Gypsies Travel through Imperial Valley

John and JoAnn Van Eck arrived in the Imperial Valley on their cross-country journey with their Percheron caravan.
John and JoAnn Van Eck arrived in the Imperial Valley on their cross-country journey with their Percheron caravan.

BRAWLEY – On the eve of Cattle Call weekend, an event that is known for its embodiment of Western horse riding and heritage, a different lifestyle centered around horses visited the Imperial Valley, Thursday morning, November 6. “The Caravan” pulled into the KD Danch Arena, bringing both the adventure and spirit of gypsy lifestyle along with it.

Participants hailed from Holland, Spain, Canada and the United States and gathered together in Murietta with their families and horses to begin their cross-country trek taking them all the way to Florida. The leader of “The Caravan” is Gerrard Paagman, who is originally from Holland, and brings ten stunning black Friesian horses along with him. While Paagman has been around horses his whole life, this is actually the first time he has ever done such a caravan. When asked why he decided to make such a long journey, he simply explained, “For the adventure, and to educate others.”

Other participants in the caravan include female farrier, Ashley Pederson of Canada, along with her mule, Honey, and her dog, Molly, and John Van Eck who is traveling with his wife JoAnn, son Tom, friend Dillan, and their two Percheron horses, Lily and May. John Van Eck is a man who appreciates the slower pace that traveling with horses offer. He describes the different plants and wildlife he has seen while traveling at such a slow pace, some of which most people have never seen before and explained that they also get to see the country in a rare way. “When you’re traveling with horses, you get a whole different perspective.”

The Van Ecks are also the owners of the gypsy wagon, which John built from the ground up with his son, Tom. Van Eck explains that they began with the axles of an old boat trailer and designed the structure of the wagon in true gypsy style. When construction was done, he ensured that the exterior painting included representations of the county he lives in such as walnuts, grapes, and peacocks. “Basically the wagon is my representation of our county,” says Van Eck.

“The Caravan” plans to continue their journey, spreading their culture and knowledge along the way. “The Caravan” also plans on stopping at multiple Veteran’s Hospitals to encourage and inspire disabled veterans.


  1. What an inspiring story about John and JoAnn Van Eck. They don’t rest on their laurels, but keep creating new life with their imaginative and open appreciation of beauty, adventure, education and love of Lake County.

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