Romany Cobs at Appleby Fair
Where it all began - read on ...
Photos below: Appleby Fair 2010

My own gypsy journey began almost 5 years ago when I was selling a broodmare and being told about an Imported Gypsy Cob stallion standing at Stud in South Auckland. I have been involved with horses for 36 years, and yet my life was about to change unbeknown to me.
After a quick search on the net I got to meet my first Gypsy Cobs, a two year old colt and filly and a 3 year old filly. Words cannot describe what went through my mind meeting this breed for the first time. Hair like you have never seen before and not just mane and tail but legs as well. Extremely solid in build like a mini draft horse and tight and compact.

This was exactly what I liked in a cob and a fabulous height making them ideal for adults and children to ride. Docile was an understatement! I was privileged to witness a 10 year old boy climbing aboard the 2 year old gypsy cob colts back who was unbroken at the time. This little boy called him over to the gate so he could climb on board and he clambered on. Remarkably this colt cruised around the field as if taking the boy on a guided tour without a halter on, without a hint of any concern, placid and safe and yes I was sold.

The gentle nature of a Gypsy is undoubtedly one of a kind coupled with their willingness to work and learn with absolutely zero effort required. With taking on duties such as playing minder for the children and being part of the family has to be seen with your own eyes and I needed no further convincing. My Gypsy Cob journey was about to begin.

The next logical step was to book my mare in to this stunning stallion. My Gypsy Cob part bred buckskin filly was born just under a year later, and she is a remarkable model of a part bred cob and has taken very much to her Gypsy lines. Double mane, apple bum, that impeccable nature and love for children and people and yes she does have feather! A big solid very sweet filly indeed and the only buckskin partbred in Australasia at my time of writing.

My search for my own Pure Gypsy then became not just a dream but a reality after I started scanning the internet and researching about this breed. I must have looked at dozens of stallions and colts, mares and fillies. Feeling despondent I began to think that this wasn’t meant to be and that I would never find my dream Gypsy Cob. Then one day we a friend of mine sent through an email with photo’s of a stallion for sale in the UK. My heart skipped a beat and then and there I knew he was the one. Cutting a long story short the deal was done and Romany's Tinker Taylor travelled 20,000kms to his new home and arrived in NZ in May 2009. Due to popular demand and interest we decided to travel Romany's Tinker Taylor to Australia available at stud for the 2010/2011 breeding season. Currently in Sydney Australia, he will be showcased and campaigned both in hand and under saddle.

With a highly successful first breeding and showing season behind him here in New Zealand, up until his departure in June, Romany's Tinker Taylor was working in harness, collar and working a chain harrowing and pulling logs. En-route we organised to collection for frozen, and at the date of writing he is the only Gypsy Cob stallion in Australasia with semen available for International Export!

In showing Romany's Tinker Taylor had 2 show starts for 2 Supreme’s one being a North Island National event. Also awarded the NZ Champion Pinto cup and cleaned up the Marketing and Presentation Award and won a  cup at the 2009 Cambridge All-breeds Stallion Parade, so to date we couldn’t be happier with his outstanding achievements.

In December 2009, Romany Cobs purchased a purebred Gypsy Cob filly
of outstanding quality. We have since imported another 2 exceptional mares, from Sydney Harkers fields of gold in England. Both hand picked, and not for sale, and the BEST of his mares. 17 months later the latest mare is sitting in my paddock, my heart melts - she really is what this breed is all about, they don't come any better.



Appleby Fair England
June 2010

n June 2010 I flew to Appleby Fair, Westmorland, England and organised to meet several breeders of Gypsy Cobs. We were to visit their fields of gold! In England I met up with Deborah & Shaun of and we spent the next 2 weeks travelling and viewing different herds and breeders throughout England. We even made it to the South of England Show in West Sussex!

For me this was a trip of a lifetime and I made sure we made the most of it, living and breathing Gypsy Cobs and my Gypsy dream. For an entire week we spent time with breeders and their families,  from first thing in the morning to last thing at night.

Often decisions were made randomly, spur of the moment as to which breeder or fields to explore on any given day. Appleby Fair in it’s entirety was on fire, humming and spilling over with cobs and travelling families, visitors and tourists. Police came down hard this year, in full force to divert trouble and disarm trouble makers. Sadly the publicans closed the pubs, a lot of hotels refused to take guests, you felt the dissention in the air. I am told this is all due to the troubles of the past.

Travellers tell me that Appleby Fair isn’t anything like it used to be, that it is a mere shadow of what it was. I heard story after story from travelling families, growing up and their adventures at Appleby Fair. I personally noted on a daily basis that the Police this year did appear to harass and intimidate the travelling folk and families, I can understand why they feel resentful and hostile in return. Youth of today have also changed I am told and respect isn’t what it used to be.

The Gypsy Cobs and horses at Appleby Fair all seem to magically adapt and accept whatever is asked of them. Mares/foals, stallions all sharing a very close personal space. I still visualise the trotters, smashing their way down the roads – full speed ahead. They would fly past you at any given time, usually the driver bellowing out to let you know they are coming through. Every time one of these horses sped past me I’d feel the shiver down my spine. Those poor legs and high impact damage being caused, smashing along those roads.
 I didn’t photograph these horses with zero desire to do so. Pity and sadness comes to mind, such young horses with no doubt very short careers, resembling grey-hounds.

I did witness a wheel come off a cart as one of these trotters was pounding full speed down the mad mile and an innocent bystander was injured. No major damage done, both horse and bystander was ok.

Having lived and breathed Appleby Fair, day after day over the period of several days, I am happy to report that I didn’t see any tragic accidents or deaths, although Gypsy Families have told me some very sad stories of the past ending in tragedy. We were shown where the world famous “Davey Ward” was tragically killed as he was innocently driving his cobs in wagon along the dual carriageway in England.

We witnessed hundreds of wagons driving along motorway roads on their way to Appleby Fair. These amazing Gypsy Cobs, tirelessly driving and working their way up and down hills, along dual motorways with huge trucks whizzing by them. These magnificent horses travelling vast distance in all weather conditions, wagons and families in tow. Many Gypsy families begin their journey to Appleby weeks before the event actually begin. When the heat of the day cools, these travelling families would travel some more miles. These sights I will never forget.

Washing the horses down at the riverside at Appleby was a lot of fun with kids riding and swimming their cobs. The weather was extremely hot and the horses seem to enjoy bathing in the river.

We were hands on washing cobs and given some secret tips about the care and presentation of feather!
We led the cobs from Fair Hill down to the river and then back up which was fun.

An absolute hive of activity, you certainly have to have your wits about you the entire time at Appleby Fair to avoid injury or even being run over from where you stand! Negotiations and deals being done from all over, horses changing hands, gear being auctioned and we had rides in wagons from the river up to Fair Hill given that my heart was in my mouth the entire way. Certainly feel extremely vulnerable as a passenger in those carts with that hive of activity around you!


Then hopping out of the cart with the horse still walking, jammed up behind a truck, car hard up behind it, the horse rearing in anticipation of its journey, and so it goes on.

From Day one we stumbled across fields littered with Gypsy Cobs at Appleby. We tracked down and sought permission from the breeders/owners so we literally walked through fields photographing on a daily basis. I made this my daily mission to visit the fields every morning, it was a good few mile as a round trip and good for fitness!
The Gypsy Cobs all welcomed me daily, what magnificent horses and termperaments.

One such unfortunate dealing took place for us, on behalf of our buyer in NZ as we stumbled across a lovely big mare for sale at Appleby. I’d spent 3 days visiting up with the seller and the mare, even going as far to take her down to the riverside for washing and then back up Fair Hill. My buyers instructions were to purchase so I travelled back up to Appleby early evening and negotiated the deal. A few beers under his belt, the seller finally agreed to manage the pre-export for the mare and after some bartering he agreed to price. A slap of the hand secured the deal. I gave him a deposit and reported back to NZ that the deal was done!

Next evening I stopped by and the seller started changing the rules and in turn my stomach churned. After some further investigation I came to the conclusion that I’d be better off walking from this deal and although out of pocket I was somewhat the wiser and possibly lucky!
Just goes to show that we “live and learn” and be careful who you do business with! :o)

So an unpleasant experience under my belt, and I then figured that if it was meant to be then one of the cobs would make it known to me that they were going to pack their smalls and travel over to New Zealand and live out the rest of their life here with my family. Fortunately for me I was also keeping options open for two buyers in New Zealand, so despite the unpleasant prior dealings and monetary loss, I thoroughly enjoyed window shopping on others behalf, camera in hand.


We travelled out the next day with another world famous breeder, Robert Watson and to his fields. Various paddocks full of world quality class cobs. It was a jaw dropping experience and it was crystal clear that we would only find this sort of quality spending time with the likes of these breeders with generations of breeding behind them. England is breeding the smaller cob, short coupled, tight and superb quality, all delivered in a much smaller compact package. We viewed some breath taking Gypsy Cobs and were given a fabulous guided tour. Our day ended with a cup of tea with this family who welcomed us into their lives. I would have no hesitation recommending this breeder, they are a lovely family and we will go back to visit them again one day with more time to spare.
I would most definitely consider purchasing from this family in the future.


Our next venture outside the realms of Appleby Fair was to visit James Taylor, who by all accounts made a very good impression on me.

I really enjoyed this visit and viewed his stallions and Gypsy Horses in various fields. Fascinating discussing this families history and James was comfortable and happy to share information and knowledge.

On the last day in Westmorland we travelled to our last breeders home, and this was the visit I had waited what seemed like eternity. Sidney Harker, Simon Doherty and their family were very welcoming.

With 6 generations of breeding coloured horses, from the 1900’s and some of the world famous lines highly sought after today.

I had been communicating with Sid and Simey for around a year prior to this trip and I couldn't wait to meet them and their horses.
On entering each paddock Sid would call to his horses and the cobs would all gallop up to the jeep. I’d then jump off the jeep, camera in hand and walk amongst them all, stallions inclusive, checking them all out one by one, trying desperately not to miss any out as I endeavoured to get around them all. Unfortunately we didn't have enough time with this breeder, even 3 days wouldn't be long enough. What I especially noticed about these fields was the quality glistening in the paddocks. I felt certain that my next Import would make herself/himself known.

In the last paddock we entered, one mare made a huge impression on me, and I was behind my big lens taking photos. I introduced myself to her and she is an exceptional quality bred mare. Solid doesn't even come close to describing her build, she had the wow factor. Just when I thought I’d escaped all the breeders fields - she obviously had other ideas and thought she’d tell me all about it. View some of their stallions being showcased. I also made a video up showing some of their cobs.

Finally we drove to the other side of England and I met up with another very well known family in Southend, who have bred cobs for generations. Although a fleeting visit this breeder showed me some very impressive gypsy cobs. Unfortunately I ran out of time and  had to leave many of his fields unexplored. Fortunately we have gained another special contact in the UK with quality horses and lines.

Here lies the mystery that surrounds these Gypsy Cobs.
For Romany Cobs we are well into our journey and it just keeps getting better. We are importing again, and let you know all about it in due course. I can't wait! Sadly we missed out on visiting with other breeders that we had initially scheduled to visit. We simply ran out of time! What a fine excuse for a return visit!

For Romany Cobs, it was back to business here in NZ and the daily demands and drill of running our companies and raising our young family. I felt pretty ripped off coming home and having to venture out in the cold, feeding out the stud horses when just the week before I was putting sunblock on soaking up the sun rays in England.

I guess we need to bee grateful that we don’t have snow to contend with in our country or the dreaded winters of England to endure.
All very surreal and at times hard to believe that I was a part of that adventure! Fortunately I have my dozens of photographs thanks to my big lens and a very supportive husband!

Have I learnt anything from that trip?
Yes indeed! Positive and negative experiences.

Would I import and purchase ‘sight unseen’ from the UK?
If I was to consider this I would only use the few trusted contacts I have met and know personally.

I can honestly attest to the fact that I liked the quality bred cobs in the breeders paddocks listed above and I would import from either one of these people in the future.

















June 2010

I stayed in a B&B in the town of Appleby in a very small single room. I was lucky enough to literally "live and breathe" this fair being so close and made the most of my visit. The atmosphere and the people were electric! In the evenings I'd wander up to the Fair which would come alive with cars and young people, very expensive cars and loud music. I met a great deal of people and made many friends. Many stories were told by the older folk which I enjoyed hearing. Personally I was lucky enough to experience exactly what being at Appleby Fair is like as being a part of it all and not just seeing as a passing tourist or visitor. Everyone knows everyone at Appleby Fair and they all knew me with my camera and lens.

Appleby Fair coincides with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history month, which is designed to help people understand and celebrate the role Britain’s 300,000 Gypsies, Roma and Travellers have played in living, working and travelling throughout Britain for the last 500 years. To find out more visit

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