I often find myself on the fringes of the Fell Pony community because of my interest in and experience with working draft ponies. At the same time, I am on the fringes of the draft horse community because I work ponies instead of ‘real work horses’. So I read with great interest the other day a write-up of a judging clinic on Gypsy Horses written by a draft horse judge. (1) Gypsies are at least as unusual as Fells in the draft horse world, and the author of the write-up indicated that indeed they were relatively new to him.
I met Bud Walsh two years ago at a book signing I was doing in Loveland, Colorado. He had found out about it because I had let the Colorado Draft Horse Association’s local membership know that I would have a Fell Pony at the book signing in case they were interested in seeing one in the flesh. I enjoyed talking to Bud and his wife Jodi then. A few months later I talked to Bud again about his judging work.
In November of 2011, Bud attended a clinic in Texas for prospective judges of Gypsy horses. It was Bud’s write-up of this clinic that I found so interesting. One of the things of note was that people in the Gypsy Horse community here had expressly sought him out as a judge because of his draft horse background. They felt that the judging panels were too heavily weighted toward light horse people who might not appreciate the demands placed on the breed by its historic work.
Bud also confirmed an observation I’ve made about judging: that while all judges evaluate the equines before them against the same breed-specific criteria, they also all have their own preferred ‘type’ that influences their judging. Therefore the same horses might be put in a different order in the same class by two different judges.
The clinic was set up by the Gypsy Horse Registry Association, and during one afternoon the Gypsy Horse inspection system was presented. It appears this is a card-grading type evaluation where horses are rated with a point system (as opposed to a competitive system that ranks each horse against others.) A similar system is used by the Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry, which allows breeders to ‘advertise how their stock has been rated against standardized breed-specific criteria.’
On a lighter note, I loved Bud’s comment, “This breed is by far the highest maintenance equine I have ever come across when it comes to hair.” I know, from my draft perspective, that hair is more a nuisance than a favorable feature, so I could certainly relate to his comment. I’ve also shied away from having a gray Fell Pony with its light coat because it seems like it would be harder to keep clean than the darker colors.
I thanked Bud for his write-up, and he replied a little apologetically about its length. I responded that as a draft person, a rare breeds person, a working pony person, and a breeder concerned with conformation, I found it quite interesting and not too long at all. I have heard from at least one other person with interests similar to mine that it was of interest, too. All in all, it was nice to have some company on the fringe!
1) Walsh, Bud, and Jodi Walsh, editor. “A Draft Horseman’s perspective on learning about a little known breed….Gypsy Horses,” in the March edition of the newsletter of the Colorado Draft Horse Association.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012