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Showing 101

Showing is exciting and can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re new to the sport. Even seasoned exhibitors get show jitters. Horse shows can provide a great new adventure for you and your Gypsy Vanner in addition to getting ribbons and awards. It’s a change of pace, a change of scenery and an opportunity to showcase your hard work. Here are a few tips to make the show experience an enjoyable and safe one. Happy showing!


Our shows are GVHS approved and use the GVHS rules so these tips focus on the GVHS rules so please check each show's rules. Always read all show rules in full.  Make sure you understand all of the rules.


Before the Show Preparations


Trailer your horse to different arenas so they can get used to traveling and new places. Practice loading and unloading.


Find a good trainer familiar with your discipline. Even if you have read every single book about horses and read every forum, a trainer will still be a huge asset to help you with riding or driving, and especially with showing. A good trainer will train you, as well as the horse. Be sure they understand the discipline that you have chosen.


Bring a friend on the day of the show – horse savvy or not. An extra set of hands can be a huge help! From holding brushes to wiping down boots, a myriad of last-minute details can be addressed in short order. It’s also nice to see a friendly face as you make your way to and from the ring.

Have your horse trimmed/shod a week prior.


Give your horse a good bath the day before the show. Put a clean blanket or day sheet on her so she does not get dirty when she rolls. Your horse should be sparkling clean for the show. Scrub the mane,  feather, and tail and make sure they are brushed and shining. Make sure that all white markings are spotless. Some people actually start bathing a week or two in advance of the show.


Make sure to get your entries in on time and to complete the entry form correctly. All GVHS horses and owners names must be listed exactly as they are shown on the GVHS registration.


Gypsy Vanners may be shown clipped or unclipped, both are equally acceptable.


Make a schedule to make sure you have time to prepare.


Pack in advance and use a checklist so you don’t forget anything. Pack water and snacks. The show may or may not have food and drinks readily available. Make certain to bring a cooler with an ample supply of bottled water, snacks/food items. Do not forget sunscreen and hat (for outdoor events).


Pack and clean your tack. For most disciplines, you will need your saddle, saddle pad, girth, stirrups, bridle and reins. For some, you will need special equipment, like breast collars, martingales, and other things. Be sure to check the rulebook for the required equipment.


Pack your show clothes. You will have to wear a number to identify you/your horse at the show. You will need something to attach the number- typical choices are string, safety pins (always good to have at a show), and two-sided magnets.



Typical Attire & Tack


Western attire typically consists of a sleeved shirt with collar, jeans or long pants/chaps with suitable boots and hat. Belts, gloves, ties, scarves, vests and jackets are optional. Helmets may be worn.

GVHS: Rider’s attire must include a long-sleeved shirt with collar, jeans or long pants, boots and hat. Optional attire to include tie, scarf, belt, gloves vest, jacket, and chaps and spurs. 2. Protective headgear may be worn by any exhibitor without penalty.


English attire typically consists of breeches in buff, grey or white, worn with black or brown tall show boots, a short traditional blue or black Hunt or Dressage style coat, with a shirt with tie or choker. Black gloves are recommended and an approved helmet must be worn.

GVHS: Riders should wear a short traditional Hunt or Dressage style coats made in a conservative color, i.e. black, navy, tweed, melton, or plaid, or other dark customary color and of a material appropriate for the area and season. 2. Traditional breeches or jodhpurs in buff, grey, white, rust, or canary worn with black or brown hunt or field boots should be worn. Half chaps are permitted. 3. Riding equestrian safety helmets must be worn in blue, black, or brown. See General Conduct Rules for safety helmet requirements. 4. Gloves, crops, bats, and spurs are optional. 5. If spurs are used, spurs must be made of metal. Only English-style spurs are permitted, as described below. The shank must be either curved or straight pointing directly back from the center of the spur when on the rider’s boot. If the shank is curved, the spurs must be worn only with the shank directed downwards. However, swan necked spurs are allowed. The inside arm of the spur must be smooth and one or both arms may have rubber covers. If rowels are used, they must be blunt/smooth and free to rotate. The maximum length for spurs used is 2 inches including rowels.



In Driving Gentlemen must wear a coat or jacket. Ladies must wear a conservative dress, tailored suit, or slacks. Drivers must wear a hat or helmet and gloves. Apron or Knee rug is optional with GVHS.

GVHS: Attire‐Drivers  1. Drivers and passengers should be dressed conservatively according to the style of the present day. Exception: when showing traditional Gypsy vehicles, drivers and passengers may dress accordingly when there is a separate traditional vehicle class. 2. Gentlemen must wear a coat or jacket while appearing in any class unless excused from doing so by the judge or competition management. 3. Gentlemen are requested to remove hats while accepting awards. 4. Ladies must wear a conservative dress, tailored suit, or slacks. Floppy hats are discouraged. 5. Drivers must wear a hat, and gloves. Apron or Knee rug is optional. 6. Protective head gear is acceptable in all classes. Attire‐Grooms  1. Grooms of either sex may wear stable livery in any but the more formal vehicles where full livery is appropriate. Where it is specifically allowed in the Prize List, less formal attire may be appropriate, but it should always be neat and clean. In all classes grooms shall wear a hat or protective headgear. 2. Stable Livery consists of one of the following; a. A conservative suit, white shirt, dark tie, derby, dark shoes and leather gloves. b. A conservative jacket, jodhpurs or drill trousers, jodhpur or paddock boots, white shirt, stock or four-in-hand tie, leather gloves, derby or conservative cap. c. Hunting attire with hunting derby or bowler. 3. Protective headgear is acceptable in all classes


English Tack usually consists of: A Hunter (Snaffle, Pelham, Kimberwick bits permitted) or Dressage (without a drop, flash or figure eight noseband) bridle, a hunting style breastplate, an English all-purpose, or dressage saddle made of leather or synthetic material and a white saddle pad.

GVHS: Bridles shall be the light show type either Hunter (Snaffle, Pelham, Kimberwick bit permitted) or Dressage (Snaffle bit permitted.) Gag and twisted bits of any type are prohibited. Figure eight nose bands, drop or flash noseband are not permitted. 2. Hunting style breastplates are allowed. However, martingales of any type are prohibited. 3. Draw reins, artificial appliances, boots, and bandages are prohibited. 4. A judge may penalize a horse with a non-conventional type of bit or noseband. 5. English Hunt, all purpose, dressage or sidesaddles made of leather or synthetic materials are permitted. Saddle pads are required. 6. All tack should be clean, properly fitting, in good repair. 7. Manes and tails may be braided. Unbraided manes and tails are not to be penalized.


Western Tack usually consists of: A western style saddles with an appropriate saddle pad, a western style bridle and a breast collar. Please see additional rules on specific bits and reins in the GVHS show rules for specifics.

GVHS: Western style saddles, including side saddles (with proper attire), with either square or round skirt with the appropriate Western saddle pad. Western style bridle with split reins. Breast collars are optional. 2. Stallions must be shown in a bitted bridle, with either smooth snaffles or a Western curb bit. Hackamores and Mechanical Hackamores are not permitted 3. All tack should be clean, properly fitted and in good repair. Either leather or synthetic is permissible. 4. Hackamore means the use of a flexible, braided rawhide, leather or rope bosal, the core of which must be flexible. A hackamore must use a complete mecate rein, which must include a tie-rein. Absolutely no rigid material will be permitted under the jaws, regardless of how padded or covered. Horse hair bosals are prohibited. This rule does not refer to a mechanical hackamore. Riders are required to ride with two hands. 35 5. Snaffle bits mean the conventional O-Ring, egg but or D ring with a ring no larger than 4” in diameter. The inside circumference of the ring must be free of rein, curb or headstall attachments which would provide leverage. The mouthpiece should be round, oval or egg shaped, smooth and unwrapped metal. It may be inlaid, but smooth or latex wrapped. The bars must be a minimum or 5/16” in diameter, measured one inch in from the cheek with a gradual decrease to the center of the snaffle. The mouthpiece may be two or three pieces. A three piece, connecting ring of 1 ¼” or less in diameter, or a connecting flat bar of 3/8” to 3/4'” measured top to bottom, with a maximum length of 2” which lies flat in the horse’s mouth, is acceptable. Optional leather strap attached below the reins on a snaffle bit is acceptable. Riders are required with ride with two hands. 6. A standard Western bit is one that has a shank with a maximum overall length of 8 ½ inches. The mouthpiece shall consist of a metal bar which is from 3/8” to 3/4” in diameter, varying from the straight bar to a full spade. Jointed mouthpieces are permitted. Flat leather chinstrap, other than the buckle(s), must be at least ½” in width. Any device made of wire, metal, or rawhide used in conjunction with or as part of leather chinstrap is prohibited. Curb chains are allowed and must be at least ½” in width and lie flat against the jaw. Riders are required to ride with one hand and hands must not be changed during class. 7. Once a horse is shown in a standard Western bit, it may not go back and be shown in a snaffle bit or hackamore in the Western Division at the same Competition. 8. Split reins or closed reins with romal are equally acceptable. When split reins are used and the ends fall on the side of the reining hand, one finger between the reins is permitted. If the split reins fall on the opposite side of the reining hand, no finger is allowed in between the reins, and the ends must be held at least 16 inches from the reining hand. When closed reins with romal are use, the end may be held by the rider provided it is held at least 16 inches from the reining hand. When a hackamore is used, attached reins may be of hair, rope, or leather. 9. Martingales or tie downs are prohibited. 10. Whips are not allowed; exception for a side saddle.


Show Day Preparations


Arrive on time. Check in during office hours.


Get your horse used to the new surroundings. Lounge or ride your horse to burn off extra energy and/or warm up. Try not to take up a large area of an already tight warm-up space with lunging. Adjusting your hours to early mornings or late evenings to lunge will find a more spacious ring to utilize. Walk or ride your horse in the indoor ring, if possible, to get him accustomed to the new surroundings. You may need to arrive early before classes begin in order to do that. Patterns should be memorized before the warm up so the rider feels confident and prepared.


Spot clean and groom the mane-either braided or brushed out. Groom the mane as your discipline requires: either braided, banded, clipped or natural. Horses may be shown clipped or unclipped, both are equally acceptable. Body clipping or saddle pad clipping will not be discriminated against with GVHS. There may be a small bridle path clipped, or a single braid to keep the halter or bridle in place. When showing under saddle or in harness, horses with very long thick foretops must have the foretop banded, braided, and/or tucked under the side of the bridle or in some way prevented from impairing the horse’s vision. Braiding is acceptable in classes where braiding is traditional for that class (i.e. Hunt, Dressage) Braiding is optional in English or Western Performance classes. All types of braids are permissible.


It is always a good idea to watch other classes before you enter the ring.


Know the show schedule and listen to the announcer for any changes. You do not want to miss your class or be too early and have to wait!


1 hour before your first class: get all your show clothing on and learn the pattern if there is one. Have a friend help you pin your number on. It is very important that you wear your number anytime you enter the show ring, and make sure you are wearing the correct number! Dust off your saddle and boots.


45 minutes before your first class: start getting your horse ready. Classes are sometimes canceled, so plan to start tacking up 4 classes before the class you are entered in. You do not want to be late and miss your class. Apply the finishing touches. Spray the horse's coat with a shining spray and brush through his mane and tail one more time if it's not braided. 


30 minutes before your first class: Ride around before your class. Breathe, and don't get nervous. This is all about having fun! Enter the ring when the announcer or gate person calls for your class. Visualize yourself riding perfectly, take a deep breath, and go!


Smile! Judges love a genuine smile. Enjoy yourself! Shows can be exciting and stressful not only for humans but for horses too. New scenery, scary buildings, and noisy crowds often make horses nervous.


Love your Gypsy Vanner even if you don’t place or win. 


Demonstrate good sportsmanship. Be a positive role model. HAVE FUN!




A Green Horse is in its first competition year of showing in any performance discipline.


Age of Equine is considered one year old on the 1st of January following the actual date of foaling.


All horses must be 3 years of age to be ridden under saddle or driven.


A Junior horse is one that is five years or under.


A Senior horse is one that is six years and over.


Youth has not reached his/her 18th birthday as of January 1st of the current competition year. Youth must wear a helmet.


Amateur is 18+ as of January 1st of the current competition year. Follow the GVHS rules to get your amateur card. An Amateur exhibitor does not receive monies/reimbursement for any type of horse training in any breed or discipline. An amateur is an amateur regardless of one’s equestrian skills and/or accomplishments, is an amateur for all competitions who after his/her 18th birthday, has not engaged in any of the following activities which would make him/her a professional. a. Accepts remuneration for riding, driving, showing, training, schooling, or conducting clinics or seminars.


An Open Class is open to all horses & riders of any age regardless .


Walk,Trot/Jog horses will not be asked to canter/lope. The same Horse/Rider cannot show in both walk/trot and walk/trot/canter classes.


Equitation focused on the rider’s skill, position, seat, hands use of aides and ability to control and guide the horse.


Pleasure focuses on the horse being a pleasure to ride with a quiet, responsive mouth and smooth, balanced, willing gaits. 


Judged Event  In these classes, the judge picks the winners by observing all exhibitors in the class and deciding which horse/exhibitor, in his/her opinion, performed best in the class. Check the rulebook for specifics on what the judges are looking for. Another judge might see it differently, and if you attend a multi-judge show, you could be amazed at the disparity of opinions regarding competitors in the same class. It is not that one judge or the other is wrong, but no one can see the entire field of competitors at the same instance. Also, keep in mind that Judges are human, and occasionally don’t see riders’ mistakes in the ring, or they make a mistake themselves, they try very hard not to, but it does occasionally happen.   


Know your tail ribbon colors! Check the show rules for the appropriate colors.






Q&A - Answers to Typical Questions about our breed


Q: Where does the breed come from?

A: They were originally bred to be the perfect horse to pull the Gypsy caravan in England and Ireland. 


Q: How tall are they typically?

A: They are often referred to as a “people-sized” draft horse. There is quite a range in size but the majority of the breed stand 13.2-15 hands with many above and below that range.


Q: What are they typically used for?

A: They were originally bred to pull the Gypsies living wagons so they make excellent driving horses. You will find them being used in all disciplines. They are typically willing to do anything their owners ask of them- riding in the dressage ring, over fences, western pleasure, hunt seat, trails- whatever! 


Q: What colors can they be?

A: Gypsies come in all colors.  The most common colors, however, are piebald (black and white) and skewbald (brown and white).  All colors are accepted. You will see roans, buckskin, duns, palominos, silver dapples, perlinos, cremellos...


Q: How long does it take to groom them?

A: It does take a bit longer to groom a Gypsy than many other breeds. Their feather and manes do take a little extra time but it largely depends on where you live and the conditions of where they are kept.


Q: What are the main features of the breed?

A: They are generally most recognized for their beauty, heavy feathering, and long flowing manes and tails.  But as a breed characteristic, their most notable strength is their easy-going character/kind nature/ and versatility.  These horses have draft blood in them, along with different breeds of ponies and were truly developed to be a working breed. They are extremely intelligent, tractable, and very versatile. They are also very people oriented and very much enjoy regular human interaction.  The Romany peoples required a breed that was easily handled/adaptable to many situations, and able to work.  



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Please email us your questions and we will do our best to answer them.

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