What is the Plan?

People have surprised me by asking me what my goal is with my breeding program, which possibly should not have surprised me so much but in 2006, I was of the understanding as many are, that gypsy horses were all this big wagon horse about 15 hands tall.  At that time I thought it was reasonable to want to have my own personal favorite size pony of 12-13 hands. I even asked the importer of that time, Jeff Bartko, about the availability of the smaller gypsy horses.  He said they were almost unavailable as far as getting them imported.  So, I happily invested in my Truffles and Lex pair which I have not regretted.  BUT the propoganda was rather misleading in my opinion, and I slowly learned and came to the realization that many of the horses imported to USA were smaller than promised, as well as there seem to be LOTS of pony size cobs in the UK/Ireland.  I was told that the Rom breeders often put small feathered pony stallions to bigger coarse wagon mares to get the preferred “Sweet” look and the size range of 14 hands tall which is the average size gypsy horse you find; but the range of size in the foundation stock is huge, 12-16 hands.  And some have focused on the smaller ones in more recent years so there are now some heavy feathered cobs in the 10 hand range.

So, once I realized that the 12-13 hand size in the USA would have limited appeal (I had people tell me to my face what an oddball I was in liking this size), and watching the market through these tough times, and getting older and appreciating the appeal of the miniature horse and its success in the American horse market (as well as a chance event in my life, obtaining a mini mare that was in foal to a 15 hand paint stud)….I decided I would re-focus my investment (this happened in 2009).  I continued to research the ability of small mares, specifically true old fashioned Shetland mares, to be able to carry foals sired by large horses.  There were several scientific studies done over the last 100 years to try to figure out this phenomenon….it was well noted thru the ages that little pony mares would get bred by and carry foals safely delivered from big stallions.  Just Google shetland shire breeding study and there is quite a bit of debate about the whole idea but also I talked with several “old timers” pony breeders in the midwest USA and the concensus was that pony mares had no birthing problems to any greater degree than any other healthy horse.  Here are a couple links to lead your way:


the above is an interesting discussion and has a surprising follow up near the end.  The original study from 1938 is worth reading:


My personal feeling is that nature developed a very hardy pony in the Shetland and other varieties over in the British Isles.  CENTURIES of survival made a creature that seemed to withstand certain environmental pressures handed to it.  So, when I was looking for broodmares of a size about a yard tall, I looked for traits that seemed “old fashioned.”  I wanted good bone, stout bodies and just the look of the old fashioned ponies.  It is a fact that nature rather takes care of itself; it’s when man takes the hand in matters different from what has happened for centuries, as in breeding for certain BIG traits or for VERY SMALL traits…in any animal, that is when you have increased birthing issues.  For instance, continually choosing for small pelvis, fine bone in miniature horses, there is increased birthing problems in mini horses under about 35″ tall.  Conversely, big boned horses with big shoulders as in the huge drafts, increases birthing problems.  American cattlemen had to pull back a few years ago from breeding to popular new sires in producing meat animals, the cows had many problems birthing bigger calves all the time.  Similar story with show sheep, people kept breeding bigger massive shouldered show sheep and more problems started occurring.  So, I am obviously well aware that there are risks with changing the horizon in horse breeding for this effort, but I looked at the risks realistically and tried to make the wisest decisions, while working to meet my goals of bringing the size down and inserting traits in the youngstock, to get to my goal of truly miniature size gypsy horses in an efficient manner.  I think that now in my third year of producing a few mini/gypsy crosses from yard tall mares and 13 hand stallions has been a resounding success.  I continue to look for people interested in going forward into the future with me– I would like to work together with some other cautious minded people who dream of a miniature gypsy horse.

Most people seem to still be faithful to the idea of a “purebred” gypsy horse and want to breed down the size staying true to the purebred herds of the Rom in Britain/Ireland.  I simply don’t have the patience or belief that working on the goal that way will come to any more realistic conclusion than the way I am doing it.  The falabella and shetland and welsh blood brings real qualities into the equation.  Breeders need to make good choices and have a goal for cob type in any case, and that will be the hardest part of the equation as we go into the future.  BTW I recently learned that other breeds of pony in the UK such as Fell pony had very small 10 hand size horses in it as recently as 50 years ago, so it is no wonder really that there are throwbacks as well that way.  But we also want to move past 10 hands to a smaller horse, don’t we really?  We still need to infuse smaller genes to do that.  I put it down on paper mathematically, as to the average size obtainable (and this was before I realized such success in size reduction in the first generation crosses mini X 13 hand cob) where the numbers seemed to hang at 12 hands.  But now I am much more excited with looking at my 38″ and under half gypsy stock that is getting on the ground!

So now I am entering into the miniature horse world via National Sport Pony exhibition for the time being; someday numbers will increase and people will be able to work toward a truly miniature gypsy horse breed using imported small gypsy stock as well as incorporating stock from North America and elsewhere.

I fully believe in the power of genetic diversity vs. inbreeding….breeding for TYPE is the most important thing, and maintaining the amazing temperament of these cobs.  I have been blessed to be able to form an amazing foundation for the miniature gypsy horse and I invite you to join me in my endeavors.

Sparky my 35″ tall halve gypsy stallion will be my first National Sport Pony registered horse with the Shetland club:


15 Responses to What is the Plan?

  1. Cheryl says:

    Well Done Mel….I am onboard and willing to offer what I can…

  2. Tina C says:

    Very interested in learning more about this. I have a 32 inch mini stallion, a 33 inch min mare, and a grade 33 inch mini mare. My daughter and I were commenting that the grade mare looks very much like a mini gypsy without as much feathering and we were thinking about trying to find a way to produce a mini gypsy type horse. It is neat to see that someone is doing this already.
    Tina C

  3. C.K. says:

    I am so utterly intrigued! I saw your ad in Horse Illustrated & was curious! I have been on the side line of the Miniature world for 9 years & have two registered Minis myself, including a 36″ mare. The thought of a truly Mini Gypsy is really exciting! I would love to learn more about the whole endeavor!

  4. Shirley says:

    Miniature Gypsy Cobs how exciting, love to hear more. I have three miniatures and a 13.3 gypsy cob mare. I have been trying to get my sister to make something we can dress the minis in to make them look like cobs as I thought that would be awesome.

    • minigypsy1 says:

      Thank you for comment, Shirley! The best way to stay current is on the group format “Mini Gypsy Horse” on Facebook…otherwise keep checking back once in a while as I hope to get back to updating this blog and hopefully pull together a new regular website this summer. Babies will be coming for the next month or so!

  5. Allie says:

    It is very interesting to read the plan. I personally like the bigger (up to 13 hh) miniature gypsy type (maybe they could be considered Gypsy minicobs) rather than the really small ones (Gypsy microcobs or “Toys”). I would prefer something that an older child or small adult could usefully ride, I can, however, really see the attraction of something that is small enough to conform to AMHR size guidelines and could compete against other miniature horses in the show ring and in driving. . My miniature horse friends indicate that the AMHR studbooks are now closed and there is no way that minis of other origin can be “hardshipped” into that registry. I am very familiar with the original type Shetland ponies but would wonder about the temperament and the ability to maintain silky feather in mini gypsies from that background. Many UK shetlands have hairy legs (especially in winter) but the hair is not the desireable, copious silky feather that colored cob enthusiasts are looking for. It will take some time to stabilize those traits in subsequent generations, I believe. I have seen some outstanding small Gypsy types in the UK which appear to have a good deal of Welsh section A in their background .(judging from their sweet pony faces) but which have much more cobby characteristics and silky feather. . Section A’s (Welsh Mountain ponies) are commonly smaller in the UK than in the USA.

    • minigypsy1 says:

      I don’t see that I replied to this comment so it must have gotten a quick approve and meant to get back to it, sorry for delay!!!
      I have been very very happy with the qualities I see in my own 3/4 ponies I have produced. Of course I always invested in the very very best stock I could start with and traits from both sides fully considered. I currently have a two year old colt 3/4 gypsy with excellent type and good enough feather I feel confident he is worth being my herd sire this year! I did have another really good 3/4 gypsy pony Doc, he was a little bit bigger and got to produce a couple babies a couple years ago for me, before he was sold, and I felt he produced as much feather in those two babies, as any purebred would have. So it gave me a ton of confidence to see that and continue to move forward. I continue to pay attention to all aspects of what makes a quality pony, temperament very first! conformation a close second an put the hair on for decoration….so I feel I am getting good results as quickly as anyone could expect. I have a two year old mini cross colt, son of the 11.3 hand purebred gypsy Wyatt who is now in Oregon, and this little bay colt Sparky is the next big thing as far as bringing down the size in these ponies, and maintaining the look and overall breed type. I plan to use him with at least one mare this summer; it is hard in a way to decide since I have a couple different things to consider with the excellent ten hand colt as well…they are unrelated so….I am anxious to see what Sparky can give me but really, his best input will be with daughters of Tuppenny and the purebred mares. So, it all takes a lot of time and planning, wish I could just wave a magic wand but ….IT IS COMING!

      • Allie says:

        It is always exciting to see what each new generation will give you. I look forward to hearing your news. I have two Shetland (American) mare x Fell pony stallion crosses. I am interested in crossing the mare with a mini Gypsy stallion at some point. Looking to breed her to a stallion with good leg length, nice shoulder, short coupled as well as copious hair and feathers.
        Someone posted a nice photo of a very small but type-y black and white colored cob on my facebook page recently. I believe the photo originated in the UK

      • minigypsy1 says:

        Allie i had fully intended to work on blog updates this summer and its just not happened. Facebook eats up my time like a black hole! I have a wonderful ten hand tall pony stud he was just two this year but i used him as my herd sire this year because i think so much of him. Please give me a call if you want to chat.
        309 540 0one8one

  6. minigypsy1 says:

    Thank you for note, Allie! Very exciting to hear your story with first steps in the program. Look forward to keeping in touch

  7. minigypsy1 says:

    btw, I use my personal page Melanie Block to a great extent on Facebook, as well as the group, Mini Gypsy Horse, that I started in 2012. If we haven’t already connected on facebook would love to hear from you

  8. minigypsy1 says:

    If anyone is interested in the most current happenings in mini gypsy horse development, please go to Facebook and join my Mini Gypsy Horse group; there is also a new effort to organize the development with membership, paperwork and registration. Please look up the new group page, International Gypsy Equine Association.

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