Meet the ‘carthorse cob’ who became a hunter of a lifetime *H&H Plus*

  • Meet Caroline Bullen’s handsome “carthorse cob”, who proved to be impressively nimble and who “knows better than anyone”, as she shares the story behind her brilliant hunter to Octavia Pollock

    We all love it when a purchase turns out to be better than expected.

    “I wanted a carthorse cob, something sensible and safe to lead children from,” remembers Caroline Bullen, joint-master of the Staff College Drag Hunt. “Hobnob was advertised on HorseQuest as a five-year-old happy hacker, owned by a nice lady who hadn’t jumped more than 1ft 6in.”

    When Hobnob first went hunting, with the HH, Caroline realised she’d got something more than that.

    “I called my husband, Henry, on the way home and said, ‘This horse is amazing!’ I hadn’t felt that happy for a long time, having been out of it with children.”

    Despite having the biggest feet in Hampshire – “the farrier said he’d never made shoes bigger”– Hobnob is surprisingly nimble. “He thought he was a thoroughbred.”

    It was on a visit to the Cattistock that Martha, Lady Sitwell, said: “You really should be riding that handsome cob side-saddle.” And so Caroline went to Cindy Sims, whose grandmother Betty Skelton had taught her side-saddle as a teenager. Side-saddle horses are ideally well schooled, but Hobnob “hates the school”, so Caroline simply took him hunting.

    “He was brilliant! He carries on whether I’m aside or astride.”

    Hobnob, pictured visiting the Quorn, has made a habit of defying expectations.

    “I took him to the Portman,” recalls Caroline, “with lots of smart people on smart horses. One lady said, ‘Do you think you’re well mounted enough?’ I said: ‘We’ll see.’ Two hours later, her horse was lame, and Hobnob was still jumping everything!”

    He needs no setting up, “it’s better to leave him alone and not interfere”, and goes in a snaffle, although as he has got older he has become more opinionated. “He’s a typical cob, he knows better than anyone.”

    Caroline regrets that she never did anything else with him: “He would have been a great maxi cob at 16.3hh.” He did have a slight change of scene when Caroline’s son Charlie was eight and his pony went lame the first day of mini Pony Club camp.

    “I fetched Hobnob and he did bending, sack races, everything. He did his best, but he was a bit big!”

    A sensitive soul who doesn’t like raised voices, Hobnob loves hounds the most.

    “If he wasn’t at the front of the field, he would wiggle his way forward so he could see hounds. He would leave horses, but not hounds.”

    After carrying everyone from a huntsman to a child on a lead-rein at the back, Hobnob has retired as a happy hacker nearby, “with a 25-year-old chestnut girlfriend”.

    He has been known to kick through a stable wall because “he hated anyone forgetting him”, but there’s no fear of that.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 26 November 2020

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