardos.  In order to make this lifestyle work, they created an extraordinary breed of horse known to us as GYPSY HORSES.   These horses have been referred to by other names such as Gypsy Cobs, Irish Cobs, Travelers Horses, and Gypsy Vanners.  All are the same breed and GYPSY HORSE is the correct name.  This breed had to have great endurance and strength to pull the wagons across the countryside and yet have a completely calm and cooperative temperament as the master could ill afford damage to his home/wagon.  The horses are hearty and easy keepers as they were forced to subsist on whatever grazing might be available around the evening’s campsite.

If you were to describe the “perfect horse” it might start with striking looks.  These horses with their LONG flowing manes and tails and abundant feather from the knee down are showstoppers.  They are typically 14 to 15 hands tall making them a comfortable easy height.  And yet pound for pound you won’t find a stronger breed.  Their looks stop people in their tracks, but it is their temperament that cannot be duplicated in another breed.  They are naturally calm, gentle, and cooperative.   They have great minds, learn each new discipline quickly and are cooperative and happy to do whatever is asked.

Pete Lichau riding A Wizards Spell Winstons Brighton.Although the Gypsy people primarily drove their horses, this breed has shown their great versatility by participating in many other disciplines in the U.S.  They are fearless and have great endurance for trail riding.  They will go through water, over bridges, and care for their rider without hesitation.  They love the challenges of ranch work including cutting, roping, reining, and general cow work.  The Gypsy Horses are amazing show horses excelling in Western Pleasure, English Pleasure, Obstacle Classes, and are some of the flashiest halter horses ever seen.  As an indication of their versatility, the California State Champion Barrel Racer in 2008 was a Gypsy Horse.  At the other end of the spectrum, they are amazing Dressage and jumping horses.

The most prominent and easily recognized look of these horses is black and white pintos, but they come in a variety of colors.  The louder pinto coloring became popular with the Gypsy people after they lost their horses to the war effort in World War II.  A loudly colored horse is less desirable in the war thereby diminished the possibility of them being confiscated.

While most Gypsy people could not read or write, some lines of the breed and their ancestry were well known and verbally passed down through generations.  The registration of these great horses begins in the U.S. with the Gypsy Horse Registry of America, Inc. in Springtown, Texas documenting this heritage through DNA.  The explosive growth of this breed keeps the registry hopping.   And, in 2009 the GHRA Gypsy Horses were invited to participate in the Fort Worth Stock Show and parade.  The aisles were packed with spectators asking questions and taking pictures.

One of the largest Gypsy Horse breeding ranches is A Wizards Spell Ranch in Burleson, Texas.  Owner, Linda Brown, imported foundation-breeding stock from select Gypsy breeders in England.  The horses from this ranch were Reserve Grand Champions, both stallion and mare, at the Fort Worth Stock Show and many offspring from this breeding program were proudly in the ribbons at that prestigious event too.  In March the horses from this ranch were invited to the Houston Stock Show Agri Summit to perform and educate their VIP international visitors.  This ranch’s 2009 foal crop produced some of the finest examples of this breed with nice heads, great conformation, abundant feather, and calm temperament.  

You are invited to meet Linda Brown and learn more about this incredible breed at the NCHA Summer Spectacular at Will Rogers in Fort Worth from July 13 to August 2.  Ranch visits are welcome by appointment.  For more information, visit  www.GypsyHorsesInTexas.com  or call 817-297-9292.

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