Editor's Note: Sarah Metcalf-Burgard raises a unique breed of horses near Aberdeen. She agreed to share some information about Gypsy Vanners, a friendly breed she calls the Golden Retriever of the horse world.
Gypsy Cobs, also known as Gypsy Vanners, are beautiful, gentle horses that were originally bred to pull caravans by the nomadic people of Europe, the Romani, otherwise known as gypsies.
These horses are described by the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society (founded in 1996) as a small Shire, with more feather, more color and a sweeter head. They are valued not only for their physical beauty, strength and conformation but also for their friendly and gentle temperament. The head should be pleasant with intelligent eyes and reflect gender; the neck is high, well muscled and arched.
The breed was developed following WWII by the Gypsy people of the British Isles, using Shire, Clydesdale, Dales Pony (possibly Fells and Welsh) and Friesian bloodlines with the goal of breeding the prefect caravan horse.
The cob should look like a small draft horse, sturdy, powerful with heavy muscle quality and heavy feathering (heavy hair starting at the neck or hock and extending down to cover the hoof.) The average height is 13.2-15.2 hands, although the registries accept animals outside of this range.
The traditional color is piebald (black and white pinto patterns) but all colors are accepted.
Gypsy caravans (large wagons) were often so heavy and full of the family possessions that only the driver would ride in the wagon. The rest of the family would walk alongside. As a result, Gypsy horses had to be not only strong but also very gentle and calm so as not to harm anyone walking with the caravan. Gypsy horses should have a nice friendly personality that reflects calm manner, respect for its environment and a willingness to work with people on a variety of tasks, and should be capable of performing riding and driving tasks.
The Drum horse is often confused with the Gypsy and is often seen as a larger version of the Gypsy Cob. They stand at least 16 hands and utilize the blood of Clydesdale, Shire, Friesian and Gypsy Cob. It is a heavy horse of any color or pattern. Like the Gypsy, the Drum should have lovely feather and friendly, mild disposition. They were developed as a heavy riding horse and are now used in low level dressage, eventing, hunting, saddle seat, trail and pleasure riding. Of course, they also make great driving horses.
The unique look and wonderful temperament of these animals combined with our own gypsy spirit drew us to and made us fall in love with these wonderful animals. In 2009, I found Jack Flash and everything just seemed to fall into place. We have a small breeding operation where we offer breeding services and usually have foals and young horses for sale started in riding and driving. Our breeding animals are all imported purebred Gypsy Cobs with DNA testing for heritage and color, with the exception of our Gypsy sport mares, who were foaled in the U.S. but are out of Toymakker, a lovely imported black tobiano stallion.
The gypsy sport foals are 3/4 gypsy and have Arabian, mustang and quarter horse bloodlines for a slightly lighter horse with nice feathers but less grooming. They make excellent event horse/ponies and are in the 14 hand range.
We select elegant stock with good conformation and fancy movement for dressage, jumping and other English and Western eventing. Most importantly we look for a friendly, gentle and willing personality.
Our featured stallion standing at stud is Jack Flash, bred by a Romani gypsy family in the United Kingdom and imported to Ipswich in 2002. He was sought out by the Gypsy Cob Drum Horse Association and is registered as a foundation stallion with their registry. He is also registered with the GVHS, and we are a lifetime registered member of both registries. All our foals are eligible for registry with all the Gypsy horse groups in the U.S. and abroad.
We anticipate showing at some regional open horses shows this summer and will be attending the International Gypsy Horse Show in Winnipeg Canada July 14-15 with Jack Flash and some of his offspring.
We have currently have nine horses with three foals due, with a purebred weanling colt and a Gypsy Sport yearling colt available for purchase. 2012 foals will be available for purchase and we are taking breeding booking for Jack Flash. We offer live-cover and AI breeding.
In addition to the Gypsies, we also raise miniature Mediterranean donkeys, Oberhasli milk goats, shorthorn cattle and poultry.
Originally from Colorado, where her parents ran a Black Angus ranch, Sarah moved to Aberdeen in 2004 and works as a consultant to the S.D. Public Utilities Commission as S.D. liaison to the Keystone Pipeline. She has a master's degree in land reclamation from Montana State University-Bozeman. She and her husband, Adam Burgard of Burgard Construction, live at Mayday Acres, just off of Richmond Road near the Bowman Whitetail Archery Club on 384th Avenue. They have three children: Aaron, Shea and Anton. For information, contact Sarah at 605-228-4736 or visit http://www.maydayacres.com.
Sarah Burgard and Flash
Juliet on Indy's birth morn