Equine Journal Article
December 2008

September and October were packed full of events for the Gypsy Horse Association’s horses and their owners.  Several of these events concerned driving, the discipline for which the GH was primarily bred.

Gypsy enthusiasts may remember Bowtie, a super gelding who was apparently well known in England before coming to America. For generations, the Romany of England have held fairs during which horses are shown off, traded, and sold, and attendees to the fairs still travel there in horse-drawn living wagons, the best known of which are the bowtops. Before being imported, Bowtie saw his family safely to the fairs, traveling on busy highways for many kilometers to get there. According to his importer, Black Forest Shires & Gypsy Horses, Bowtie’s reputation for dependability was such that he was entrusted to pull the most expensive living waggons to the fairs. Once there, he served as a taxi, pulling the family’s flattop (a small cart) around town for local errands.

Bowtie’s lucky owners are Kate and Ron Cowan of Rivendell Gypsies (Harriman, Tennessee). They have recently started him in driven dressage, and he, of course, has taken to this like a duck to water. Driven dressage is analogous to ridden dressage; competitions are in the form of tests. A driven dressage test judges the horse’s paces, training, suppleness, obedience, maintenance of rhythm, cadence of gaits, and responsiveness as the horse is driven at a walk or trot through patterns (circles, serpentines, and straight line). Smoothness of transitions between gaits is evaluated, as is turnout of horse, rig, driver, and groom.

At the Carolina Carriage Club’s 2008 Pleasure and Dressage Show (Tryon, North Carolina, September 22-23), Bowtie and Ron won the Championship in Training Level Dressage. They placed 1st out of 10 entries in Dressage Test #2 and 4th out of 11 entries in Dressage Test #4, thereby giving Bowtie the most points among the horses competing. Bowtie and Ron also won the “Gentleman to Drive” Class and came away with a plethora of blues and reds in several Timed Obstacles classes. In this type of class, the horse and carriage must negotiate a series of cones in a predetermined path. The object is to turn over no cones in passing and to complete the pattern as quickly as possible. Bowtie also placed second in a championship contest based on his performance in a dressage and in an obstacle class and came away with 11 ribbons all told. A very warm congratulations to Bowtie and to Ron for a job well done. We expect to hear much more of Bowtie, who epitomizes the honesty, soundness of mind, and athleticism typical of the Gypsy Horse.

Another member horse being shown in harness is Villa Vanner’s Clononeen Mull of Kintyre, or Romeo. His trainer, Rachel Nicely of Riverplains Farm (Strawberry Plains, Tennessee), showed him at the Nashoba Carriage Classic on September 19-21. Held at the gorgeous Germantown Charity Horse Show grounds in Germantown, Tennessee, the Nashoba is marked by elegance and tradition. Adorned by huge magnolia trees, the grounds suggest a gracious southern home of a previous era, and the presence of fine, well-groomed horses and elegant carriages further enhances this illusion.

Romeo was Reserve Champion Single Pony of the Nashoba. He placed 1st in Reinsmanship and earned 2nd places in the Turnout, Timed Obstacles, Working, and Town and Country classes. Owner June Villa, a novice driver, and Rachel drove Romeo in the Double Jeopardy class, a timed obstacles class in which drivers switch in mid-class. Congratulations to June and Rachel for a wonderful performance at the Nashoba, and kudos to Romeo. Like Bowtie, he is demonstrating to the driving community the versatility, athleticism, kindness, and sound personality typical of the GH, a breed new to the U.S. driving community but not new to driving.

Romeo also attended the National Drive held at Lexington’s Kentucky Horse Park on October 7-12, 2008. According to owner June Villa, many did not realize that GHs came in colors other than piebald. Romeo’sbeauty and tractability impressed spectators and other drivers.

October’s Gypsy Horse activities exceeded one month’s column. Next month, look for photos and news about members who participated in the Feathered Horse Classic, Pomona Fair, various expos, and a camping trip. In the meantime, if you’d like information on the Gypsy Horse Association, please see GHA’s web site at www.gypsyhorseassociation.org. And finally, the Gypsy Horse Association wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday season and a prosperous new year.

Click HERE for a PDF of the actual Equine Journal article.

Trainer Rachel Nicely and uncle Bill Nicely of Riverplains Farm drive Clononeen Mull of Kintyre (aka Romeo) at the National Drive, the largest meet of recreational drivers in the U.S. Romeo, shown pulling a 4-passenger wagonette, is on his way to the Mimosa, a two-mile organized drive held on October 12, 2008. Photos (c) Branam's Photography, www.action-fotos.biz

Owner Ron Cowan of Rivendell Gypsies drives Bowtie at the Carolina Carriage Club's Pleasure & Driving Show at which Bowtie won the Championship in Training Level Driven Dressage.
Photo (c) Rivendell Gypsies, http://www.rivendellgypsies.com

Accompanied by trainer Rachel Nicely, owner and novice driver June Villa of Villa Vanners pilots Romeo through the cones of the Double Jeopardy Class at the Nashoba Carriage Classic. In this class, one driver drives the horse forward through the cones and then the second driver, in this case, June, drives him back through the cones to the starting point. All photos (c) Erin Woodcock