Gypsy Horses in Danger

Frightening car and horse collisions in York, England, have set motorists against the horse-loving gypsies.

Drivers are afraid of dying. Who can blame them? They also don’t want horses killed, right? Well, no, according to the comments section of The Press.Several people seem to think the appropriate reaction is to send them to the slaughter house.

The uproar has the councillors of York challenging the long-standing gypsy tradition of grazing their horses while tethered along the roadsides. Citizens are on edge because of reports of loose horses running rampant.

ANOTHER motorist has hit a stray horse on a country road near York – just as councillors prepared to discuss plans to tackle the problem of tethered horses.

The 50-year-old van driver, from Acomb , who preferred not to be identified, told The Press how he only saw the black and white horse at the last second as he was driving along the road between Holtby and York late on Monday evening.

He said he swerved to avoid it but it clipped the side of the van, denting and scratching it and damaging the mirror.

“But if there had been something coming the other way, I would have been killed, and if I hadn’t swerved, it would have come through the window.

This accident was the third this year, according to that article. The horses are not loose by accident, according to leannec91 who said her friend saw youths unhooking the horses from their tethers.

Steve Waddington, assistant director of housing and community safety (HCS), is working with police, landowners, the RSPCA and the National Farmers’ Union in an effort to solve the problem. They’re looking into alternative grazing options. They’ve surveyed horse owners and quantified the number of horses as a first step in developing a public policy.

“When we become aware of horses tethered at the roadside, we contact the owners if we are able to do so, to get them to move the horse(s) on,” Waddington said. “If the animal is clearly a danger to the highway, we work with the police and RSPCA to remove the danger as quickly as possible.”

But others think the HCS is moving too slow and a fatality might occur. Calls to confiscate all horses tethered on verges – land adjacent to the roads – have been presented to the City of York Council.

Transport Minister Norman Baker said the Animals Act 1971 empowers local authorities and landowners to detain stray livestock and recover expenses. “The local authority could, therefore, detain any stray horses found on any local authority owned land.”

York Outer MP Julian Sturdy says the problem has been “swept under the carpet by those who are simply too afraid of taking on those responsible for the tethering of horses on our roadsides.”

Really? Gypsies as towering powers to fear? Seems more likely they’re among society’s disenfranchised unless the authorities believe in Gypsy spells and potions.

Gypsy horses have become quite valuable because of their gentle, clam nature and beauty. Known for their thick manes and tails; “feathers” (long, full hair) around their fetlocks and brilliant paint patterns, these horses have inspired American enthusiasts to found at least five Gypsy horse registries and associations. Other registries followed and were established in the Britain and Australia. Ironically, the Gypsies who originated and cultivated the breed did not create a registry for them.

Gypsy Vanner Horse – 2014 16-Month Calendar

For those who’ve never heard about this beautiful breed:

The Gypsy Horse was bred by the Romanichal of Great Britain to pull the vardoes in which they lived and traveled. The Romanichal had arrived in the British Isles by 1500 A.D., but they did not begin to live in vardoes until around 1850. Prior to that, they traveled in tilted carts or afoot and slept either under or in these carts or in small tents. The peak usage of the Gypsy caravan occurred in the latter part of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th.

Some aspects of training, management, and characteristics of a horse used to pull a vardo are unique. For example, the horse is trained not to stop until it reaches the top of a hill; otherwise it may not be able to get started again. Training begins at a very early age with the young horse tied “with a short rope from the head to the trace-ring on the collar of the shaft-horse”, and led along on the off side. An old hat is sometimes placed on a fearful horse’s head so as to keep him from seeing back over the top of his blinkers at the wagon looming at his back. A horse used to pull a vardo which was a permanent home was usually in very good condition due to a combination of exercise, grazing a variety of greens in the hedgerows, and good quality care; the horse was considered part of the family. Since the family’s children lived in close proximity to the horse, one having “an unreliable temper could not be tolerated.”

Here’s a few of the websites proudly promoting the Gypsy Horse breed:

The Gypsy Horse Association describes themselves as “the official registry” and provides this information: “The Gypsy Horse is a relatively new breed in the United States, and is also known as the Gypsy Cob, Gypsy Vanner, Romany Cob, or Tinker Horse.”

Gypsy MVP describes their association as “America’s most trusted source for Gypsy horses.”

The name Gypsy Vanner represents a definitive breed born from a century old vision to create a specific looking horse. The goal of that vision was achieved, and the result is a breed capable of evoking great emotion.

They describe the breeds physical characteristics as: short back, heavy hips, broad chest, short strong neck, sweet head “a small, tidy pony type head without coarseness and in proportion with the body“, heavy flat bone at the knee, and feathering that starts at the knee and hock, covering the front of the hooves.

The Gypsy Horses Registry of America holds shows, including an annual Gypsy Horse World competition, and sponsors a Merit Award Program and Lifetime Awards.

The Gentle Horses of the Gypsies – Breed History
For hundreds of years, the nomadic people known as gypsies have traveled the roads of Europe and the U.K. in beautifully carved and decorated living wagons. To maintain this wandering way of life, they created an extraordinary breed of horse, with enough endurance and strength to pull a heavy wagon all day, the ability to subsist on whatever grazing it could find on the side of the road, and an extremely calm temperament, since a moment’s panic could quite literally result in the destruction of its master’s home. The result, after hundreds of years of selective breeding, is a beautiful, powerful and supremely gentle animal-the Gypsy Horse.

Gypsies at Night

The Gypsy Cob and Drum Horse Association is an umbrella organization dedicated to

“Preserve the integrity and authenticity of the history behind the Gypsy Cob and Drum Horse.

“Protect the original and authentic breed by recording parentage, establishing a DNA database and education through inspections and opportunities to meet the founding breeders.

“Promote responsible and quality breeding practices while encouraging the use of the Gypsy Cob and Drum Horse as riding, driving, sport, utility and family horses.

The Gypsy Vanner Horse Society publishes the Vanner magazine. Their website declares:

“It is the mission of the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society to respect, the spoken words of Gypsies who have dedicated lifetimes in the pursuit of breeding the perfect caravan horse…the Gypsy Vanner. The Gypsy Vanner Horse Society’s mission is to bring honor, recognition, and a better understanding to one of the world’s most colorful and least understood societies and the horses they love so dearly. This registry was established to protect a vision that was born over half a century ago to create the perfect horse to pull their colorful caravans.

A perfect caravan horse is strong, intelligent, docile, athletic, and colorful and has excellent endurance. These same traits make this breed well suited for any number of pursuits.

Although I’ve never owned a Gypsy Horse, I’m an admirer of the breed. It’s a shame the York motorists have to fear their presence. Let’s hope Waddington and the councillors of York are able to find a plan that keeps everyone safe, including the horses.

* * * * *

Products for people who love Gypsy Horses

Breyer Gypsy Vanner Toy Figure
Gypsy Vanner Calendar

Gypsy Vanner Horse 2014 Engagement Calendar

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