It was an honour to have been asked to judge the cobs at this year’s Royal Windsor. I have officiated here before, but this time was particularly special as I had the privilege of winning the same championship myself only last season with Sue Benson’s lightweight Whitegate Dazzler (Oliver).
My birthday always lands on or around Windsor and I had the opportunity to ride in the supreme on that day last year, in front of The Queen. This up-and-coming birthday was a special one, although I won’t be revealing which one.
When standing in the middle of the ring, I am looking for the obvious: movement, manners, quality and type. The latter is important in the cob ranks. I don’t like to see cobs — especially in the maxis where there is no upper height limit — that are too big and horsey. I don’t like to see stumpy pasterns and thick coronet bands as these just point to a lack of quality. I think you could see in the main ring championship that I and my co-judge — with whom I thoroughly enjoyed working — went for the quality types.
Our 2019 champion (heavyweight Master Of The House) gave me the best ride of the day. Due to time constraints, I set a short show where I galloped down the short side and brought them back behind the line-up. Not one horse anticipated and they all did as I asked. Some of the horses were ridden in bits with surprisingly long shanks. While this could mean the horse gives a lighter ride, I don’t think they were all necessarily needed.
A maxi dilemma
There is an ongoing debate in the maxi classes about the need to put an upper height limit on them. Having ridden the top cob Father Ted, a lightweight who measured out, I was thankful to have the opportunity to compete him as a maxi later.
Without these classes, his showing career would have ended. However, I think we need to stick to the society recommendations and ensure that these cobs aren’t getting too big; something standing at 15.3hh or 16hh at a push is plenty big enough. If they exceed this, they just become horses with a hogged mane and lose their type.
Opinions also vary on the subject of maxis going in cob championships at various shows. While at the Horse of the Year Show and Royal International they have a stand-alone class, it is a real spectacle at Windsor to have all the cobs compete together in the main ring. I think it should be up to the show to decide, but it is nice to see them all in the ring together.
Come into line
A lack of consistency is also seen in society rulings, especially in the use of terms such as “must not” and “should not” which can cause confusion. It’s worrying that there is a distinct lack of consistency around flu vaccinations. For the sake of the horses, shows and competitors, I think it’s time for some changes.
Perhaps we need a governing body that can validate vaccinations prior to a show and competitors can have digital proof to show the organisers on arrival. Passport checks on the day are labour-intensive and policy varies from show to show. I’m sure it would go a long way towards keeping everything and everyone safe.
Ref Horse & Hound; 16 May 2019