‘The look of an eagle’ — how to show off a cob correctly in the ring

In the next part of our series on top tips in the show ring, we talk to the professionals about how to present a cob correctly

With the 2016 show season just a few weeks away, we ask the experts how to create the best possible picture and increase your chance of success when riding your cob in the ring.

Ringcraft is the art of presenting and showing off your animal to ensure the best possible chance of impressing the judges, but what do they like to see and how can you avoid definite no-nos?

“A show cob should be a miniature version of a heavyweight hunter,” says Jack Cochrane, a judge and show producer. “It should be well mannered and a safe, balanced ride. It must be capable of carrying any member of the family on a good day’s hunting.”

“A show cob must have a mixture of substance and quality,” adds rider and judge Simon Reynolds, who took the supreme horse title at HOYS in 2013 riding the maxi cob Hallmark IX. “I look for good flat bone and a low to the ground, straight action. They should have the head of a lady and the backside of a cook.”

Weight divisions

Under British Show Horse Association (BSHA) rules cobs are split into three categories: lightweight, heavyweight and maxi.

  • A lightweight should not exceed 155cm and have at least eight-and-a-half inches of bone.
  • A heavyweight should also not exceed 155cm and have at least nine-and-a-half inches of bone.
  • A maxi cob is more than 155cm but must be of true cob type.

“Regardless of which section they are being shown in, a cob should be a thick set animal with good limbs,” says Jack. “They should have short cannon bones and good feet. They should also have a decent depth of girth with a good strong back and hind quarters.”

“I like to think of a cob being short coupled with good limbs for the weight they are going to carry,” explains BSHA ride judge Samantha De Caprio. “I also like a decent front as it gives you a lot to ride. A maxi cob is also a proper cob type, close to the ground with strong knees and hocks with a leg in each corner.”

Tack and turnout

A cob should be shown with its mane hogged and its tail pulled, not shaved.

“The tail should be cut so that when it’s carried it is at the point of the hock,” says Jack. “Quarter marks can complete a well turned out cob with three downward stripes and sharks teeth below. If you’re unsure how to do these, ask a professional who will be only too glad to help.”

The tack is also similar to that of a show hunter horse.

“Competitors should choose a well-fitted double bridle with a good strong noseband that suits the horse,” adds Jack. “This should only be of plain flat leather and never a coloured or plaited browband.”

“I think a manly type bridle suits a cob – no plaited or stitched nosebands,” says Samantha.

When he’s judging, Jack prefers exhibits to have good strong reins.

“There’s nothing worse than riding a cob with narrow reins,” he reasons.

He also emphasises that the saddle should fit well and riders should never use a dressage saddle with a short girth, as it’s hard to tighten when being ridden by the judge.

“Dressage saddles also fix a rider’s leg position and a judge needs to be able to move in the saddle. Saddles should also be treated so that they are not slippery. Judges don’t feel safe on a slippery saddle as they’re likely to give an uncomfortable ride.”

“I don’t like to see a saddle that’s too forward cut as it covers up the shoulder,” adds Samantha. “It needs to show the front off properly.”

Way of going

“I really like a cob to be forward going, but comfortable,” continues Samantha. “They should respond to my aids without any pulling, but also have a bit of something about them. I like them to be a happy, educated ride with a good outlook. I also don’t mind a little bit of cheekiness as it gives them that sparkle.

“I do like a good step and of course this will depend on the animal’s breeding. I don’t expect it to move like a lightweight hunter, but it should be workmanlike and cover the ground without having too much knee action.”

“I like a cob to have a nice length of rein and a good sloping shoulder,” adds Jack. “If the shoulder is too straight it will lack movement and may be more suited to pulling a cart, as a collar would sit better on a straight shoulder.

“I also don’t like cobs that are lazy and fat, which need to be kicked all the way round the ring.”

“Just because they are cobs it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be light and flexible. I don’t like to see horses fixed in the hand,” advises Simon. “They should be able to work in self-carriage and show suppleness. Cobs should have ground-covering low movement and not be over fat.”

Riders should

  • “Find a space so the judge can see you properly,” says Samantha. “The more settled you keep your horse, the better step it will take.
  • “Keep a good eye on judges and stewards when you’re being told to go up a gear.
  • “If you think your horse is going to get upset when it comes to lots of horses galloping, turn a circle and wait – give people their space and in turn your horse isn’t going to get so upset.”

Continued below…

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Riders shouldn’t

  • Present a fat cob

“You want them to be round, but not fat,” says Samantha.

“If you have to overload it with weight to ‘make’ it a cob, then it isn’t one,” adds Simon.

  • Overtake

“Because cob classes have got so popular, overcrowding has become a bit of an issue, but make sure you don’t overtake and you should never gallop up behind other competitors,” adds Samantha.

  • Overwork your horse

“So many people over work them, so they become dull and lack sparkle. A top show horse should have the look of an eagle,” concludes Samantha.

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