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Gypsy Vanner Horses: Breed Profile, Facts and Care

By Alex Verwest


Updated on

The Gypsy Vanner horse breed has quickly made a name for itself as one of the best options amongst the equestrian community, and for good reason too.

These horses are known for their excellent temperaments as well as their drop-dead gorgeous feathering.

So, in this article we would like to discuss everything there is to know about this breed, so that you better understand why this may very well be one of the most popular horse breeds in the world right now.

But before we can get into the logistics here, let us first take a history lesson as we go over the Gypsy Vanner’s humble beginnings:

The Origins and History of the Gypsy Vanner Breed

Gypsy Vanner Breed Origins
Superior Stables Vanners / facebook.com

The earliest Gypsy Vanner sighting was reported by the Gypsies from Great Britain. They were the ones that first decided to find the perfect horse breed that could serve them well.

These horses needed to have the strength and build to easily pull their caravans, which was no simple feat considering just how heavy they were.

On top of that, this breed also needed to be mild-tempered, gentle and easy to train, which was very hard to come by at the time.

So, they decided that instead of opting for an already existing breed they could take this time and breed their very own horses.

They took the Shire and Clydesdale breeds and they blended their genes together in order to get both their size and strength.

Clononeen Farm Gypsy Horses
Clononeen Farm Gypsy Horses / facebook.c.om

But that’s not all, soon after they also decided to add in the Dales pony and the Fell pony genes to the mix, bringing to life their creation and officially calling it the Gypsy Vanner breed.

This breed first made its way into America around 1996, only for an official registry named the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society to be established later that same year.

While it did have its fair share of ups and downs over the years, it shouldn’t come off as a surprise that the Gypsy Vanner breed soon became one of the most popular breeds out there.

But why did it take so long for it to be recognized by the mainstream media and more importantly, what makes it so great and desirable in the first place? Let’s find out.

Gypsy Vanners Appearance and Characteristics

Gypsy Vanners Appearance
Superior Stables Vanners / facebook.com

For starters, we should mention here that Gypsy Vanner horses are quite small in stature, with most of them ranging between 12.2 and 16 hands high.

But just because they are a bit on the smaller end you shouldn’t dismiss them as draft horses because they are especially great at pulling large loads such as carriages and caravans. That’s a fact.

On top of that they can also be quite amazing riding horses, as even though they are smaller than the average draft horse, they can still support heavier riders all the same.

As far as colors go, Gypsy Vanner horses come in pretty much any color variation you can think of, which does include solid coats too.

Just keep in mind though that for the most part, you will find Gypsy Vanner horses sporting these following coats, simply because of how popular they are:

  • Tobiano – The typical tobiano horse has spotted white patches on a dark coat color, which in itself makes the horses stand out from the crowd
  • Skewbald – Again, you’ll find white patches spread all across the skewbald horse’s base coat, but do keep in mind that this can’t happen with black base colored horses
  • Blagdon – Last but not least we have these horses which are known for having a splash of white on their belly as well as a darker colored base coat
Gypsy Vanner Look
Gypsy Gold Horse Farm / facebook.com

Because this isn’t a color breed, the breed registry will pretty much accept any horses out there no matter what the coat color or pattern that they sport is.

But with that being said, what can we say about the Gypsy Vanner horse that we can’t say about most any other breed out there?

Well for starters, these horses are known for their unique heavy feathering which can be seen starting at their knees and going all the way down their hocks.

They also have a very long and smooth mane and tail combo which is very sought after for shows especially.

This hair can either be a plus for you, if you want to take part in shows or it can be a huge detriment if you can’t afford to groom your horse on a daily basis.

So, we have to remind you that while this is a beautiful breed that is known for its calm nature and easy trainability, if you don’t have the time to care for its needs you should skip out on it.

Gypsy Vanner Horses: Breeding and Uses

Friesian-Gypsy Vanner Crossbreed

Even though they were originally bred to pull caravans, the Gypsy Vanner breed has more than earned its keep on other niches too over the years.

That doesn’t mean that it has lost its cart horse capabilities though, as it is still more than perfect for the job.

But besides that, the Gypsy Vanner horses have made a name for themselves at shows and driving competitions, which makes this one of the best breeds to go for if you are not sure what you want to do with it yet.

That’s not all either as the Gypsy Vanner can also be a great riding horse that will never let you down thanks to its incredibly laid-back temperament.

Because of this easygoing nature, this breed has been ridden by both Western and English riders, and they’ve been used professionally in both dressage and trail riding loads of times over the years.

Their calmness has also led to them becoming a great family horse to go for, so if you have children around your home and you want to invest in a nice and easygoing pet horse this may be the best option for you.

They’ve even been proven to be great therapeutic riding partners, so if you’re feeling down just hop on your horse and start riding away your problems.

The Diet and Nutrition of the Gypsy Vanner Breed

Gypsy Vanner Breed
Lake Ridge Gypsy Vanner Horses / facebook.com

Since the Gypsy Vanner breed is a bit of a smaller and more lightweight riding horse, you should expect it to also have a slower metabolism that you’ll need to accommodate for.

So, you can’t just feed your horse whatever you feel like feeding them because they can easily put on too much weight and become obese.

We understand that obese pets are very popular these days, but please keep in mind that we do consider it to be animal abuse so never purposefully allow your horse to grow too heavy for their own good.

But regardless, if you want to invest in a Gypsy Vanner horse what should you expect their diet to be? Well, for starters, you’ll need to make sure that the food they consume is high in fat and low in sugar.

So, while your horse will definitely be able to survive on a healthy amount of high quality hay and a ration balancer, you should never offer your horse the typical feed concentrate because it will not do them any good.

You may also need to stop them from overfeeding themselves, so when you are out on a morning ride and you see an open field, we recommend that you put a grazing muzzle on your horse.

This will prevent them from eating too much and at the same time it will make sure that your horse isn’t too tempted to just go on a binge and eat their bodyweight in green.

Other than that, there are no real supplements you should go for, although we do recommend that you visit a vet or you have a vet come over at your place to make sure that everything’s alright with your horse’s diet.

Gypsy Vanners: Common Health and Behavior Problems 

Gypsy Vanners Health Problems
Photo by Henk Monster / wikipedia.org

Before we go over these problems, we should first state that the word “common” is a bit of an exaggeration as in all of our years taking care of Gypsy Vanners we’ve never really had to deal with any of them firsthand.

So, even though your horse can get these diseases, most of them are preventable by simply keeping track of your horse’s health and making sure that they live in a healthy and sanitary environment.

With that being said, these are the most common health issues that your horse can have:

  • Scratches – These are crusty crabs that can be seen running alongside your horse’s legs, and they can easily cause lower leg swelling as well as lameness
  • Malleanders and Sallenders – This occurs when your horse’s body produces keratin. The reason as to why this is more common with this breed is the fact that it is already predisposed to produce a lot more keratin than usual to drive the growth of the breed’s thick feathering. This can easily lead to thick, crusted growths on the legs and these need to be removed as soon as possible or else they can lead to bacterial or fungal infections
  • Chronic Progressive Lymphedema – This is a very serious condition which causes lower-leg swelling to the point where your horse can’t even walk anymore. There is no known cure for it and as soon as your horse contracts this their legs will continue to swell up indefinitely

So, while we personally haven’t actually had any problems with the Gypsy Vanner breed, we can still say that this is far from the hardiest horse breed you’ll ever come across.

Grooming Tips and Tricks for Gypsy Vanners

Gypsy Vanners Grooming
Gypsy-Fever Farms / facebook.com

As mentioned previously, by far one of the most arduous parts about owning a Gypsy Vanner horse is the fact that you will need to groom them on a daily basis in order to keep them both healthy and comfortable at the same time.

Those long manes and tails that most likely got your attention in the first place will require you to make sure that they’re kempt properly, especially if you happen to live in a muddier area.

A lot of the Gypsy Vanner owners tend to braid their manes in order to make sure that they’re clean and that they don’t need to do too much grooming and cleaning at the end of every day.

The same can be done with the tails, although we recommend that you don’t fully inhibit their ability to swat the flies away because that’s their only real defense mechanism against the swarms.

The feathering will also require a lot of your time and effort as you will need to detangle them and brush them every now and then to keep them kempt.

But don’t take this the wrong way, we get it that not everybody has the time to groom their horse on a daily basis.

At the same time, you shouldn’t make this into a chore, enjoy the grooming process, bond with your horse, give them snacks and pet them the whole time.

These are the moments when you should strengthen the friendship between you and your four-legged friend after all.

You can also use these moments to check in on your horse’s health. So, keep a close eye on your horse’s lower legs, as any sort of cut can be fatal for them and their riding career.

Should You Get a Gypsy Vanner Horse?

Should You Get a Gypsy Vanner Horse
Stormgypsy Vanners / facebook.com

Well, when it comes to the Gypsy Vanner you need to take into consideration both the positives and the negatives that come with the service.

So, as is common with any breed out there, there are a handful of pros and cons you should consider first before making your purchase.

As far as the advantages are concerned, you have the fact that this is a very docile horse breed, they’re very easy to train and they’re much more likely to flee the scene as opposed to causing a ruckus themselves.

They are very beautiful creatures that we never get tired of seeing around our farm, but at the same time keep in mind the following disadvantages.

For one, this is not the easiest horse to take care of. Because of their small size and their slow metabolism, it shouldn’t come off as a surprise that these horses may be a bit too much to handle for a lot of people out there.

Their diet on the one hand is not the cheapest to get your hands on, and on top of that the grooming will never stop, so you will constantly need to take care of your horse as often as possible.

But with that being said, another advantage that we have to mention here is the fact that Gypsy Vanner horses are perfectly suited for families that are both experienced and inexperienced riders alike.

They can be used for both pleasure and competitions too, and on top of that they are also exceptional animals to have around your farm if you need them to pull wagons around from place to place.

Last but not least we should mention their small stature and how this can be a huge advantage for you, especially if you are on the shorter side yourself and you don’t want to strain yourself when mounting your hose.

So, take all of these positives and negatives and try to see if you can work with them. If the negatives are too much for you then so be it, go for a different horse breed. If you think you’re more than qualified to take on this task then go for it, we can assure you that you won’t regret it.

The Average Cost Gypsy Vanner Horses

Gypsy Vanner Horses Cost
Photo by Mary E. Graybeal / wikipedia.org

Because of their increase in popularity, it shouldn’t come off as a surprise that the Gypsy Vanner breed has already made its way on a lot of people’s Christmas list.

But if you do want to get yourself one, how much should you expect to pay for one? Well, for the most part you should know that it’s a lot.

Usually, it’s around $10,000 at the very least, although you can rescue a horse every now and then, just keep in mind that those horses are usually not great for shows.

They’re still amazing horses that deserve a home, don’t get us wrong, but don’t expect to save up on those expenses by going for a rescue horse.


Gypsy Vanner Horses
Gypsy Gold Horse Farm / facebook.com

The Gypsy Vanner horse breed may not be the oldest breed around but gosh darn it it’s here to stay, so if you want to get yourself a great multi-use horse then definitely consider opting for a Gypsy the next time you have the chance for it.

Gypsy Vanner Horses Pin

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About Alex Verwest

Alex is an equestrian consultant who has co-founded several successful start-up companies and worked with various international equestrian businesses. Using his experience and connections in this field, he loves to introduce readers to many outstanding small equestrian brands, sharing stories about equestrian lifestyle and trends. Learn more about Seriously Equestrian's Editorial Process.

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