Smitten: An Interview with Gypsy Vanner Owner Collette Morgan
Collette Morgan, owner of Wild Rumpus Books for Young Readers in Minneapolis, MN, joins If you enjoyed your ride, kiss your horse in this interview.
When in Minneapolis, it’s well worth a visit to Collette’s bookstore. Even if you don’t have children or read children’s literature, you will fall in love with Collette, her staff, and the amazing world they’ve created inside Wild Rumpus. Walk in through the grown-ups’ door or crouch and enter the tiny-reader sized door. Plop into in a big, comfy chair and take a sec to let your senses consider every wonderful thing going on. Cats without tails, fancy chickens, little dogs, ferrets, tarantulas, finches, and, sometimes, horses are there to inspire and accompany you.
As an independent bookseller, Collette is passionate about books, readers, and literacy. Well, she’s also passionate about her horses – Misto and Pinky, two Gypsy Vanner Horses. Here she tells what it’s like to own and love these gorgeous animals.
Gi: How my friend is Misto doing these days? You’ve said before, he really likes to roll. With the snow melting out there, he’s probably getting into a mess!
C: His new nickname is ‘Pigpen.’ We’ll have to wait for the frost to go out and the mud to dry before he looks as clean as the last time you saw him!
Gi: What’s it like to brush those feathery legs when he’s all muddy?
C: Impossible. If I tried to brush the feathers, they’d break off.
Gi: Lord, that entirely changes the way I think of winter. His feathers are frozen?
C: At this point, it’s better to wait for warm enough weather for a soak bath. I can soak his tail in a bucket, but I haven’t trained him to put a foot in a bucket (yet).
Gi: Does Misto enjoy grooming time? You know how people say that poodles get a lot of confidence from their coats and their special hair cuts, do you think Gypsy Vanner horses feel that way about how awesome looking they are? Are they like the Fabio of horses, kind of? All smitten with themselves?
C: Totally the Fabio of horses. I moved to a new riding arena with mirrors on the walls and every time we pass the mirrors, they check themselves out, “who is that handsome horse?” Weirdly, they don’t look at other horses in the mirror, just themselves!
Gi: I love knowing Misto digs himself! Misto and I met when he headlined my Wild Rumpus book signing for Chancey of the Maury River. He actually came into the store and hung out with the kids; he’s so calm. Is gentleness indicative of the breed?
C: Very much so. The gypsies of the British Isles who use these horses to pull their caravans consider the horse to be a part of the family with kids riding bareback and toddlers walking underneath—so there is absolutely no breeding back to an ill-tempered horse!
Gi: Why did you add Gypsy Vanners to your family? Had you seen the breed somewhere?
C: I was working with Shire horses and a friend of mine gave me the calendar Horsefeathers. That was the first time that I’d seen a photo of a Gypsy Vanner and I was smitten! I was on the internet the same day learning everything I could about the breed.
Gi: I loved meeting him in Minneapolis last fall at Wild Rumpus. What’s he like at home? Does he have a special job?
C: They’re built to pull, and Misto has done some ground driving, but right now he’s a trail horse and rides English or Western.
Gi: Collette, that horse was so laid back at the book signing that he pooped on the floor! My den, my car, my laundry room all smell of eau de bovine and parfum Alberte (my husband smells like cows; us girls smell of horse), so I didn’t even notice until someone showed me. You and your booksellers were pretty easy going about the Misto mishap, and it sure made the day exciting. I’m guessing that every day at the Wild Rumpus brings something out-of-the-ordinary, is that right?
C: Absolutely. One of our standard interview questions for potential bookseller hirees is “ how do you feel about poop?”
Gi: Mr. Misto is getting all of the attention, here. Tell me about Pinky.
C: He’s also a Gypsy Vanner (barn name: Pinky; show name: Gypsy Hollow’s Culahill Castle) who was actually the first Strawberry Roan Vanner in the United States. He’s bigger than Misto, so he gets to come to the store to do outside events. Last spring, he delivered book orders to a nearby school, and another time he was the focus of a Groom My Little Pony event at the store.
Gi: Keeping horses and owning a business are both pretty time consuming pursuits. Being a horse owner, you learn to embrace the unexpected and stay calm in a crisis. Have your years of experience with horses made you more tolerant, or better prepared, to handle the ups and downs of being a small-business owner?
C: I’d say my years of being a small-business owner have made me more tolerant and able to handle the ups and downs of horse ownership!
Gi: Do you ever get to take a vacation?
C: I do! I have a fabulous staff that can run the store blindfolded, and I board my horses at a nice barn where they have their own fabulous staff. Not surprisingly, when I do take a vacation, it usually involves horses, which makes me miss my horses. Did you miss Albert when you were on tour?
Gi: You bet. I went around the mulberry bush on the way to the airport so I could tell him good-bye. Like Misto, Albert has great barn staff, too! The best thing ever is to hear Albert whinny at me or do that rumble-thing. When I see him, after being gone, it’s like I never left. Do Misto and Pinky run up to greet you? Do you love being whinnied at? I love it.
C: They do and I love it. I like being whinnied at, snorted at, and even squealed at (by horses). One time, Pinky stuck his nose into the side door of the store (behind the counter) and whinnied and it was so loud and unexpected that it scared the bejeezus out of one of my colleagues.
Gi: That’s awesome! Did you always know, from the time you were a girl, that you would fill your life with horses and books?
Books came first as I grew up in urban Montreal and didn’t have much contact with horses, but Christmases in Minnesota were magical at my grandparents’ farm and that’s where I caught the horse bug!
Gi: OK. Last questions, Collette: Which horse story did you love most when you were little? Have you read it lately? Did it still hold the magic for you?
C: Black Beauty. Yup. I still cry.
Gi: Excellent choice! Thank you, Collette, for taking time from your rich and busy life to talk about Misto, Pinky, and The Wild Rumpus! I can’t wait to come see y’all again!
C: Come back soon!!
Gi: OK, deal. I think I owe Misto some treats anyway.