Do you want to know the truth?
The “Gypsy Vanner” is a complete fabrication.
In the breed’s country of origin this horse is simply referred to as a “cob;” and more than that, it’s not a single breed or type- there are many different varieties of them. There are “steppers” and there are “vanners,” there are mini cobs, there are “proper” or “traditional” cobs, and there are smooth-legged as well as densely feathered cobs.
I feel that an American “discovered” the Gypsy Vanner the same way Columbus “discovered” America: he found something that was already there and claimed it.
Now, lest anyone think I’m a hater let me just make clear that I respect the entrepreneur of the American Gypsy Vanner a great deal. He’s done a phenomenal job with the Gypsy Vanner in America. He and his late wife clearly have a good eye and keen horse sense, as well as good business sense. I very much admire their work and I love their horses. BUT. They’ve taken a horse and “re-branded” it, much like we now all commonly call nose tissues “kleenex” or cotton swabs “q-tips” after their common brand names rather than the actual item.
This would be akin to my importing mustangs to Ireland and starting a registry of “Irish Mustangs.” They’re mustangs, but I’ve just given myself carte blanche to say that I am the first and original breeder of Irish Mustangs and that I’ve brought the first mustangs to Ireland (because, duh, I created the whole idea). It gives me the authority to claim that the horses and bloodlines that I’ve selected are the best and most authentic Irish Mustangs. People will still look at the horse and see a mustang, but I’ve created something else, something arguably more. And it gives me the authority to claim that any other mustang that I don’t consider “authentic” isn’t “really” a mustang, but a less desirable “mutt” of a horse (such a horse, with mixed or unknown parentage is referred to as a “grade” horse). I fully believe that America has appropriated the Gypsy Vanner. What’s more, America has changed the breed to suit its own tastes.
Is this a bad thing?
I’m not sure.
America sure has been quite taken in by the Gypsy Vanner. There are breed associations and breed shows, and some quality breeders of beautiful horses. There is also a lot of infighting, and confusion and outright conflict between registries, breeders, and enthusiasts.
So what actually is a “Gypsy Vanner?” It’s a marketing ploy.
When you look past the “Americanizing” of the type, however, you’ll find an incredible, beautiful, willing, intelligent, versatile horse that anyone should be proud to own.