Cobs have the fun factor, writes Carolyn Henderson. They can do it all with smiles on their faces – and are guaranteed to put one on yours.
Everything about cobs is special, even the word itself. No one seems to know where the name for this type of horse came from, although it’s shared with everything from a round loaf of bread to a male swan.
Somehow, it has a chunky, satisfying feel to it – rather like cobs themselves. Whether they’re strimmed and trimmed show cobs, boast feathers and flying manes and tails or are Welsh Section Ds with prefixes most of us can’t pronounce, they’re the ultimate in versatility.
One of my favourite horse books is a passionate and inspiring book by Omar Rabia called Cobs Can! I love it not just because of the inspiring advice Omar shares, but because the title says it all. Cobs can…do anything.
Cobs are the ultimate “have a go” horses. Correctly schooled by a rider who believes in them, they can do dressage to a high standard; Sam Turner’s 14hh Billy Wizz, who competes at Prix St George, has his own fan club. Their powerful back ends mean they have a great jump – Samantha Garry’s Over the Odds, who has just died at the age of 23, reached Grade B. Like Billy Wizz, he was a “gypsy cob” of unknown breeding and helped Yane Marques win a bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics pentathlon.
They can hack, show, hunt and compete at a respectable level in endurance. A 15hh cob with a leg at each corner and a deep girth can carry tall riders as well as shorter ones, which is why they’re such great family all-rounders.
Some people fall in love with cobs the first time they see one. For others, it’s a relationship that happens by chance, or even by default.
I’m a cob nut. My cob – who is equally happy hacking with my 6ft 2in husband as he is being ridden by 5ft 6in me – is 15.1hh on tiptoes. He has a posh name on his passport, but his nickname is Supercob.
A few years ago, I plucked up the courage to take him to a training clinic with a well-known dressage trainer and judge. The trainer was so revered I wasn’t sure if I should curtsey, and although I’d been assured he loved working with all types of horses and riders, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Everyone else was mounted on fire-breathing warmbloods with matchy-matchy everything and it was like turning up at a posh ball in old jeans.
Luckily, he gave a huge grin and said how lovely it was to see such a happy, active little horse. We had a great time learning how to improve our lengthened strides – something Supercob does easily when he’s trying to impress my friend and hacking partner’s mare, but which he doesn’t see the point of when we’re inside a set of white boards.
It was inspiring and above all, it was fun. If you had to sum up the smile factor of cobs in one word, that would be it – fun.
If you’re looking for a horse to make you smile, be part of your family and give you lots of pleasure – and, perhaps, success – please don’t underestimate them. And if you’re already in on the secret and share your life with a supercob, we’d love to hear about him or her.