Irish Cobs and Eventing

I’m a couple years (at least) away from getting my next horse but am using the time to figure out what, exactly, I want when the time comes. I have always loved Irish cobs from afar, and did get to ride one on a vacation in Ireland many (many!) moons ago. I know they are very common across the UK and popular mounts. I know they can jump. I’d just love to hear first hand opinions about them as eventers for the lower levels (US training and below).

Are they fun? Sensitive? Overly cheeky like ponies or more forgiving and calm? Are they all push rides or do some have a motor? How do they do with dressage? Do they feel “heavy” when riding or are some lighter on their feet?

Also, what are the best yards for buying Irish cobs? Trustworthy and good to work with? What’s the going rate for a youngish cob started under saddle? I know the “Gypsy Vanners” here in the US go for insane prices, that I could probably buy and import a more suitable mount from the UK for the same or less than a GV here in the US.

Happy to hear all perspectives while I keep dreaming!

Cobs are honest souls but, like humans, every one is different. In the UK one sees many cobs doing well enough at the lowest levels of eventing: 70 - 80 cm but in decreasing numbers at 90 and fewer at 100. I can’t think I’ve seen one at higher levels though there must be one or two. It isn’t necessarily the jump but the speed and, to some extent, the stamina. It can be difficult to get one fit enough for the demands of higher level Eventing. If someone is riding at BE100 they will likely be fairly serious about the sport and will have a fancier horse. Cobs are a bit like a good beer compared with the fine wine of a WB or the champagne of a TB.

Because they can turn their hoof to many things, they can do dressage (inc national dressage titles) but it isn’t natural and easy for them. I can think of a book specifically about training cobs for dressage. They can jump, often well. A good hunting cob is a thing of beauty but in the hunting field they do tend to be steady at the back. I know one that cannot be held when out hunting as he uses his massive neck to win any battle to stop - but he jumps just fine if his rider can keep up! Low level Show Jumping is perfectly possible but, again, once past the lowest level the number of piebald hairy cobs falls away.

It is mind and character on the whole. Some have fire in their belly, many have a sense of fun and excitement. Most are perfectly willing to do as their rider asks but, really Mom, is it sooo important?

One reason they are so common here is because they are dirt cheap, require very little in the way of feed or vets, don’t need to be ridden daily and they are very tolerant of idjit humans. After all, they started out pulling travellers wagons or on a smallholding as a general workhorse.

6 Likes

I feel like Britain has cobs and North America has Quarter Horses. Generally smaller, good all rounders, good minds, easy keepers, great for trail riding. Of course QH also have specialist top athletes in Western sports, so a bit different.

14 Likes

I moved to the UK from the US last year and have seen some cobs in that time. I agree with Willesdon’s perspective based on my observations. Lovely all around, low level types…but I don’t see one going Training. Novice probably with good fitness routine, BN absolutely, but I’ve yet to see one athletic and fit enough that I’d even consider for TL. I’ve heard of them occasionally going BE90 or BE100, but have yet to see one in the flesh.

Most I’ve met have been kind and very forgiving, plod-along/happy hacker types, great for the occasional rider or the riders with not a lot of formal training. But there is one cob mare in the yard now for training that is just the worst. Not a novice ride by any means. Sounds like she’s got some severe hormonal issues now which could happen in any breed. That said, the ones with a strong independent constitution can be tough, because of their strength.

I’ve not paid much attention to current prices, I recommend you look at the Horse &Hound classifieds and other UK/IRE based sites. Horse prices have been at record highs of late, with some unbroken or barely broke cobs as high as £6K from what I saw. They might be more reasonable going into winter and with the high cost of living.

If you want a unique, all around type (and love lots of hair…) then sure, have a look. Best if you can come over and ride a few to make sure they match your idea of them.

Import two, keep the one you love and sell the other as a “Gypsy Vanner” and make cash money. :rofl::sunglasses:

9 Likes

Thanks for perspectives, esp from across the pond! My retired event horse is a paint x tb and while he had a lot of the great paint/qh qualities (ie could sit all winter and be fine for the first rides coming back into work in spring, did not need to work 6 days a week to be sane), once you got out on the xc course, his tb brain clicked on and he was going to gallop the full course and take you over every jump whether you wanted him to or not lol! A bit of a freight train and while I appreciated his gameness, I’d like something a bit more ratable in my next mount.

I suppose I’m looking for the unicorn that a lot of AAs with full time jobs and children want- the one that doesn’t NEED to be “in a program” to be fun and safe (I keep my horses at home), can take a joke, go out for trail rides bareback without worrying about silly antics, can be sane with 4-5 rides per week, be quiet enough to put my beginner kid on, and bop around the lower levels of eventing and jumper shows without serious goals of going to AECs or Area championships (honestly I stick to the schooling shows because I’m fortunate to live near many and they are a fraction of the price of sanctioned).

Would a cob accomplish this? Or should I be looking at other breeds? Fwiw, I do love stock breeds and will probably search here in US before going to a cob, but just trying to figure out of cobs should even be on my list at all.

Personally, based on what you said I’d look at Connies or Irish Draught types. I rode a lot of full and part RIDs in Virginia and just love their brain, work ethic, and personality. Most have had fabulous personalities and the athleticism to have fun without needing to be ridden down. I much prefer those types to cobs, but this is also based on what you really want in your dream horse.

If you can make it to this side of the pond you’d do well to try cobs, connies, ID types to see what you really like.

6 Likes

I love RIDs but they’re so big! Forgot to include, I’m a fan of the smaller varieties, ideally btw 15-16h (though smaller if built like cobs would be fine, I know they’re more commonly in the 14h range). I would be willing to go a bit over 16, but I really do not want a 17h horse and I feel like most of the RIDs end up 16.3+. An ISH has been my dream mount for several years, I could get the smaller size but still good Irish brain and durability, but figured they’d be out of budget. But yes, perhaps I need a vaca over in Ireland again to go ride a few :slight_smile:

1 Like

There are cobs and there are cobs!

A traditional cob is known for being small, placid, colorful and hairy. A happy hacker who can turn a hoof to anything. Often smaller and sometimes larger they usually come in around 14.2-15hh.

image

A show cob is a different beast. Coming in various classes “lightweight cob,” “heavyweight cob,” and “maxi cob,” it can go up to almost 16h and has smoother, lower movement and a more quality build. While they’re shown hogged and legs trimmed, there’s far less hair to remove in the first place. This is a horse that can go hunting and can be pretty hot, though manners are absolutely key in the show ring.

image

A Welsh cob (section D) goes up to 15h or taller on occasion, has extravagant movement, some feather, and is known for being both a super jumper and also being quite sharp! Here’s your eventer - many of these have gone up the levels and done well. Even more so crossed with a TB.

image

7 Likes

The cob is not really a breed; technically, it’s a type, described by the British Show Horse Association as: “A short-legged animal, with bone, substance and quality, capable of carrying a substantial weight. The cob should be well-mannered and ideal for nervous or elderly riders. Cobs should have sensible heads, (sometimes Roman nosed), a full, generous eye, shapely neck, well muscled… and with a well-defined wither.”

7 Likes

Thanks all! I dug up some pix of the cob I rode in Ireland (2006!)- he was SO much fun! Game for anything and a great jumper. I’m hoping to find a carbon copy of him lol…! I don’t know what his breeding was though.

6 Likes

I have the horse you describe. He’s an OTTB, and I had one just like him who was a HanoverianX. My horse before that was another carbon copy of what you describe and was an unraced thoroughbred. A friend has one too, a QH large pony (with the jump and moves to win at local hunter As in the larges). The most expensive purchase was my Hano, at $15k with a lot more training (and real eventing experience), for what it’s worth.

All this just to say what you want is less about breed and more about brain! Which I’m sure you know. If I were you I’d be looking hard at QH’s and Appendixes, and for what it’s worth all four of the above horses were found in lower level hunter barns. You might look there, if you’ve got connections, for the steady Eddie that just doesn’t have solid changes or moves to make it in their program.

I’m no help in the actual question about cobs, but thought I’d throw in my .02 as a fellow ammy with a life outside horses :rofl:

10 Likes

Thanks! I do love QHs and I’m not anti-TB if it has a good brain and doesn’t need to be worked hard to stay sane. Like I said, when the time comes I will probably look locally first to see what’s out there (all breeds) before jumping the pond.

1 Like

Unless it’s a Welsh cob or a Norman cob. Those are breeds.

Here’s a nice chonk uh, I mean Cob Normand :joy:

5 Likes

As a type, the show cobs are very hard to find these days as Irish breeders are going for higher value riding horses and WB and genuine, top-notch cobs have always been a bit of a freak of nature. The hairy “traditional” variety remain common, partly because the Travellers still count their wealth in the number of horses they own, scattered all over the countryside, and breeding is both random and excessive.

A fascinating website to look at is www.dragondriving.co.uk It most certainly isn’t Horse&Hound but is full of cobs and other driving horses and ponies for sale. It is a bit on the dodgy end of horse trading but still has some good animals there.

5 Likes

That would be an a Welsh Section D and an Anglo Norman.
Both have recognized registries and are of the “cob” type.

1 Like

I had a Welsh Cob/ TB mare that was a fantastic eventer. She took me from Novice to preparing for Intermediate when she died untimely. She was bred in Canada, and as I recall there was at least one person there breeding that cross. Mind you I had my mare about 28 years ago, but she had a fabulous brain, was a catty jumper and was very patient with me. Loved her dearly.

3 Likes

Agree, a Welsh X TB or 1/4 Welsh x TB is a very nice cross and can be really useful eventers.

2 Likes

I’ve had 2 that I’ve started under saddle and taken as far as their first few events. First was a lovely 15.3ish bay chunk that arrived with a lorry load of very mixed types from Ireland. Very easy to do as a young horse although not the quickest to learn where to put his feet. He went to Novice (preliminary) with the person I sold him too, although he ended up being very substantial and strong!

Other was a little chap who was barely 14hh. Poor thing had not had the best of starts and took a long time to learn to trust anyone. He had a big engine for a wee cob, was sharp, spooky and not for the faint hearted! He was a lot of fun though and loved his jumping, though I only did a few 80s with him before I found him his very own person.

I see a lot out competing BE where I am. Not sure if he’s Irish or not, but one of my favourite hairy cobs on the circuit was 2nd very recently at the Scottish grassroots champs at Blair and qualified for Badminton 90 champs next year.

3 Likes

Also Welsh section C - pony of cob type

The Anglo Norman is different to the Norman Cob (Cob Normand) though - anything with “Anglo~” in the name usually means it’s part Thoroughbred, and in this case local horses crossed w TBs made the Anglo Norman, which was then further refined into two other breeds - French Trotter and Norman Cob. The things you learn on a wiki rabbit hole… :smile:

Some of the cob type scrub up rather well. Remember Mulry’s Error?

From this https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DIlV5QVXYAUCb1C?format=jpg&name=large

to this: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DmZDO0xXoAIR7IB.jpg

3 Likes