Shortly after WWII a small group of Gypsy breeders envisioned a new horse for a life change forced on them by circumstances. In the early part of the 1900's Gypsies roamed throughout England and Ireland in large caravans, traveling in what was called "living wagons". These truly were the first mobile homes. They were pulled by the Gypsies' horse of choice - large draft crosses. As British equestrian historian, Edward Hart, states, "Gypsies were poor and had the horses no one else wanted." During both World Wars the British government confiscated these horses for wartime use. They made the perfect war horse - large strong, easily managed horses with a willing and calm demeanor.
Between the World Wars legislation was passed for the purpose of "prohibition of moveable dwellings". Suddenly the Gypsies were forced to use a smaller, more affordable wagon for short term travel and lodging - the closed lot or bowtop caravan. They then began to envision a horse the government would not want and a smaller, more appropriate horse to pull their smaller wagons. The government naturally would not be interested in an all white or broken coated horse. So in the 1950's Edward Hart shares that the "Gypsies began a love affair with coloured horses."
They bred their large draft crosses to tobiano horses. The tobiano pattern is a dominant pattern. When a tobiano horse is bred to a solid horse, fifty percent of those pairings will be tobiano. This is one way the Gypsy herds quickly moved to "coloured horse herds". The horses initially were very large, but the breeders bred to the local pony breeds moving the herds to a smaller size over time. The vision also was to have "a horse as colorful as the caravans they would pull." For this colorful look the Gypsies wanted a horse with a lot of hair; abundant mane and tail and ample to full feathering gave the horse a truly magical look.
By the late 1980's to the early 1990's a small group of particularly Romani Gypsy breeders in England had developed herds that were reproducing themselves. They had become breed worthy but had gone unnoticed by the British and Irish equestrian communities. This oversight was primarily due to the general prejudice towards the Gypsy community. The Gypsies were known for "breeding what you have to what you could find." As a result no one thought the Gypsies could possibly be breeding for a group of horses that could eventually become a breed in and of themselves. Yet, that is exactly what had happened.
In 1994 while returning to London from Wales Dennis and Cindy Thompson, an American couple from Ocala, Florida, noticed a little black and white horse running in a field. They stopped and met the British farmer who was keeping this little stallion for a Gypsy. When questioned if the horse was a cross, the farmer replied, "I don't think he is a cross because the Gypsy who owns him has a band of mares just like this stallion."
Having no predjudice the Thompsons began a journey to understand the stallion. They would uncover the selective breeding programs of a few Gypsy breeders whose pride and joy were herds of these incredibly beautiful piebald and skewbald horses. The Thompsons realized this horse was a breed without a name and without a registry to protect it for the future. They with the help of these Gypsy breeders chose horses to begin the foundation of this new breed and imported them to the USA between 1996 and 1998. At that time they introduced the new breed to the world - the Gypsy Vanner Horse and the registry responsible for its protection and promotion - the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society. They imported the little stallion that started it all for them, his name is Cushti Bok - America's first Gypsy Vanner Horse stallion.
Unicorn Spirit Vanners is proud to be a part of this history. We are also proud to have a son of Cushti Bok to carry on his legacy for the future - our beautiful stallion, Cushti Bok's Lord Marlborough, lovingly called "Lordi".