GHRA Supreme Gypsy Horse Show2016/03/02
Article & photos by Nancy Brannon
There were plenty of “feathers,” luxurious manes and tails to be seen at the Expo Center in Tunica, Mississippi on February 19-20, 2016, as the majestic Gypsy Horses were shown in hand, in English and Western tack, driven, and in elaborate costumes. This marked the first year the championship show was moved from its former venue in Texas to the Tunica facility. Jeanne Schlenk, GHRA (Gypsy Horse Registry of America) Registrar and owner of Aunique Ranch in Huntsville, Texas, was well pleased with the venue and the success of the show. She said people loved the show, especially enjoyed the fun and Challenge classes.
GHRA members traveled from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Tennessee to attend this show – over 14,876 miles combined. Bob and Kate Reed of West Suffield, Connecticut traveled the farthest: 1276.5 miles. Rebecca Walden of Memphis, TN was the closest competitor, traveling 40.5 miles.
For hundreds of years, the nomadic people known as gypsies traveled the roads of Europe and the U.K. in beautifully carved and decorated living wagons, called a Vardo. To pull their wagons, they bred horses with enough endurance and strength to pull a heavy wagon all day, and the ability to subsist on whatever grazing could be found on the road side. These horses were bred for their kind, calm temperament and beautiful feathers, mane and tail. The result is the beautiful, powerful, and gentle Gypsy Horse. Brought to the U.S. in 1996, the Gypsy Horse is still a relatively new breed here, and their ability to do most anything is only exceeded by their kind and willing nature.
Tracy Abel of Stardust Stables brought three stallions to show. She’s been showing Gypsies for about a year, showing mares, yearlings, in Western and English performance, and in halter. She has imported about twelve of the best horses in the world to her farm, and she now has 31 Gypsies. “We just had a new foal Friday night at the farm,” she said. Her farm is in Eden, Wisconsin, so she had about a 13-hour drive to come to the show. But she was glad she came. “This is a nice facility and a great show! I love the Challenge classes at the show. And there are more performance classes. We even have mounted shooting this year, but we’re doing it with ‘Nerf Guns’ since we’re new to it.” She thought the Collector’s Race was fun, too – going from obstacle to obstacle to collect bandanas with clues.
In addition to halter and performance classes, there were driving classes, costume classes, flag barrel racing, and Cut Throat Grooming. There was a Friday Freestyle Lunch performance and a Salute to the Troops Freestyle Lunch performance on Saturday.
And what grooming secrets do these Gypsy owners have for maintaining all that hair? Lots of grooming is the key – and keeping them clean, said one exhibitor. Starfire Gypsy Horses has a full page of grooming tips on their website. EquiFuse was on hand with their shampoo and grooming products. One exhibitor said she uses a combination of mineral oil and food grade sulfur; this helps keep the feathers white and clean. And for a finishing touch, one exhibitor uses baby powder on the white feathers. “Manes and tails grow crazy,” said Abel. “These horses are known for their pretty hair. Someone asked me if they can see through all that forelock. Of course, they can see quite well! My horses know exactly when I have a treat for them.”
Find more information about the show at: gypsyshow.horse and on facebook at The Gypsy Horse Registry of America (GHRA). See more show photos from photographer B J Harrell and her crew at: https://bjharrellphotography.smugmug.com/My-First-Gallery/
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