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Meet the Miniature Gypsy Vanner, a New Horse Breed in the Making

Meet the Miniature Gypsy Vanner, a New Horse Breed in the Making

The Miniature Gypsy Vanner is a relatively new horse breed that’s becoming increasingly popular in Europe and North America. They are identical in appearance and temperament to their distant cousins, the Gypsy Vanner.

Mini Gypsies are often colored and boast abundant feathering on the legs. They are generally reliable, easy to handle horses which makes them great around children.

Most Minature Gypsy Vanners are on average 11 to 13 hands tall, with breeders aiming to reach the 9-hand (36 inches) mark within the decade.

These beautiful horses are a delight to look at and have captured the hearts of horse lovers worldwide. They make great pets or family horses and happily pull a carriage or carry children on their backs.

Here are some interesting facts and info about Miniature Gypsy Vanners!

Developing the Miniature Gypsy Vanner Horse Breed

The goal of Mini Gypsy breeders has always been to create a perfectly scaled-down version of the original Gypsy Vanner.

Preserving Cob-like traits like stockiness, heavy feathering, and a docile temperament while gradually decreasing size is at the center of every breeding program.

While Miniature Gypsy Vanners are considerably smaller now than they were a few decades ago, there is still work to be done.

Miniature Gypsy Vanner horse called Galway Boy owned by Centaur Stud in Australia
Galway Boy owned by Centaur Stud in Australia

The American Miniature Horse Registry has two height divisions for miniature horses: A) up to 34 inches (8.5 hands) and B) between 34 – 38 inches (8.5 – 9.5 hands). Most Mini Gypsy breeders are aiming to be in the B) category.

Currently, Minature Gypsy Vanners under 10 hands are considered a rarity. However, there is an upside to having gypsy Vanners of various heights available to the public. Melanie Block, who is a Mini Gypsy Horse breeder herself, commented:

“The neat thing about the Mini Gypsy is that for many years anyway, there will be a range of sizes available for whatever beautiful, kind, and usable work pony people want to have, ranging from in general 13 hands and under.”

One of the biggest challenges in creating a new breed is maintaining genetic diversity and minimizing inbreeding. Breeders must ensure the offspring they produce is healthy and free from genetic defects. To avoid issues arising from foal size, miniature broodmares should be paired with a stallion of the same height or smaller.

Cousins To The Gypsy Vanner

Mini Gypsies originate from the Gypsy Vanner horse breed, also known as the Irish Cob. While Gypsy-type horses have been around since1850, they weren’t recognized as an official breed until 1996.

The Romani Travellers of Great Britain and Ireland originally developed the Gypsy Vanner. They preferred to have colored horses with long feathers and flashy movements pulling their wagons. Over time, they created the Gypsy type by crossing Shires and Clydesdales with Welsh, Dales, and other native British ponies.

Miniature Gypsy Vanner owned by Penny Thorn
Owned by Penny Thorn

In 1996, a studbook opened for the Gypsy Vanner, and the first exports made their way to the United States. The official breed type is a stocky but elegant ride-and-drive horse of 15 hands.

Due to increasing demand for children-sized Gypsy Vanners, some breeders began scaling down, which eventually led to the idea of Miniature Gypsy Vanners.

Mini Gypsies are well-established in the UK and Ireland

According to Mini Hoof Beats (MHB) Gypsy Ponies, the breeding of Mini Gypsies began over 30 years ago in the United Kingdom and Ireland. To create a smaller cob with flashy movement ideal for pulling carts, several breeding programs began scaling down Gypsy Vanners inch by inch.

Today, the UK and Ireland boast some of the best and most valuable Mini Gypsy stallions in the world. Their services are in high demand among breeders worldwide, particularly in the United States.

Thanks to modern artificial insemination, these stallions can service mares globally, contributing to the fast expansion of the breed.

Miniature Gypsy Vanners Recently Arrived in the United States

The first stallion specifically imported to breed purebred Mini Gypsies in North America was “The Risk Factor.” He arrived in August 2012 from the United Kingdom and stood at 11.2 hands. Between 2012 and 2018, he was the smallest purebred Gypsy stallion on the continent.

Miniature Gypsy Horse from Bellbottom Farm
Miniature Gypsy Horse from Bellbottom Farm

“The Risk Factor” was an impactful stallion in the breeding program of MHB Gypsy Ponies based at Christensen Farms, Wisconsin.

Until recently, only a handful of stallions around the miniature height range were available in the United States. However, as more and more breeders committed to producing these stunning and lovable horses, the number of Mini Gypsy stallions has also increased.

The following section will look at two prominent Miniature Gypsy horse breeders in North America. They were pioneers in introducing the breed to the States and had ambitious plans for the future.

Also Read: 5 Smallest Horse Breeds in the World

Melane Block, Founder of Bellbottom Farm Miniature Gypsy Horses

Melanie Block has been breeding Mini Gypsies for over 15 years on her Bellbottom Farm in Illinois. According to her website, she was initially looking for a cob-type pony for her children but found that most ponies were more refined than she remembered. She was researching Welsh ponies when she came across some fairytale-like Gypsy horses, and it was love at first sight!

Block soon realized that these special equines were few and far between and decided to breed her pony mare to a Gypsy stallion.

In 2006, she took her mare on a 12-hour drive to Pennsylvania and released her with a stallion called Toymakker. Block ended up buying an additional three mares from Toymakker’s herd, all bred by Pamela Dickey.

Toymakker, famous Miniature Gypsy Vanner horse
Toymakker

Melanie Block dedicated her time and resources to producing good-minded and agile Gypsy ponies in the following years. Her first small Gypsy stallion was a 13 hand Cold Fusion (a.k.a. Lexington/Lex) that she used to breed American Miniature mares.

Block’s goal for the future is to reach the 36″ (9 hands) mark with her minnies. She currently uses American Miniature, and part-Gypsy mares in the 50″ (12.5 hands) range alongside her stallions. She also founded the Facebook group Mini Gypsy Horse in 2012 to connect with other breeders and enthusiasts.

Miniature Gypsy horse pulling a horse drawn cart
Credit: Bellbottom Farm (Melanie Block on the cart)

Steffanie and Branden Christensen, Founders of MHB Gypsy Ponies

MHB Gypsy Ponies specializes in breeding pure Mini Gypsy Cobs in the 10 to 13 hand range. Their purpose is to provide good-natured and beautiful ponies for children and adults to enjoy.

Steffanie and Branden Christensen have been breeding show-quality miniature horses since 2003. They have experimented with several breeds, including Shires, Clydesdales, Friesians, and even gaited horses. Eventually, their hearts settled on Gypsy horses because of their magnificent looks and kind, laid-back nature.

As mentioned above, the foundation stallion of MHB Gypsy Ponies’ breeding program was the imported stallion “The Risk Factor.” The next step in scaling down was importing the 10.2 hand Mini Rose and her filly from Ireland in 2017.

Throughout the years, MHB Gypsy Ponies imported several high-quality Mini Gypsy Cobs and frozen semen for the best stallions overseas. This has allowed them to offer a range of purebred foals for sale each year, contributing to the growth of the Mini Gypsy breed in the United States.

Steffanie Christensen is the founder of the Facebook group Purebred Gypsy Ponies Under 13hh in North America.

Miniature Gypsy Vanners Are a Versatile Horse Breed

The muscular build of Miniature Gypsy Vanners makes them suitable for various purposes. While all Mini Gypsies make great pets and family horses, the purebreds are also excellent riding ponies for children and small adults. This is due to the fact that they inherit the strong bone and wide barrels of the Gypsy Vanner Horse.

Mini Gypsy Vanner horse
Credit: minihoofbeats.com

Mini Gypsies also have a natural talent for pulling carriages and perform well in halter and obstacle classes. What’s more, they are the perfect teachers to introduce young children to the world of horses. Mini Gypsies are exceptionally gentle and easy for children to handle, so parents have nothing to fear.

Also Read: How Fast & Far Can a Horse-Drawn Carriage Travel?

Several Breed Associations Recognize Mini Gypsies

The International Gypsy Equine Association (IGEA) is one of the official governing bodies of the Miniature Gypsy Horse. It was developed primarily by Melanie Block to track the development of the breed. The IGEA registers horses from all over the world, organizes events, and offers a membership with unique benefits to Miniature Gypsy Horse owners and enthusiasts.

The IGEA has two purebred studbooks: one for Gypsy Cobs and one for Mini Gypsy Cobs. For a horse to be eligible for registration as a Mini Gypsy Cob, it must be of pure Gypsy Cob breeding. However, the registry also accepts part-bred Mini Gypsies in a separate sud book.

There are two other breed registries that currently accept Mini Gypsy Cobs: the Gypsy Horse Registry of America (GHRA) and the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society (GVHS). The GHRA is popular with breeders of both pure and part-bred Mini Gypsy Cobs in North America, who can register their horses under section “A” of the stud book (under 14.2 hands).

On the other hand, the GVHS has served as a registry for Gypsy Horses worldwide since 1996. According to MHB Gypsy Ponies, the breed society started accepting purebred Mini Gypsy Cobs in 2017.

Miniature Gypsy Cob owned by Michael Cleary
Miniature Gypsy Cob owned by Michael Cleary

Differences Between Mini Gypsy Cob and Mini Gypsy Horse

Although many people use the names interchangeably, the breed registries differentiate between a Mini Gypsy Cob and a Mini Gypsy Horse.

Mini Gypsy Cobs descend from purebred Gypsy Horse bloodlines and had no influence from other breeds. They are supposed to be scaled-down versions of Gypsy Vanners that retain the breed’s heavier bone, drafty build, and abundant feathering. Also known as Gypsy Ponies, they are no taller than 13 hands at the withers.

On the other hand, Mini Gypsy Horses are crosses between Gypsy Vanners, Mini Gypsy Cobs, and Miniature Horses. They are essentially smaller versions of Gypsy Vanners with more pony-like features compared to Mini Gypsy Cobs.