American enthusiasm for Gypsy horses from the UK has catapulted Gordon Boswell of Spalding’s Romany Museum i nto the ranks of the rich and famous.
Gordon (72), who founded the museum next to his home at Clay Lake in tribute to his own people and their culture, is up there with Winston Churchill, Mohammed Ali and Neil Armstrong.
All of them have been commissioned as Kentucky Colonels, an honour conferred by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame is one - he doesn’t owe his title to any military achievements but to his success in spreading the state’s name far and wide.
Gordon said: “Kentucky’s the American state most associated with horses and a few years ago American people started buying our black and white gypsy horses - they had nothing like them over there.
“They came to the Appleby Horse Fair where I’ve always gone every year and bought the very best Gypsy cobs, 40 mares at a time.
“They’ve actually taken the cream of England, as many as 500 horses have gone over and they’re breeding from them.
“They asked around for a Gypsy man who would travel to the US and talk about the horses and how they were bred - their history - and whoever they asked recommended me.
“While I was there I linked up with the official photographer for the Kentucky Derby who was writing a book about the Gypsy cobs.
“He invited me back to the States to promote the book with him, and I’ve been back several times since, once to open the first Gypsy Cob Show at the Kentucky Horse Park.”
Gordon was presented with his signed and sealed commission certificate as a Kentucky Colonel as a complete surprise.
He and his wife Margaret used to ride to Appleby Horse Fair up to six years ago in a traditional horse-drawn vardo, but since then have made the trip in more 21st century style - but they’ve kept their Gypsy cob horses.
He said: “Gypsy cobs were bred from Clydesdale heavy horses to be smaller and they have a great temperament.
“They should look as though they’ve had a bucket of white paint across them!”