Stevie Down: Breeding Gypsy Cobs the Romany Way
By Wylleen May
Stevie Down is part of a vanishing breed. He is a true Romany Gypsy who is proud of his heritage and continues to follow in the footsteps of his forefathers. This tradition includes breeding Gypsy Cobs.
Listening to Stevie Down talk about his horses is fascinating. There is undisguised pride and real passion in his voice as he explains, “My father and grandfather were both breeders. I learned everything I know from my dad. He could not have been a better teacher.”
Photo: Janey Down
The goal of SD Farm's breeding program is to produce Gypsy Cobs with correct conformation and a reliable temperament.
How well he learned the lessons taught by his father is evidenced by the impressive herd Stevie now owns. Between his original SD Farm in the UK, and a second SD Farm in California, Stevie’s horses number over 1000 and are a sight to behold. Quality is the buzz word for Stevie and all of his breeding acumen is directed toward that goal. Stevie is all about conformation, and a Stevie Down bred horse has a nice, short back, sweet head, good bone, flat joints, and lots of feather.
“As a young boy my dad would send me and my brother to town with a dray and a load of logs. We would sell the logs and pick up scrap. Then it was back to the wagon. Sometimes it was 20 miles each way. It was just us: two boys and a stallion. That is why a proper Gypsy Cob had to be bred to do a day’s work.”
Photo: John Hockensmith
SD Jim is one of SD Farm's foundation stallions, and a half-brother to SD Jack (pictured in main article photo).
While neither Stevie nor his children are hauling a load of logs today, Stevie still believes in breeding the traditional, reliable Gypsy Cob. He is concerned that improper breeding will result in a horse which is no longer bred to do a day’s work and lacks the temperament that allowed Stevie’s father to entrust his children to the good offices of his stallion.
Stevie has a unique perspective on the art of breeding. He does not subscribe to the popular philosophy that it is the stallion alone that determines the quality of any offspring.
“It is impossible for a stallion to fix a problem mare,” Stevie says. “Both sides of the breeding equation have to be top notch if you want to breed the best foals possible.” Strolling through any of Stevie’s pastures, it is easy to see that he practices what he preaches. The mares of SD Farm are as traditional in their make and shape as their male counterparts.
Photo: Wylleen May
Stevie, shown here with two of his daughters, is breeding "the horse my ancestors bred before me, and the horse I am teaching my own children and grandchildren to breed."
When asked what he has planned for the future of SD Farm, Stevie explains, “My partner and I would like to see the quality of this horse preserved...in my opinion too many people are losing sight of what this horse was bred to be. Here at SD Farm we will always breed a nice, heavy, traditional Gypsy Cob. It is the horse my ancestors bred before me and it is the horse I am teaching my own children and grandchildren to breed.”
For more information about Stevie and SD Farm, visit www.sdfarmgypsyhorses.com.
The author, Wylleen May, is Stevie Down’s partner in SD Farm. Wylleen is a television executive who currently oversees several productions including American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance.
Main Article Photo: John Hockensmith - SD Jack is one of SD Farm's foundation stallions and has sired some incredible horses.