Tension was rife for the Leeman Family Maxi-Cob Championship at the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) this afternoon (1 August), where the much-anticipated showdown between H&H columnist Simon Reynolds’ Hallmark IX and Robert Walker’s Starry Night saw the latter triumph.
Watch Robert Walker talk about the victory in the following video:
The horses have only met in the show ring twice before: heavyweight Starry Night pipped the lightweight Hallmark at the Great Yorkshire Show in July, just weeks after the latter beat him at the Derbyshire Festival.
They are competing against each other for the first time this season, after Starry Night measured out of cob classes at the end of last year.
This time Heather Clay’s Hallmark found himself in the reserve spot for the second time.
“Showing needs a bit of excitement and they have both been legends of the cob world. It’s like a boxing match between two greats — it could go either way and luckily today it was my turn,” said Robert of Camilla Neame’s Starry Night. “When I went into the ring I could feel the tension, but ‘Basil’ had his game face on.
“Simon and I are very good friends,” continued Robert. “It’s a case of what will be will be, and one of us goes home happy while the other is sulky for a few hours — but that’s because we’re both very competitive.”
Robert believes an emphasis from judges David Tatlow (conformation) and his daughter, Loraine Homer (ride), on the walk helped secure victory for Starry Night.
“Today we did three circuits in walk — most judges will ask us to do half a lap or so — and I think that worked in Basil’s favour,” added Robert.
David confirmed: “When the horses first came into the ring, Starry Night was slightly more relaxed, and he walked placidly and correctly. I am fanatical about the walk, which is the one pace that is seriously overlooked.
“Hallmark did gallop better, but the gallop of a cob is not something I’m as particular about because cobs can’t really gallop. People can ride cobs all day, as long as they keep them in canter.”
Loraine added: “Both horses gave me a super ride and it is hard for me to choose between them. I don’t want to show a horse; I sit on its back and let them take me on a ride around the ring.”
Don’t miss the full RIHS report in the next issue of Horse & Hound (6 August).