The 2015 showing season featured a battle royal, with the combatants matching each other win for win, show after show.
In the blue corner was Hallmark IX (pictured), who has captured the maxi cob crown at the biggest shows, as well as landing the £1,500 supreme horse title at the Great Yorkshire and the equivalent at the 2013 Horse of the Year Show.
In the red corner was Starry Night, a former cob of the year who this term measured out of his heavyweight class and came out fighting as a maxi. Neither pulled any punches. Their final head-to-head was HOYS, where Starry Night bested his main rival, and was promptly retired from the showring.
This clash of the Titans has turned the spotlight on maxi cobs, although in truth they have been popular since they were first introduced as a showing class in 2011 — just as much, if not more so, as their 155cm lightweight and heavyweight counterparts. Because, let’s face it, a cob is the perfect amateur’s horse — fun, safe, reliable and easy to do. And it has a hogged mane, so you don’t even have to plait. A cob is the perfect amateur’s horse
Amateur cob classes at shows are almost always well supported, as are the open ones — the producers love cobs, too. However, all that being said, cobs do have their detractors, who deride them as “fat and lazy”, “slow and ploddy”, and “hairy sloths”.
Certainly, keeping the weight off them can be a problem; cobs tend to love their tucker. Even the great Hallmark has to watch his waistline, or rather his producer Simon Reynolds does it for him.
“He could overfeed himself,” Reynolds says. “We keep him on a proper diet so he doesn’t get too overweight; we don’t want too much over the shoulder. Because of the way he’s put together we want the right weight on him so he can move well and keep giving the ride that he does.”
As for being a sloth, though, Hallmark is renowned for his effortless, smooth, ground-covering ride. Tim Wiggett, a vastly experienced ride judge, has assessed him many times since he first came out, and is a huge fan.
“Hallmark eats up the ground, and when you move him into gallop, he just lowers and goes and there’s such power and balance,” he enthuses. “Everything stays balanced. That’s due to conformation. If his conformation wasn’t right and he was on his forehand, strung out like a sausage, you wouldn’t get such balanced, free-flowing movement.”
And although cobs may be affectionately referred to as “flying sofas” — they are supposed to be comfortable, after all — attend any show with a cob class and watch them gallop. “Slow and ploddy” are probably not the words that will come to mind. You will see more stuffy hunters.
Outside the showring, the cob excels in the hunting field — it’s a comfortable ride with a big engine, so will stay out as long as you want to. Those leggy Thoroughbred types will run out of petrol long before the cob. The coloured horse of the year — who prevailed at HOYS over more than 50 horses and ponies of all types — was the striking blue-and-white cob, Our Cashel Blue, who hunts with the Dunston Harriers.
So the cob is good-looking, easy to do, comfortable and will gallop all day. What’s not to love?
Image: Hallmark IX and Simon Reynolds, Real Time Imaging/Steve Dawe