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The pure-bred Gypsy Cob foal is predicted to grow into a “whopper”. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Gypsy Cob colt born at Bullswool

A blue-eyed Gypsy Cob has been born to Gentle Annie and The Vicar at Bullswool Heritage Farm in the Karangahake.
For the better part of two weeks, the young colt has been sleeping, which his owner Sue Austen said was a good sign.
“He’s very playful and he’s very curious and he sleeps an enormous amount. When they sleep, they grow, so he’s going to be big. He’s going to be an absolute whopper.”
The birth of the foal on October 31 brings the number of Gypsy Cobs living at the farm park to seven, and the unique breed of horse has been admired by Sue and her mum Jan for a decade.
“When I was a teenager, I used to horse deal to earn money,” Sue told The Profile. “I’d buy horses and train them up and sell them on,” she said. “I used to do really well with quiet kids’ ponies, and I also used to sell ex-race horses.”
Sue would get enquiries from novice riders interested in buying her thoroughbreds, and soon found there was a real need for adult horses that were “quiet, nice, easy and fun”.
“And that was just going to be your best mate… like a kid’s pony.”

Sue Austen stands with the young colt and its mum, Gentle Annie. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

The Gypsy Cob, also known as an Irish Cob, Gypsy Horse, or Tinker Horse, is a breed of domestic horse from Great Britain and Ireland, and Sue soon discovered they were the perfect breed to fit the bill.
“They’re a small draft breed, and they’re the horses gypsies used to pull their vargos,” she explained, “and Gypsy Cobs are unique in a couple of ways. The flight reaction, which is inherent in most horses, has pretty much been bred out of them, so if something frightens them, they tend to engage with it and get curious.
“Also, they have a really strong connection to humans. The gypsies see you as two-legged members of their herd,” she said. “They’re very loving, affectionate horses that really want to be around their people.”
After travelling overseas and encountering the unique breed, Sue arrived back in New Zealand and talked to her mum about the idea to import them, because there were so few in the country at the time.

A blue-eyed foal has been born to pure-bred Gypsy Cob mare Gentle Annie and stallion The Vicar at Bullswool Heritage Farm in the Karangahake Gorge.

The first Gypsy Cob she imported was The Vicar – who arrived in Paeroa from America around 10 years ago.
At the farm park there is also a second stallion, a gelding, a mare called Good Penny, and her daughter Good Faith.
The birth of the unnamed colt is the fifth foal of Gentle Annie, who is named after a Celtic goddess of fertility. She stands around 15.1 hands high and is homozygous for colour, meaning that no matter who the stallion is, every foal of Gentle Annie’s will be broken-coloured like her.
Sue said the birth was always a stressful time.
“You just want your mare to get through it and be okay. Annie is really maternal so to lose a foal… you just really feel for the mares. You want them to be safe.”
Now that mum and foal have settled in, Sue said the young colt will join the other Gypsy Cobs in the top paddocks, away but still visible to the farm park’s guests.
“We want the foals to be actual horses and learn herd behaviour,” she said. “He’ll be in the farm park for a couple of weeks, and then he’s going to go off and learn how to be a horse.”