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Helpful Hints with Gypsy Horses

Gypsy Horse This chapter is designed to give you all those snippets of information as to how the gypsy’s keep these horses and handle them, some you may be able to apply some will give you a better understanding.

Regardless to common thoughts in the UK that gypsy’s handle their horses in a rough manner, that could not be further from the truth.

Gypsy horses and indeed all horses owned by the gypsy families this is quite often trotting horses, and pony’s for the children usually shetland’s the smaller the better. Are kept and handled on the lines of working horses years ago, many are tethered by the sides of roads, many are tied to trees or any available spot. Mares are grazed in big herds with the stallion running with his mares for the season. The stallion usually spends the entire winter in the confines of his stable piling on condition for the coming season. So lets narrow this down for easier reading and quick reference.

Grazing herds

The pasture that is usually rented/acquired for these herds tends to be big open fields, well drained with a good base of grass, a lot more thought goes into the suitability of the pasture than most regular horse owners even consider. Well fenced, usually barbed wire as this stops the cobs more than plain wire from leaning on it. Preferably no trees so they cannot rub their manes out, Well drained, to much surface water will take the feathers out on the horses. A good depth of grass to maintain the herds with a lot of ‘bottom to it’ Meaning a good root structure, To many rabbits will mean they strip the grass that the horses could be eating, so another gypsy hobby ie dogs Lurchers are used to clear the land, and provide great sport! In winter high ground will be used with a good surrounding hedge for weather protection. No hard feed is fed all winter to the grazing herds, in the worst of the weather hay is put out. In summer great care is taken that no water surrounds the water troughs, once again bog burn is a great issue.

Quote- if a horse rubs his mane tail out or burns his feathers that is money to me gone no one wants them.’

These horses constantly move fields, so treat a ride in the lorry as a new food source. Travelling and boxing/vanning is never an issue.

CATCHING/HANDLING

All foals as weaned off are caught and tied up for many hours this is one short sharp lesson once caught there is no getting away, so though out their life once the headcollar goes on they will stand patiently, When leading the horse they often have a long rein on it and walk behind driving it forward, so the start of training, the horse always thinks forward going.

Catching the herd

When faced with a field full of horses that do not often get caught how do you catch them. ? They drive them into a corner then catch the easiest one first and tie it up short, horse psychology then comes in, its best friend in the herd will go back to its caught friend, that is the second one, they drive another one in towards the tied horses because it is faced with horses tied and no escape from its catches it stands next to its friend, and so on, finally a whole string will be tied up. Easy as that.

Feet trimming

Because of the very first lesson it ever learned regarding being tied up, handling for whatever reason is easy, trimming feet is done when the toes look long, the horse is tied up short waits patiently you pick its feet up, it cannot rear knows it cannot escape so may try to pull its feet away but after a few seconds stands patiently and will have its feet trimed, the same can be said for baths or anything else.

Washing

Mass bathing and washing of horses sometimes is done in the local river or stream, the horses are taken in top of leg height and shampooed, when cleaned all over they are driven further into river so all the shampoo is washed out, it makes for a lovely summers day job, and I do believe the horses actually enjoy it, afterwards they are tied in long lines in the sun to dry out.

Traffic Training

This really is never an issue with these horses as they spend a lot of their time in fields next to buisy roads, travel on lorries, tied to lorries, there is always a lot of noise around them, and they seem to be one of the only breed of horses I know, That this expected and accepted as part of life. Obviously there first halter training helps as there is never any pushing shoving or a general escape attitude.

Riding

All gypsy horses from a young age are more than used to having people jump on and off them, once again it is something they have just grown up with, when sold to a private buyer who wishes to put saddle and bridle on then this is sometimes were a problem accours , as we tack up in our trained way, foot in stirrup, mount, sit bolt upright and apply our inner calf, we apply light contact to the mouth in our trained way-AND the horse does nothing, it is actually standing there wondering what we are doing, or alternativly if it has been driven as soon as you land on its back it is off at a great rate of knots trotting down the road., only to spook at everything it sees. This horse is not trained they shout. Yes the horse knows its job perfectly well it is you madam who is of little understanding. Lets start again

Try getting on horse leave his mouth alone lean back a bit and go get up in a true gypsy voice, off the horse will go, you can polish up your act over the next few weeks.

If the horse has been driven, once you land on it, his first reaction will be here comes the whip, so he is off before you can get you rear on his back, spooking not going through small gateways, of course he will not he normally wears blinkers out and normally would not squeeze him and his trap through a gateway that he knows he just could not fit through.

So that should help every one to understand that he is a kind helpful horse not an untrained menace.

Driving

Some gypsy horses are driven not all mostly mares are kept on stud duties, but occasionally you will get the odd one who is of exceptional breed standard that she is driven to fairs etc. Breaking to harness is done with the same calm attitude, the horse is tied up short and the harness is put on him he is left tied until he is more than happy to take the breaching straps and have the harness pulled around on him, once that point is reached which believe it or not takes an amazingly short time, a long line with a tyre or anything that will rattle is attached and off you go. All this once again goes back to the first tying and leading lessons. It takes no time at all then the cart is put on, they jump on and drive them forward and away they go it is as simple as that, usually the only thing that takes the time is the reversal of riding getting used to the blinkers.





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