Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Gyspsy Cob Horse © Feathered Gold Stables, LLC

Gypsy Cob was bred to be a wagon horse.
© Feathered Gold Stables, LLC

December 2012

Creature Comforts

Wisconsin Gypsies.

Amanda Laurenzi

When people envision Wisconsin and are asked to say which animal first comes to mind, more than likely they will say, "Cow." While we are the dairy state, we do hold hidden treasures in small locations scattered throughout the rolling hills and flat prairies of Wisconsin.

I am referring to a horse known as the Gypsy Vanner. Equine stables and farms are not rare in Wisconsin; however, these horses are. Consider this: there are only 3,500 Gypsy Vanner horses in the United States; Wisconsin has over 120,000 horses alone.

The Gypsy Vanner was brought to the United States in 1996, after the breed had been discovered by Cindy and Dennis Thompson while vacationing in Europe. When they returned to America, they established the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society.

What exactly is so special about this breed and why are they so rare in the United States?

Gypsy Vanners were created by Romani, or Gypsy, people of Europe. They were specifically bred to be sturdy, willing and beautiful. The Gypsies needed these horses to pull their caravans for long hours and still have energy to help with other work once camp was set up.

The horse can be distinguished from other breeds just by the long, flowing hair of the mane and tail, and also their feathers (long hair behind and underneath the knee). The abundance of hair gives them an angelic look whether they're running or standing still. Their bloodlines are a mixture of Shire, Clydesdale, Dell and Fell pony. They stand between 14-17 hands and are traditionally piebald (black and white), but can be registered under any color.

They are a Gypsy horse, so through the centuries of Romani people being persecuted and highly unaccepted by others, the breed was easily kept away from society. Through the years, of course, the English and Irish came to know these horses and owned them. Thanks to the Thompsons, we in America can also enjoy the magnificence of these creatures.

I had the pleasure of visiting Feathered Gold Stables, LLC in Ogdensburg, owned by Denise and Derek Krause. The stable is arguably the best-known Gypsy Vanner stable in the state. They have well over 30 horses and run a business breeding, showing and caring for their horses.

Denise bought her first Gypsy Vanner, Feathered Gold Moe, in March 2004 when the horse was eight months old. After a rocky trip to America from England, Krause was pleased to find Moe was calm and willing to learn. Moe initially was going to be the only Gypsy Vanner Denise owned, but she shortly bought two mares after receiving Moe and now has well over 30 Gypsy Vanners. She describes these horses as "puppy dogs" and after my visit, I would have to agree.

I have grown up with horses and feel I have a good understanding of their mannerisms and how to take good care of them. When Denise took me out to the pasture where most of the mares and foals were, I expected them to run away. Instead, we were surrounded by foals as their mothers continued to graze, barely taking notice of our presence. The foals were curious and social, poking their muzzles at us and whinnying for treats and pets.

I was astounded. They truly were like puppies. The adults were docile and I saw something I had never thought was possible: two stallions, Feathered Gold Mickey Finn and Romantic Legend, were placed in the same pen next to a handful of mares! Any horse owner would be considered crazy to do that, but Krause just smiled and stated she had never had a problem come of it.

Krause and her family compete and join in about 20 events per year. Gypsy Vanners are versatile enough to show English and western styles. Their calm demeanors make them ideal for parades and other chaotic events. More information on the breed can be found at vanners. org. Information about Denise Krause's Feathered Gold Stables can be found at Feathered Gold Stables, LLC

Amanda Laurenzi is an editorial staffer at Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine