[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
September 21
1974 - COC's new Cougar Stadium opens for first game of football season; Harbor beats COC, 26-21 [story]

Acton horse breeder is also executive in charge of production for "American Idol"and "So You Think You Can Dance"
| Sunday, Jan 13, 2013
SD Farm video, followed by a clip of Flash William in Acton
A Gypsy Cob horse pulls an 80-year-old gypsy flat wagon in the 2013 Rose Parade.

A Gypsy Cob horse pulls an 80-year-old gypsy flat wagon in the 2013 Rose Parade.

High-stepping horses and colorful equestrian groups have livened up the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena for the last 124 New Year’s Days now. But a relatively new breed of steed called the Traditional or Proper Gypsy Cob made its Rose Parade debut in 2013, and the stallions and geldings all came from the Santa Clarita Valley, specifically SD Farm West in Acton.

Combining power, grace, beauty and an easy-going temperament, Gypsy Cobs have been bred in England over the past 200 years by three generations of the Down family. Stevie Downs, who heads the original SD Farm in Wantage, England, about 75 miles west of London, is legendary in worldwide equestrian circles as a Romany Gypsy horse breeder. His British herd numbers around 1,000 horses.

A shared love of the wooly-legged Gypsy Cobs and the Down family’s desire to propagate the the breed in the United States led Stevie Down to partner up three years ago with Wylleen May, also a horse breeder and an Acton resident for the past 19 years.

“The first Gypsy I ever bought was a filly that was bred by Stevie” a few years before they met, May said. “And I just loved her look, because he has always bred them very traditional Gypsy Cob — lots of bone, lots of feather, a nice, sweet little head, and very stocky.”

SD Farm partners Stevie Down and Wylleen May are pictured at Equefest 2012.

Down and May finally met face-to-face at the World Gypsy Horse Show in Fort Worth in January 2010, compared notes and decided to join forces breeding horses. That summer, the 50/50 partners established May’s ranch as an SD Farm, and the herd of Gypsy Cobs there now numbers 40.

“We wanted a platform to expose this amazing horse to a larger audience,” May said, explaining why they wanted to join this year’s Rose Parade on Jan. 1, one of the 21 equestrian units from around the world to participate.

“It’s a new breed to America,” she said. “Gypsy horses first came over (from England) in 1996, and a lot of people are still not familiar with the breed. So, we were looking for a way to get the word out, because they’re not only beautiful, but also have incredible temperament. Three of the horses that appeared with us in the Rose Parade were stallions. So, we were looking for that opportunity, and there is no bigger parade that accepts horses.”

May rode shotgun (on the left side of the seat, English-style) as Down drove an 80-year-old, flower-festooned gypsy flat cart owned by his family in England, pulled by a sturdy Gypsy Cob from Acton.

cobs2The magnificent, beautifully groomed animals and their riders thrilled the estimated 700,000 spectators on the five-and-a-half-mile march through Pasadena. Untold millions more viewed the live broadcast on more than half a dozen TV channels in the U.S. and another 220 networks around the world, not to mention those watching online.

“It was an amazing experience,” May said. “The sheer size of the parade is really unbelievable. You don’t realize it until you’re actually in it.”

There’s a lot of showbiz to the Rose Parade, of course, and that’s just fine with May. In her other life, she’s the executive in charge of production for the top-rated, long running TV series “So You Think You Can Dance” and “American Idol,” working behind the scenes to ensure each show runs smoothly.

She has been with both series since their first seasons; they’re now in their ninth and 12th seasons, respectively. When one show is on the air, the other is in pre-production; as “American Idol” is airing from January to May, “So You Think You Can Dance” is auditioning talent and gearing up to hit the air in the summer, after “Idol” wraps its season.

cobs3“I administer the budgets, all the logistics,” May said. “It’s (determining) where we are going to shoot, how we are going to shoot it, who the crew is going to be, getting the staff hired, making a deal with the studio. It’s very much money and logistics and problem-solving. If we have an issue while we’re on the air, I’m the one who will try and sort it out, like a technical issue or if somebody got hurt. Whatever that problem might be, I’m there to get us through it.”

May’s the shows’ ramrod, the handler, the fixer. Every TV or film production needs at least one.

“Exactly,” she laughed.

Preparing to appear in the Rose Bowl Parade was quite a production even for May, who hails from Rock Rapids, Iowa, studied theatre at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and has more than two decades of in-the-trenches experience as a TV production exec. Her own professional background gave her a unique perspective and added respect for the Tournament of Roses Association, the mostly volunteer non-profit group that stages the event each year.

“The Rose Parade is one of the most organized experiences I have ever had — they’re phenomenal,” May said. “Being a logistics person myself, I really appreciate what a phenomenal job they do. It is so well pulled together, it’s just unbelievable.”

A Gypsy Cob mare and her foal enjoy the lush pastures of SD Farms in England.

A Gypsy Cob mare and her foal enjoy the lush pastures of SD Farm in England.

May described the application process. “You prepare a video and have everything submitted by the middle of May,” she said. “Then they look at all the submissions. Come August, we found out we had been accepted. We’d started training the minute we decided we were going to apply, so we literally trained from March until Jan. 1, when we stepped out on the parade route.”

The training, some of which took place on the roads around Acton as summer turned to winter, was to get the horses used to walking side-by-side, and to the long walk on pavement, May said. They had a dress rehearsal of sorts in late November when they strode across the red carpet on Hollywood Boulevard in the Hollywood Christmas Parade.

May says aside from their striking physical attributes, Gypsy Cobs’ aforementioned mellow temperament distinguishes them from most other breeds.

“It’s something Stevie has been breeding for, and his father and grandfather before him,” she said. “They’re beautiful, but also very laid-back, very kind and willing. The stallions run with mares and babies. In England, where we have them out grazing all summer long, we have two stallions running in a pasture together, each with his own band of mares. Their temperament is really just phenomenal.

cobs6“They also have a lot of stamina because they are a horse the gypsies created to work, so they love to go out on the trail — they are the greatest trail horses,” she said. “And they also have the kind of bone structure that makes them suitable for dressage. You can just put them to anything, and they’re such a pleasure to be around.”

All the effort Down and May and their staffs on both sides of the Atlantic put into getting ready for the 2013 Rose Parade was worth it, May said. She thinks their mission to achieve greater exposure for the breed was certainly accomplished.

“I spoke to our webmaster, and on New Year’s Day, traffic on our website quadrupled,” she said. “It’s been unbelievable. We’re getting a lot of hits on our website and emails from people who are looking for their first Gypsy horse, (or) who want to talk with us about how to find that first horse. People who are horse-lovers but have never really seen a Gypsy horse in action are now thinking that perhaps they’d like to switch breeds. So the response has been phenomenal.”

For more info, visit the SD Farm website.



Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

No Comments

    Leave a Comment

    SCV NewsBreak
    Friday, Sep 21, 2018
    California First State to Restrict Plastic Straws in Restaurants
    California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday inked legislation aimed at breaking society’s “infatuation” with plastic straws, beginning in 2019.
    Friday, Sep 21, 2018
    Teen Driver Escapes Serious Injury in Solo Tip-Over Crash
    A teenage female driver escaped serious injury when her van tipped over onto its left side on Dorothy Street in Santa Clarita Friday morning, according to authorities.
    Thursday, Sep 20, 2018
    CA Secretary of State Alex Padilla Encourages Local Students to Vote
    California Secretary of State Alex Padilla stopped by Golden Valley High School Wednesday morning to encourage students to register to vote.
    Keep Up With Our Facebook

    Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
    A roundtable discussion about a proposed Los Angeles County fee-based business registration program is set for the Stevenson Ranch Library on Tuesday, Sept. 25 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
    Sept. 25: Roundtable on County’s Proposed Business Registration Fee
    The next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set for Tuesday, Sept. 25, starting at 9:30 a.m.
    Sept. 25: LA County Board of Supervisors Meeting
    The city of Santa Clarita has received the District Transparency Certificate of Excellence by the Special District Leadership Foundation in recognition of its outstanding efforts to promote transparency and good governance.
    City Awarded Transparency Certificate of Excellence
    College of the Canyons was ranked among the top 50 best U.S. colleges for adult learners in Washington Monthly magazine’s ranking of “Best Two-Year Colleges for Adult Learners.”
    COC is No. 1 U.S. College for Adult Learners in SoCal
    California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday inked legislation aimed at breaking society’s “infatuation” with plastic straws, beginning in 2019.
    California First State to Restrict Plastic Straws in Restaurants
    A teenage female driver escaped serious injury when her van tipped over onto its left side on Dorothy Street in Santa Clarita Friday morning, according to authorities.
    Teen Driver Escapes Serious Injury in Solo Tip-Over Crash
    1974 - COC's new Cougar Stadium opens for first game of football season; Harbor beats COC, 26-21 [story]
    The Old Town Newhall Association’s Chalk Art Festival is coming this weekend with dozens of local artists and organizations ready to share their works with the Santa Clarita Valley community.
    Organizations, Local Artists Taking Part in This Weekend’s Chalk Art Festival
    County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) encourages all pet owners to be prepared before disaster strikes.
    Animal Care & Control Encourages Pet Owners to Prepare for Disasters
    The contemporary art journal X-TRA and the Broad Museum in Downtown Los Angeles present, "The Un-Private Collection Workshop: Edgar Arceneaux" on Saturday, Sept. 22.
    Sept. 22: CalArts Alum Presents Financial Workshop at Broad Museum
    NORTHRIDGE - Senior defender Lindsay Kutscher has been selected as one of 30 women's soccer candidates for the Senior CLASS award.
    CSUN’s Lindsay Kutscher Candidate for Senior CLASS Award
    The Center for Digital Government (CDG) has presented the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation with one of its Best of California Awards, which recognize state and local government organizations for innovative technology initiatives.
    County Parks & Recreation Recognized with Best of California Award
    The city of Santa Clarita and Caltrans engineers have partnered with Caltrans to provide traffic enhancements.
    City Implements Traffic Improvements at Sierra Highway, Golden Valley Road
    Continuing the momentum developed from such programs as iTEENS during the school year and the Teen Summit hosted earlier in 2018, the city of Santa Clarita will host a teen leadership development training on Wednesday, Sept. 26, from 4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m., at the Newhall Community Center (22421 Market Street).
    Sept. 26: ‘I Can Achieve Now!’ Teen Leadership Workshop
    NORTHRIDGE - CSUN's Michael Merchan has been named Co-Big West Athlete of the Week for men's cross country. Merchan is the first Matador men's cross country student-athlete to earn the award since it was established in 2001. Merchan shares the honor with Nick Randazzo of UCSB.
    CSUN’s Merchan Nabs Big West Co-Athlete of the Week
    California Secretary of State Alex Padilla stopped by Golden Valley High School Wednesday morning to encourage students to register to vote.
    CA Secretary of State Alex Padilla Encourages Local Students to Vote
    SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the California Air Resources Board, and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed suit Tuesday against the Trump Administration for its unlawful attempt to dismantle critical environmental waste protections.
    Becerra Sues Trump Admin for Unlawful Attempt to Dismantle Waste Protections
    Kaiser Permanente will open all seasonal flu clinics throughout Southern California on Saturday, Sept. 22, and urges all members to get their no-cost vaccinations early.
    Sept. 22: Kaiser Permanente Opens Seasonal Flu Clinics Throughout So Cal
    On Tuesday, The Home Depot Foundation increased its financial support to $3 million for disaster relief efforts and communities impacted by recent disasters, including Hurricane Florence, Olivia, the California wildfires and flooding in the Midwest.
    Home Depot Foundation Increases Financial Support for Disaster Relief Efforts
    Los Angeles County took a major step towards fostering a vibrant business ecosystem to help the local bioscience industry reach its full potential as a job-creating economic engine that advances breakthroughs in global health.
    County Committed to Becoming Bioscience Global Leader
    SACRAMENTO – Every day, thousands of parents and caregivers in California travel with children in their vehicle.
    Sept. 23-29: Child Passenger Safety Week
    The 3rd annual Gran Fondo Santa Clarita will be held Saturday, Sept. 29, beginning at 8:00 a.m.
    Sept. 29: Gran Fondo Santa Clarita
    The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce invites you to their 34th annual Oktoberfest Golf Tournament, sponsored by Chiquita Canyon. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.
    Oct. 22: SCV Chamber’s 34th Annual Oktoberfest Golf Tournament
    1954 - C-46 cargo plane crashes at Saugus Drunk Farm; Civil Air Patrol chaplains parachute to safety [story]
    Filmmaker Magazine recently unveiled its annual roundup of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film, and CalArtians Hannah Peterson (Film/Video MFA 2018) and Richard Van (Film/Video MFA 2018) were included on the 2018 list.
    CalArtians Among Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Indie Film
    The 19th season of KCET's Fine Cut Festival of Films will premiere on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 9 p.m. on KCET in Los Angeles, and of the 16 finalists chosen, four films are by CalArtians from the School of Film/Video.
    Four CalArtians in KCET’s Fine Cut Festival of Films
    The Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday reinstated right-handed pitcher John Axford from the 10-day disabled list and left-handed pitcher Tony Cingrani from the 60-day disabled list, and recalled right-handed pitcher Yimi Garcia from Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.
    Dodgers Reinstate Axford, Cingrani from DL; Recall Garcia
    The Community Development Commission/Housing Authority of the county of Los Angeles has released Notice of Funding Availability Round 24-A, which will provide capital funding and vouchers for the creation and operation of multifamily rental housing units.
    County Releases Funding Application to Increase Affordable Housing
    The Master's University women's basketball team's schedule for 2018-2019 looks something like the NAIA Division 1 national tournament bracket from a year ago.
    Master’s Women’s Basketball Unveils 2018-2019 Schedule
    There's a sense in which this week's No. 14 ranking, the program's highest since 2013, validates last season's rebuild for The Master's University women's volleyball team.
    A Peek at the Polls: TMU Women’s Volleyball Rises to No. 14
    The Mustangs men's golf team pushed into second place on Monday at Olivas Links Golf Course in Ventura before falling back into a tie for sixth by Tuesday's finish.
    Dudeck, Brueckner’s Hole-in-One Highlight Ventura Match for TMU
    Florida National University spotted The Master's two first-half goals and then scored four unanswered goals spanning both halves to post a 4-2 win over the Mustangs on Reese Field on Tuesday.
    Mustangs Men’s Soccer Team Falls to Florida National 4-2
    The city of Santa Clarita will present a visual arts symposium at The Centre on Saturday, Oct. 20, free and open to the public.
    Oct. 20: Free Visual Arts Symposium at The Centre
    Six different Mustangs scored in an 8-0 win over Mills College on Sunday, the non-conference win lifting Master's to 6-2-1 on the season and extending its winning streak to three.
    Six Mustangs Score in Win Over Mills College
    College of the Canyons' women's volleyball team (5-4) took down the Warriors 3-2 to begin the day, then played a tough five-set match vs. No. 8 Grossmont College, eventually falling 3-2.
    COC Volleyball Claws No. 3 El Camino, Goes 5 with No. 8 Grossmont