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Hundreds of Gypsies descend on the New Forest with their ponies for annual horse drive event


Hundreds of riders and ponies descended on the New Forest, on Sunday afternoon as they took part in the biggest horse drive in England. 

The Danny Cooper New Forest Drive, a traditional family event which has been running for over 20 years, sees hundreds of riders in the gypsy community make their way across Hampshire’s New Forest.

Every August, people travel from Totton, near Southampton, Hants, through the national park.

 Hundreds of riders and ponies descended onto Balmer Lawn in Brockenhurst, the New Forest, on Sunday afternoon as part of the biggest horse drive in England. Pictured: Sisters Elise Davies, 16, and Molly Davies, 19, riding their horses

The Danny Cooper New Forest Drive sees hundreds of riders in the gypsy community make their way across the New Forest in convoy to raise money for charity (pictured)

The Danny Cooper New Forest Drive sees hundreds of riders in the gypsy community make their way across the New Forest in convoy to raise money for charity (pictured)

As well as showing off their horse's capabilities on dry land, the riders also took them through the water

Molly Davies rides her horse in the river

As well as showing off their horse’s capabilities on dry land, the riders also took them through the water. Pictured: Molly Davies rides her horse in the river

The horse drive is a traditional family event running for over 20 years in the New Forest and attracts lots of onlookers

The horse drive is a traditional family event running for over 20 years in the New Forest and attracts lots of onlookers

In a spectacular sight, the horses showed off their impressive skills and strength in the water as their riders also got a little damp

In a spectacular sight, the horses showed off their impressive skills and strength in the water as their riders also got a little damp

The journey takes them onto Balmer Lawn in Brockenhurst and ends back at the Cooper’s home in Totton where they have a party with music, singers and a DJ.

Visitors can buy and sell horses, harnesses and dogs at the event, named after Mr Cooper, a 75 year retired market gardener who used to grow strawberries.

His daughter, Tracey Cooper, 50, who owns a burger van which she takes to local events and horse shows, now organises the event.

She said: ‘It’s my dad’s drive. He started it with a few friends – about 25 people – now hundreds come. We have it every year from our family home and we try to keep it as well organised as possible.

Families gathered at the national park to show off their horses, some opting to go bare foot as they rode to avoid getting their shoes wet

Families gathered at the national park to show off their horses, some opting to go bare foot as they rode to avoid getting their shoes wet

The event takes place annually each August, and is an opportunity for people who attend to buy and sell horses

The event takes place annually each August, and is an opportunity for people who attend to buy and sell horses

Attendees were seen riding their horses around the fields as well as through the river as admiring onlookers watched on

Attendees were seen riding their horses around the fields as well as through the river as admiring onlookers watched on

Every August, people travel from Totton, near Southampton, Hants, through the national park as part of the event which attracts many spectators

Every August, people travel from Totton, near Southampton, Hants, through the national park as part of the event which attracts many spectators

‘We had people arrive here a fortnight ago from all over the country and some still haven’t left today.

‘Last year we were really busy because the weather was better. There were a lot of horses this weekend – I had to let them all out.

‘At each stop, we make sure the horses rest for two hours, unlike other drives and is family oriented. We like the horses to be well rested and we take them in the river to wash them off.

‘We don’t let the riders keep making the horses walk or run up and down. Horses are sold at the event – my dad bought a grey mare and put it in his stables this morning.’

The journey ends back at the Cooper's home in Totton where they have a party with music, singers and a DJ

The journey ends back at the Cooper’s home in Totton where they have a party with music, singers and a DJ

As well as watching the riders and ponies make their journey across the New Forest, visitors can also buy and sell horses, harnesses and dogs at the event

As well as watching the riders and ponies make their journey across the New Forest, visitors can also buy and sell horses, harnesses and dogs at the event

Two sisters, Molly and Elise Davies, and their horses, faced off beside the water during the event which drew attraction from people in the local area

Two sisters, Molly and Elise Davies, and their horses, faced off beside the water during the event which drew attraction from people in the local area

The event is named after Mr Cooper, a 75 year retired market gardener who used to grow strawberries. His daughter, Tracey Cooper, 50, now organises the event

The event is named after Mr Cooper, a 75 year retired market gardener who used to grow strawberries. His daughter, Tracey Cooper, 50, now organises the event

Attendees were seen riding their horses around the fields as well as through the river as admiring onlookers watched on. 

The horse drive featured in the Channel 5 series Here Come The Gypsies in April which offered viewers a glimpse into the traditions and daily life of traveller communities around the UK.  

During the show, it was revealed Danny, from Hampshire, feared the show was beginning to get too popular and out of hand. ‘If anybody gets hurt, I will call it a day. Anything can happen. One horse is a very powerful animal,’ he said. 

On the show his daughter Tracy also agreed with him. She said: ‘The main thing is getting everyone home safe. Which with this amount of horses, if everyone gets home without a blip, it’s a miracle.’ 

LIVING ON THE MARGINS OF SOCIETY FOR CENTURIES

Roma is a term for various groups who have migrated across Europe for centuries and are now the biggest ethnic minority in the European Union, most of them from countries like Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

There are an estimated 10 million across Europe and one in five lives in Romania.

Since their arrival in Europe from India some 700 years ago, they have been politically, socially, culturally and economically marginalised by the dominant population, who have consistently shown negative social attitudes towards them.

The vast majority live on the margins of society in abject poverty, which makes them easy targets in troubled times.

British Gypsies of the Romanichal and Kale Romani groups have lived in the UK since the 15th century.

The first Roma from the new EU countries, particularly from the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, came to the UK in the 1990s seeking asylum to escape persecution.

Since the enlargement of the EU many more have moved legally to the UK to find work, equal opportunities and a good education for their children and to escape racism and discrimination.

Source: Equality UK 



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