‘Gypsy’ horses winning awards: Roaring Spring area family showing breed not common in this area

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec Kane’s Kountry Gypsy Vanner horses are, from left, Colton, 4; Dash, 8; and Bristol, 10. The farm is in the Roaring Spring area.

Dorothy Kane, 73, her daughter Melissa Bradford, 36, and her granddaughter Charley, 3, are at home in the barn among their 10 mini-horses, three quarter horses and three Gypsy Vanners.

Kane’s Kountry Gypsy Vanners: P.H. Dolly called Bristol, 10; Dash, 8, and newest equine family member Colton, 4, — are among only 2,000 Gypsy Vanner horses in the United States, according to horse trainer Zeta Furry of Fox Crossing Farm, New Enterprise.

“The Gypsy Vanner breed is not common in this area,” she said. “They are admired everywhere we go for the horses’ excessively long manes, thick tails and feathered (long hair) legs.”

Furry, who trains various breeds of horses, calls Bristol “one of the most versatile Gypsy Vanner horses on the East Coast. She recently won High Point Western, High Point English, High Point Overall and High Point over 40 at the New England Gypsy Registry Regional Competition in New York. These accolades come after receiving top awards in another championship show at Clemson University, S.C., where country music star Miranda Lambert also competed.”

“I first saw a Gypsy Vanner when I was at a quarter horse show in Ohio in 2000,” Dorothy said. “I fell in love with them and we bought Bristol in 2008.”

“Gypsies are very different than the general stock horse,” Furry said, “which includes Quarter horses, paints, and Appaloosa types. In my experience, Quarter horses can differ tremendously in temperament, athletic ability and desire to work. The gypsies are generally ready to get down to work and move forward. I have never had to do much ‘despooking’ or desensitization with the breed. They are very level-headed. The Kane’s new gelding, Colton, is one of the smartest horses I have ever handled and I’ve been doing this for most of my life.”

The family bought their 20-acre farm when Melissa was 14 — and very shy, Dorothy said. Riding and showing horses helped Melissa blossom socially, boosted her self-confidence and brought her husband into her life.

“They’re easy to train and not so fearful as other horses,” Melissa said. “Once they know what you want them to do, they do it. They really seek to please.”

And, Bristol has been pleasing the judges at national shows this summer.

According to the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society in Morriston, Florida, the Vanners were bred more than a half century ago by the Gypsies of Great Britain to pull their caravans. The breed didn’t arrive in North America until 1996. At the time unnamed, the society chose Gypsy Vanner as a nod to the Gypsy’s who bred the horse line to pull the colorful caravan and referred to the horse as a “vanner horse.”

Referred to as a “people-sized” draft horse, the breed has a distinctive body type — a heavy bone with a broad body and average height of 15 hands. The breed’s signature feature is long, free flowing manes and “feathers” that start behind the knees and hocks and cascade over the hooves.

The feathers reflect genetic heritage: A combining of the Clydesdales, the Shire and the Dales, a native British pony. The horses come in any color, solid or splash.

Bristol has a splash pattern of black on white on her body with white and brown feathers and a tri-color tail of brown, black, and white. When asked why they call her Bristol, Dorothy explained that her registry name — Dolly — “wasn’t pretty enough” so they nicknamed her after the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennesee.

Preparing for a show takes extensive, bathing, grooming, braiding and brushing — about four hours a day for two weeks prior to a show, Bradford said. “We’re both down on our hands and knees scrubbing feathers,” Dorothy said, adding that the constant rain this summer made show prep “a nightmare.” Bristol is the hardest to keep clean as she loves to lie down and roll in the field where they are pastured most of the time. Rains the day before prompted Dorothy and Melissa to place the horses in the barn. Unhaltered, the trio raced around kicking up mud as they chased one another.

“They’re happy to be out,” Dorothy said. “Some people barn their show horses all the time, but we let them be horses and be outside. It’s more work for us, but they enjoy being together and doing what they’re meant to be doing — being horses. They need to be horses and be out and run around.”

During show season — April to October — Bradford’s husband and older brother also help and keep the barn pristine to assist in making sure the horses look their best. Traveling is a family affair and they have appeared in shows as far west as Ohio, as far north as New York state, and as far south as South Carolina.

The Kanes future plans include pairing Bristol and Colton to compete as a team in the pull cart pleasure division and breeding Bristol.

Staff writer Patt Keith is at 949-7030.