Gypsy MVP strives to handle every situation with the utmost compassion. And we strive to please.
The Wonderful People at Our Magnolia Ranch in Katy, Texas
Erica is the operations manager for Magnolia Ranch and is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Gypsy MVP. She rounds out her duties as the head trainer for all Gypsy MVP horses in the US. Her job is to make sure horses are obedient in hand, and under saddle, for ring riding and trail riding, or any discipline a buyer wants their new horse trained for.
Every MVP horse Erica works with trailers, body clips, picks up feet, ties and has impeccable manners when it leaves the ranch. She will not hand the “keys” of a horse to a new buyer unless she knows they can handle the horse. She works directly with MVP horse purchasers to make sure that horse and owners are compatible, and she will not allow any MVP horse to go to someone she does not approve of.
Sometimes Erica feels that a horse is not right for a person or family. When this happens, she works hard with Doug Kneis and Anne Bevan, her UK counterpart, to find a horse that is a perfect fit. Erica has never met a horse she could not train, or a horse she did not like. She sees promise in every horse and gives each new horse her confidence and trust. Erica Barton-Holliday is a professional and an asset to the MVP team.
Doug Kneis is a life long horse lover. His passion started as a six year old with a room full of plastic horses on shelves mixed in with army men, tanks, cannons, and hot rods. Doug's wife Elaine convinced him to get back into horses in 1999. Doug started Gypsy MVP in 2001 after owning his first two Gypsy Vanners at a time when there were only twenty others of this breed in the United States.
Doug was a founding board member of the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society and was instrumental in helping the Society incorporate many years ago. He currently holds a lifetime membership status with them. He is also a founding and lifetime member of The Gypsy Cob and Drum Horse Society and a founding member of the Gypsy Horse Registry of America. In 2009 he became a member of the American Gypsy Horse Breed Association.
Anne is the president of Gypsy MVP UK, and she has the ideals of our vision: The horse always comes first, not the people that want it. She has taught the entire staff at Gypsy MVP why we do what we do. Anne has a gut-wrenchingly honest opinion on everything. She is honest whether you like her opinion or not!
Anne has spent her life with horses, and with Gypsy families living next door. She is trusted by not only us, our customers, and Gypsy families, but by anyone she meets. Anne also breeds Arabian horses by World Champion stock, and competes with great successes at the State and International level with her horses.
From Doug Kneis: "I was first introduced to Anne Bevan through a VHS tape that I received from a friend. She was real and funny, and she had a dilemma on her hands. Anne had grown up with the Gypsies and played with their children and horses since she was a toddler. She knew a Gypsy gentleman named Joe who had been a family friend for many years. Joe had a stallion, Dazzle, who was the envy of many other Romany families who were breeding the Vanner types. Joe had realized that his health was failing. Knowing that others had dreams of stealing this stallion from him, he decided that the best option for his beloved Dazzle was to leave him to someone he trusted. That person was Anne. And Anne needed help. She propped a camcorder, an ancient one at that, on top of a pillow in her living room in England and recorded Dazzle’s story. Her cry for help was the beginning of our relationship. Please, she said, take this stallion to America before he gets into the wrong hands here.”
Anne Bevan, her husband Simon, and daughter Charlotte have a life mission. They want Gypsy MVP customers in the United States to know that they will look after you and your best interests, but the horses come first. They will never let you buy a horse that is not a perfect fit for you and your family. Anne, Simon, and Charlotte are lifetime members of the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society US, and their goal is to do their best to safeguard Gypsy MVP clients in the United States from making a bad purchase.
I remember when Erica Barton back in 2008 said, "Doug my sister Jenny would like to photograph our horses." Never did I imagine what talent she would have. Jenny offers a different prospective, and it is a good one. Her son Dirk is always there. He may be the future MVP photographer. We are lucky to have her as part of our MVP family.
For prints or photo shots please contact Jennifer at: JenniferWilkening@SBCGlobal.net
Gerald R. Wheeler
Retired 2012~ Thank you Jerry!
A Horse Buying Experience in England
When one envisions a medieval English village, a place that much resembles Appleby would probably come to mind. In Appleby, the River Eden loops through a green valley, while a Norman castle stands guard over this sleepy, ancient town. But it is June now, and the peace and quiet has been replaced with the sounds of hoof beats, the creak of wagons, and the cacophony of voices shouting in every language imaginable. Children race horses down the streets. Colorful bow-top wagons line the roads up to the auction hill.
In the middle of it all is a wiry, middle aged, Texas oil man. Doug Kneis is in Appleby to attend the three hundred year old horse fair. Doug is buying, but he is trying carefully not to let any of the sellers know it. The Gypsies in town today are Irish and Scottish Travelers, or Hungarian-Slovak in origin. They might call themselves Black Dutch or Rom or Romnichels, but to the rest of the world they are simply the Gypsies, a nomadic people that many find both fascinating and mysterious.
This is the famous Appleby Gypsy Horse Fair, and Gypsies from all over Europe are here with their most beautiful horses. Most widely known as Gypsy Cobs, or Tinkers, and bred primarily to pull the richly decorated and ornate Gypsy bow-top wagons, the Gypsy Vanner represents the best of a century old breeding program of these magnificent horses. A “proper Vanner” as the Gypsies will say when describing the best bred horses, is suitable for pulling the vans the Gypsies call home.
The horses are amazingly beautiful animals that are both smart and friendly. Indeed, one of the first people to introduce the breed to America advertised them as “A Golden Retriever with hooves.” ™
How Magnolia Ranch Got Started
Doug got into the horse business in an odd way. His wife Elaine talked him into going to a horse show outside of Houston, and, unbeknownst to Doug, picked up a bidding paddle. When a lovely white Arabian came up for bid she handed the paddle to Doug and said, “I want that one!”
With a horse now part of the household, they decided to buy a few acres and build a barn. Maybe this was not the traditional way to go into the ranch business, but it worked for them.
One day Doug was at the feed store to pick up some treats for his new horse when he saw a package with a drawing of a magnificent horse with a long flowing mane and tail. “What kind of horse is that?” he asked the owner of the store. “I don’t know,” was the answer. “But he sure is pretty!” The image of the horse stayed with Doug, and when he got home, he called the company that manufactured the horse treat and asked them about that horse on the box.
“It’s called a Gypsy Vanner,” the representative told him, “and there are a few in America, but mostly the Gypsies of Europe have ‘em.” From that moment on, Doug Kneis pretty much gave up his day job in the oil patch and became a horseman.
He learned quickly that business with the Irish and Scottish Travelers or the Eastern European Gypsies was very difficult. First, there is no written record of the Gypsy horse breed. Despite this, the Vanner can be traced back to Clydesdales, Highland Ponies, the Friesian, Shires… but the rest is a mystery. It is known that the Gypsies set out to create a perfect caravan horse. The Gypsy Vanner had to be spectacularly pretty, but it also had to possess a number of other specific traits in order to fit the Gypsy lifestyle. This horse had to be very strong; it had to be small— no more than 15 hands high; and its temperament had to be friendly and engaging. Still today, if a horse flinches at the traffic whizzing by, or if it can’t be still while the children play around it, the horse is traded away. After all, its life will be spent pulling the family home in that Gypsy wagon.
Another factor that has made business with the Gypsy horse breeders challenging is reflected in the old saying, “Gypsy Gold does not clink and glitter, it gleams in the sun, and neighs in the dark.” Doug has also found there is a common belief that all Americans are rich—and that they don’t have much horse sense. Thus, while entering negotiations, as soon as he expressed his interest in a horse, its price shot through the cloudless northern British sky. Now Doug travels to the Appleby Horse Fair and feigns disdain over every horse he sees…while secret agents buy the horses for him.
Today on their small spread near Katy, Texas, not far from the skyscrapers of Houston, a herd of fifty Gypsy Vanners frolic in the green pastures of Magnolia Ranch. Lovely eye candy for anyone who should happen to drive by.
Doug swears he never meant to get this deep in the horse business; it just happened. That first horse he bought led to another, and then another, and before long people were driving by asking what those animals were with the hairy legs and flowing tails. The real cowboys and ranchers around Katy just didn’t get it. One said, “Why, they cost as much as a sports car!”, and that gave Doug an idea. He rented a booth at a prestigious New York luxury lifestyle car show and shipped a few of his stallions to the Big Apple. While the men milled around the Ferraris and Maseratis, the women and kids stood at the stalls and petted the Gypsy Vanners. Finally, one of his horses was marched up the red carpet for its turn at the auction. Frankly, no one was sure if the horse would sell here, but at least it seemed like a good break from all the high powered car auctions. But as this magnificent stallion named Warlock stood regally on the stage, the bidding took off. $45,000…50…60…80, and, finally, $125,000. Doug Kneis realized then, while in New York at a fancy car show, that he really was in the horse business.
Today, Doug sells his horses from $13,000 to well over $100,000 to people who are real ranchers, or want-to-be-ranchers. It is not unusual to have someone make a purchase, and then ask Doug and Elaine to board their horse until they can get a barn built, or, in some cases, buy a ranch for it.
These horses look like a child’s toy, which has led many young ladies to find them on the Internet and write Doug asking for one for Christmas. Recently, a little girl wrote to say she had seen Warlock’s picture on the Internet and had saved up $300 dollars to buy him!
Doug and Elaine love to show off their horses, and really hate to sell one. Like the Gypsies, their gold does not clink and glitter, it gleams in the sun, and neighs in the dark.