Also referred to as Irish Travellers and Vanner horses, Gypsy horses are becoming a popular choice with people looking for a hoofed friend. Despite their short stature, Gypsy horses are sturdy, resilient and long-living pets.
Gypsy horses originated in England and Ireland in the 19th century, bred by Gypsies to pull wagons filled with their household possessions. The breed was first introduced in the United States in 1996, with the arrival of two Gypsy horses named Bat and Dolly.
Gypsy horses are known for their compact, sturdy builds and their extremely docile dispositions. Also noteworthy are their long, flowing manes and tails, as well as the ample feathering on the rear of their legs. Their calm and affectionate temperaments have made them a popular pet choice.
Because of the breed's relatively short stature, people often assume that Gypsy horses have a shorter lifespan than taller horse breeds. In fact, Gypsy horses have an average life expectancy of 25 years, which is very similar to other breeds.
Although Gypsy horses do encounter health problems, they are rarely life-threatening and do not shorten their life expectancy. Common afflictions include cracked heel and rain rot. Proper grooming, dry ground conditions and inexpensive commercial and household remedies work well to treat these ailments.
In 2004, the United States Dressage Federation's All Breeds Program recognised the Gypsy horse breed. This means that Gypsy horses can win breed-specific awards in events sponsored by the federation.