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fun with fur and feathers

May 5, 2011

saturday, april 30, was open house at the irish rose farm just north of fort collins, home of parnell’s irish cobs.  the good folks up there had gone to considerable effort to host a first class event, so it was to go on rain or shine.  unfortunately the weather went beyond simple rain to include snow squalls, wind, partial clearing, more wind, more snow, and, well… you get the picture.  the amazing thing was that it dampened no one’s enthusiasm!  there was a remarkably good turnout, and people of all ages came to fall in love with the gypsy horses.

now, while this farm exists to promote the gypsy vanner (or irish cob) breed of horses, let’s shake things up a bit and take a look at what else you can learn about should you ever get the chance to visit.  the mark of  passionate people is the depth of knowledge that they possess, and charlie and jan are passionate people, indeed!  when they began their pursuit of the gypsy horse breed they went right to the source–  ireland.  committed to hand selecting fine brood mares they traveled back roads for weeks assembling their new herd, and in doing so soaked up gypsy history and folklore, an understanding and respect for the culture of the gypsy people and the horses that served them, and discovered the incredible art and workmanship of the gypsy wagon, or vardo.  their knowledge is encyclopedic in its proportions, and it’s a bit like armchair travel to listen to the stories associated with what they brought back from ireland in addition to beautiful horses.

this is their vardo, a work of art on wheels, wheels that had to be removed in order to fit it into the shipping container that would bring it across the atlantic to its new home!



when i first saw this i felt like a kid peeking into a palatial playhouse.  the fine details and workmanship were a source of pride to the gypsies, and they would work long and hard to save up the money necessary to hire the best in the business to paint their wagon.


and just like other fine artwork, the artist’s signature identified the work as uniquely his.

this particular vardo was lovingly cared for and the original paint is now protected under canvas cover inside the barn.  not all have been this fortunate.  many have fallen into disrepair and neglect until the right passionate person comes along with enough time, patience, energy and enthusiasm to tackle a restoration…  ebay, anyone?


yes, this actually was an ebay listing, now being returned to its former glory.

i love that it comes with its own gypsy cat!

vardos were not the only form of transportation that the gypsies used.  their work often entailed the use of a flat cart:

and, because one passion often leads to another, good cart horses may need other good carts:


as well as someone to explain them

and something lovely to wear while pulling them.

returning to the topic of horses, the way that the horses were showcased that day allowed visitors to view them not only over the fences around their outdoor runs but also from inside the barns under shelter.  this was a very nice feature, trust me.  apparently i was extremely focused on my photography subjects that day, because when i downloaded the pictures it became very obvious that there was a distinct “relationship” between them…


between this and this,


this and this,


this and this,


this and this,


and this and this.

leannan and rose.

gorgeous, aren’t they?

is it any wonder that we had to have this?

our sweet little caoinlean, or quin.

daddy’s sweet disposition and soft face and mama’s overflowing mane.

he is the best of both.

also took quite a few photos of this sweet girl:


there would have been even more, but the crowd was thick inside the barn during the aforementioned snow squalls and i felt a little selfish keeping her all to myself…

but you can see how laoise, when combined with lake ridge british sterling,

could make us love our boy tireachan so much!

i apologize for not being a little more objective in my reporting, but when one falls in love with the gypsies all bets are off in the field of objectivity.

yes, indeed.  objectivity sprouts wings and disappears with the smallest gust of a fairy wind.

please come back.

i have more tails to tell…

One Comment leave one →
  1. wingedpaths permalink
    July 15, 2011 5:55 pm

    Goodness. I can’t believe it’s been so long since I visited your blog–I certainly didn’t mean to stay away so long. Those horses are so gorgeous–they remind me a little of some of the Icelandic horses I have seen on farms here. And that vardo is *amazing*! I would love to hear Charlie and Jan’s stories someday. =)

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