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My Feathered Friend: Why I Swapped Warmbloods for Cobs

Updated: May 3

 A handsome cob called Marley recently turned heads at the Winter Area Festival Championships at Addington Equestrian Centre. Here, Sam Watson reveals why she made the switch from warmbloods to cobs three years ago – and why it was one of the best decisions she’s ever made 

I used to be the archetypical horse snob with a wonderful flashy showjumper who I competed successfully for 20 years. 

Handsome 16.1 skewbald Tom was my 'horse of a lifetime', an Irish Draught x Thoroughbred who could turn his hoof to any discipline.

I bought him aged five and we competed at showjumping, enjoying the most incredible experiences together that included the Novice Derby at Hickstead, up to Open Novice Eventing, affiliated dressage, and Hunter Trials.

You name it, we tried it and my mantelpiece was decked with an array of brightly coloured rosettes celebrating our wins.

I owned Tom for 21 happy years before making the heartbreaking decision to have him put down when his struggle with arthritis became too painful to bear.

Warmblood Tom jumping fences
Tom Was Sam's Dream Horse: photo courtesy of Sam Watson

At first I couldn’t face getting another horse, I couldn’t imagine finding one who would live up to Tom’s talent, zest for life and adventure, but it wasn’t long before that itch to get back in the saddle became too intense to ignore. I had to scratch it.

I tried a couple of lovely young sports horses, but they were too sharp or hot to handle, resulting in several bad falls. I certainly don’t bounce as easily as I used to.

Nursing broken bones and a broken spirit I was all but ready to give up horses for good. My confidence was at an all-time low. But then a good friend asked, ‘why don’t you buy yourself a nice cob?’

I have to confess I wasn’t overly keen. I had always perceived cobs as being lazy, hairy and overweight, and I imagined my legs flapping around like a Thelwell cartoon just to break into trot.

But despite the misgivings I found my curiosity growing after reading glowing upon glowing comments about cobs, their incredible versatility, and growing popularity. The seed was planted.

A few weeks later I saw an advertisement by a lady called Christina Foley at MPF Horse Talent for a very handsome dark four-year-old cob. Her yard was only 45 minutes away from my Northumberland home and I decided I had nothing to lose by going to try him.

Bob had only recently arrived from Ireland and though he was lovely natured, he was very green. 

Bob had been rounded up on the rugged hills of rural County Clare with seven others and taken to the local horse fayre where a taxi driver from Cavan initially bought him. After a few months grazing he went from Cavan to Christina who specialises in classy cobs because Bob had really caught her eye. 

But she wasn’t going to sell him to just anyone as he was virtually unhandled and frightened of humans purely because he hadn’t been around many people and didn’t know who to trust.

I was grilled on the phone for half an hour before I could make an appointment to view him. I knew straight away he was for me (even though he wouldn’t come near me!)

He had kind, intelligent eyes, he was perfectly put together, and bursting with personality.

Christina informed me he was going to require a heck of a lot of work both on and off the ground and asked if was I ready for this kind of commitment? After being with him for only 10 minutes my mind was made up - welcome to the family Bob!

I left Bob at Christina’s yard for a month to be backed and ridden out in traffic and then excitedly welcomed him home. I spent hours and hours on the ground with him getting him used to me which was hugely rewarding as I watched him progress. He came on leaps and bounds under saddle. 

Bob was gorgeous to look at with lovely flowing paces, while remaining an armchair comfortable ride. Despite a few baby moments, he was quick to learn, eager to please, and he enjoyed his work. Bob is no slouch and still has quirky moments, but we are a great fit and I wouldn’t swap him for the world.

I have owned Bob for three years now and he has changed my life in so many positive and enriching ways.

Despite the challenges of bringing on a youngster, we have done so much together. He is another horse who can turn his hoof to anything. We have been to several clinics – showjumping, eventing, and dressage, as well as participating on beach rides, hunt rides and hunter trials.

We have taken part in lots of competitions and competed in our first BS 85cm last summer. Bob is always in the ribbons and he really loves life.

He is forward going without being silly and he always has a spring in his step. He is what you would call ‘a lovely person’ and there is not one ounce of malice in him.

Everyone loves Bob and even though he is only 15.1hh his character and personality more than made up for his lack of stature.

Bob has changed my life for the better; I really could not imagine life without him or his funny and kind personality and sunny outlook on life, which has definitely rubbed off on me!

Today, we are aiming for BE80 and BS British Novice in 2024 so lots to look forward to.

I had Bob DNA tested recently and discovered that he’s Shire x Clydesdale x Dales pony. He is absolutely a turbo cob who loves new challenges and experiences. He is an A* student, whether it’s show jumping, XC, dressage, pleasure rides, or beach rides. His attitude is “bring it on” except for the farrier and the clippers.

At a recent Geoff Billington clinic held at Richmond Equestrian Centre, Geoff summed Bob up in four words, ‘Brave as a lion.’ Bob certainly is that.

I am most definitely a cob convert – and cobs really can! 

Bob the Cob jumping
Bob Has Proved To Be The Horse For Any Occasion: photo courtesy of Sam Watson



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