Appleby Horse Fair: Tradition Tinged with Tragedy

Yesterday was the closing day of Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria, England. As noted in a blog post last week, this is one of the world’s last great gypsy horse fairs. Gypsy and traveller horsemen from all over the British Isles travel by every conveyance (including traditional gypsy horse-drawn wagons) to sell their horses. The most coveted are what we now call in America, the “Gypsy Vanner” type, a small draughty, cresty-necked, loudly-colored pinto with lots of feather and pizzazz.

In spite of the presence of 12 inspectors from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), there was a sad mishap this year. One of the big parts of the “show” is the washing of horses in the river. It’s a slippery slope down to the river, and the RSPCA helped out by building a horse-friendly ramp.

But apparently one fellow was showing off and forced a very skittish horse into the river. The horse panicked and drowned right in front of a crowd of onlookers on the riverbank.

Sure, there are pictures on the web if you want to do a Google news search. A bit too sad for me to post, though.

The gypsy vanners who have made it to America and are fluffed and polished by loving owners are the very, very lucky ones of their type.




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