Friday, October 14, 2016

Gypsy Vanner Horses in East Tennessee

During our drive through Roane County Tennessee searching for a number of historic places, I decided that the ladies would truly appreciate a diversion from our mission.  I set course along the back roads to take a look at a relatively newly recognized breed of horse…the Gypsy Vanner.

My route led us to the LexLin Gypsy Ranch near the eastern shore of Watts Bar Lake and south of Rockwood Tennessee.  The ranch was founded by Eric and Mechelle Barton.  They fell in love with Gypsy Vanner horses in England and Wales.  When the opportunity presented itself, they decided to build a business breeding these interesting and beautiful horses here in the USA.

The Barton’s, with their family of 5 children, started building LexLin Ranch with their importation of 7 Gypsy Vanners or Cobs from England.

At 35 years of age, Eric Barton had stepped aside as the President and CEO of Reylant.  RELYANT Global is a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business headquartered in Maryville Tennessee that employs approximately 200 staff worldwide.  Established in 2006, the company specializes in construction, military munitions response, environmental services and global development support services.  The company operates in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the United States, the Pacific and South America.  They provide construction, spray foam insulation, life support, vehicle maintenance and a variety of other services to government and commercial clients in the Middle East and elsewhere. 

Eric served as a Marine beginning at the age of 17.  At one point he served as a Senior Analyst for the Combined Joint Task Force at the Horn of Africa/National Intelligence Cell.  He also served as a chaplain.  In addition to LexLin Gypsy Ranch, he operates an overseas manpower and training organization. 

This photo of a team of beautiful Gypsy Vanner Horses pulling a traditional looking gypsy or Roma wagon was borrowed from the Internet.

From about 1850, travelling people (Gypsy, Roma or Pavee peoples) in the British Isles began to use a distinct type of horse to pull their vardos, the caravans or wagons in which they had just begun to live and travel.  The color and look of these sturdy horses were refined in the years after World War II.  Horses of this type were first imported into the United States in 1996. 

What a beautiful 'borrowed' photo of a beautiful and powerful horse!

The Irish Cob or Colored Cob, Gypsy Cob and Tinker Horse, known as the Gypsy Horse or Gypsy Vanner in the United States is a small, solidly-built horse of cob conformation.  They are often, but not always, piebald or skewbald.  These are the only broken-colored horse breed of the British Isles.  There was no stud-book or breed association for horses of this type until 1996.  It is now considered a breed and they can be registered with a number of breed associations. Other names for this breed include Gypsy Cob and Tinker Horse.  

In this photo, Dawn Marie is petting a young Gypsy stallion.  The breed is calm and gentle, has a great temperament and is eager to please and work.  They make great family horses…

LexLin Ranch is in the business of breeding and selling top quality Gypsy Vanner Horses.  The ranch is one of the largest Gypsy Vanner ranches and breeding facilities in the United States.  When you consider that the first of these horses wasn’t imported into the USA until 1997, the growth of this horse’s popularity is stunning.  There is at least 1 Gypsy Horse Ranch or breeding farm in 39 of the 50 States.  Tennessee has 4 and Florida has so many that the list of facilities in that state is broken into 3 different alphabetical groupings!

We drove on past the main stable toward the offices.  We parked and some staff members working with the horses told us that we could look around.

Laurie took this photo of one of the stallions.  I went on-line and I’m pretty sure that this is TN Honey.  This Gypsy Vanner/Gypsy Cobb stud stands 14.2 hands tall and he weighs around 1,100 pounds.

Two of the ranch’s staff members were in a nearby corral tending to and getting attention from a large group of mares.  Nearby stallions were all paying close attention to the activity!

Feathering or "Feather", long hair starting below the knee of the front legs and the hock of the hind legs and running down the leg to flow over the front and back of the hooves, is a highly valued attribute of the Gypsy Horse.

Laurie took this photo of a mare and her foal... This photo with the stock fence as a reference, gives you a good idea of the typical size of a Gypsy Vanner horse.  They have an excellent disposition and they're very curious.

Gypsy horses tend to be very hairy! Most will have a long mane and tail.  Some even have a double mane, where the mane is as thick and long on both sides of the neck.  But they also have lots of body hair…beards, shaggy winter coats, long belly hair.  Some will have this coveted “lucky mustache” on their upper lip.  

A true Gypsy breeder (in England or Wales) would supposedly never clip or trim the mustache or beard, but some breeders in the USA tend to go for a cleaner look.  I borrowed this photo from the Internet but only because we didn’t get clear photo of a mustache on one of LexLin’s Gypsy’s. 

To learn more about LexLin Ranch and to see videos and photos of their Gypsy Vanner Horses, just go to  To learn much more about Gypsy Vanner horses, you can go to

Our next stop was just off of US Hwy. 27 between Rockwood and Harriman Tennessee.  This is a side view of the old John C. Martin home on Martin Road.  It’s part of the Valley View Farm property which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in March of 1997.  The last permanent Martin resident of this house moved out to a nursing home in 1994.  The current Martin family lives in a new home nearby so the old farm house, part of which dates back to 1870, is unoccupied.

After all of these years the farm itself, with about 259 acres, is still operating.  As per the application for the listing on the National Register, the entire property has much the same appearance as it did back in 1932.

This is a view of the front of the old Valley View farmhouse.  The historic Emory Gap – Jacksboro road flanks the east side of the farm.  That road dates back to between 1798 and 1805.  In addition, there are 2 cemeteries on the property, one dating back to 1901 and the other dating all the way back to 1865. 

The older burial ground on the Valley View property is called the Carter Cemetery.  Many of the folks buried there were from Browntown, a former mining community that has faded into the past and is now part of this historic site.  Many Browntown residents in that cemetery were victims of the 1918 flu epidemic.  Some remnants of Browntown and the mining efforts as well, are evident at the west end of the farm.  I couldn’t find any other information about Browntown except some death records that mentioned deaths of people from the town…

That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by to see what we’ve been up to!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. I can imagine Laurie was very happy about this stop. I'd never heard of this breed - they are interesting looking.

  2. What beautiful and regal horses! This is the first time I have heard of this particular breed. Fascinating and entertaining post, Dave, and beautiful photos! Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. David what beautiful picyures and amazing horses ;)
    Look stunning!!