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Traditional gypsy horse fairs in the UK

Updated on June 23, 2011

Appleby horse fair

When: June every year
Where: Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria, Englan
How much: Free

Appleby Horse Fair is the largest and most well known equine market anywhere in the world. Every year thousands of Romany get together to meet up with old friends and conduct business. Appleby Fair runs for a week in June, ending on the 2nd wednesday in June, in the town of Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria. The horse fair is world famous and attracts a huge gypsy gathering.

One of the most spectacullar attractions that takes place at Appleby is seeing horses washed in the river. Taking place in June, the temperature is very warm and horses and their riders enjoy cooling off by riding into the River Eden.

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The fair has existed for horse trading since 1685 under the protection of a charter granted by James II. The sights, sounds and smells of the fair are incredible. Horses literally take over the village for a whole week. They can be found tethered to lamposts, outside pubs, walking along the streets and in the fields surrounding the village. Many travellers also park their caravans in the fields. For them it is an excellent chance to have fun with family and friends and trade horses.

The fair has become increasing popualr with photographers who want to try equine photography. Great photos of gypsies and travellers can be taken. Appleby horse fair is a must for horse fans everywhere.

Smithfield horse fair

Where: Smithfield plaza, Dublin, Ireland
When: First Sunday of every month from sunrise to midday
How much: Free

Smithfield horse market is Ireland's biggest horse fair. On the first Sunday of the month hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, converge on the Smithfield Plaza in Smithfield, Dublin. This rich mix of people includes traders, travellers, equestrian professionals and 'urban cowboys' who ride their horses on the streets around Dublin.

The 400-year-old market has grown since it started as a market alkongside vegetables and other livestock on the cobbled streets many years ago. Horses were then needed to plough the land or pull carts and Smithfield was where people went to buy an animal.

During the 1960s the market attracted a new type of customer - kids from the inner city council estates who bought cheap ponies to ride like they were bikes. This coinicided with the declining use of horses in farming due to the rise of the machine.

Unfortuantely there have been incidents of cruelty and crime at the market which have lead to attempts to close it down. However, the market remains a relatively safe place for tourists - as long as they keep themselves to themselves and look out for dangerous animals.

Photography is particularly popular at the market. Every month budding photographers attend to capture atmospheric shots. Amatuer filmmaker have also made short documentaries.
Smithfield horse fair is totally unique. Horse fans will love attending this. Try to visit it at least once as there is the possibility that it could be closed or moved in the coming years.

Stow-on-the-Wold horse fair

Where: Stow-on-the-Wold, Cheltenham, England
When: Nearest Thursday to May 12th and October 24th
How much: Free

Stow-on-the-Wold horse fair attracts hundreds of sightseers to Stow twice a year. Gypsies gather from all corners of England for a meet and greet and hundreds of horses are paraded and sold, all in one day. It's quite a site.

Stow fair started in 1476 and became one of the largest markets in the country. It's influence showed itself in the way farmers made their plans for buying and selling livestock and the agreements they reached when hiring workers.As the importance of sheep declined in the Cotswolds the character of the fair slowly changed and it became a horse fair favoured by farmers, huntsmen, professional horse dealers and gipsies.

Gypsies and travellers ooften arrive in traditional horse drawn caravans. The horse fair has therefor become popular with photographers, artists, and the public who don't want to miss the atmosphere of such a colourful event.

The charter granted over 500 years ago to hold a markket on the site still decide the dates of the fairs. The gypsies always come to Stow-on-the-Wold on the nearest Thursday to May 12th and October 24th.


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    • Rickrideshorses profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from England

      You're very welcome. Glad you enjoyed the pictures!

    • Cogerson profile image


      8 years ago from Virginia

      great photos...thanks for all the information


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