No wonder in these days of rising costs and enforced economy the Welsh Cob (and his smaller counterpart, the Welsh Pony of Cob type) becomes more and more popular as he gets better known. He is an “all-rounder” – equally suitable for riding or driving. Moreover he is healthy, hardy and strong, living out all the year round.
For the average horse-loving family he answers the longing for something easy to manage and keep. He meets the needs of young and old alike. He has the warm-blooded loveable pony nature – active, kind, intelligent and willing. He has no pampered background. Throughout the ages he has flourished and worked on the small Welsh farm sharing in the often poverty-stricken conditions that prevailed. This was the sort of life that has made him what he is.
Evidence of the existence of the Welsh Cob in the middle ages and even earlier can be found in mediaeval Welsh literature. According to description he had to be “fleet of foot, a good jumper, a good swimmer and able to carry a substantial weight on his back”. He had also to be capable of drawing loads of timber from the forests and doing the general work on the upland farms long before the introduction of heavier animals. Both in times of peace and war he has played his part. No doubt in 1485 the British throne was gained by Henry Tudor with the help of the Welsh Militia on their cobs which he gathered round him on his arrival from France at Milford Haven as he travelled up the west coast of Wales. And indeed much later the Morgan Horse almost certainly owed his origin to the Welsh cobs left behind by the British Army after the American War of Independence at the end of the 18th century.
So valuable was he to the Army for the mounted infantry and for pulling heavy guns and equipment over rough and often mountainous terrain that premiums were paid to the best stallions by the War Office up to 30 years ago and not as at present by the Horserace Betting Levy Board.
The founders of the Welsh Pony and Cob Society in 1901, in their wisdom, decided to register and record this ancient breed together with the Welsh Mountain Ponies and the larger Welsh Ponies in the Welsh Stud Book, dividing them into four sections according to height and type. Essentially the description for each section is similar – the typical short Welsh pony head with small ears, the large prominent eyes and open nostrils, the well-laid shoulder, short back and powerful muscular quarters With gay tall carriage – standing on good clean legs with dense bone on sound feet. The characteristic fast trotting action of the Welsh Cob and Pony of Cob Type like that of the Mountain Pony should be true, bold and free, covering the ground with forceful impulsion from the hocks.
Before the advent of the motor car the Welsh Cob was the speediest mode of transport for the doctor or tradesman and others eager to get from here to there in the shortest time. Businessmen in South Wales were, known to select a cob by trotting him all the way from Cardiff to Dowlais – some 35 miles uphill all the way. The best would do this in less than three hours never slackening or changing pace from start to finish.
Before licensing was introduced in 1918 stallions and breeding stock were selected by this kind of test and by means of the old trotting matches which took place with a stopwatch over a measured distance on many roads in Wales. Such names as the many Comets, Flyers and Expresses which abound in the early volumes of the StudBook testify to their speed and prowess.
Nowadays the Welsh Cob has come back into his own after a long period of disregard and neglect. He has proved himself as the ideal trekking animal – safe, sure-footed and responsive – and for private driving he is unrivalled. A natural jumper, he is also, owing to his tractable and gentle disposition, perfect for the disabled rider.
At shows Welsh Cob classes always draw the crowds who love to see these magnificent creatures shown in hand by experts, displaying their presence and courageous action. In harness, too, the Welsh Cob is spectacular and has recently proved in combined training events under F.E.I. rules that he can compete against all and beat, them. His innate suitability for high school and dressage in the “Lippizaner” manner is being now realised and demonstrated in Austria.
He crosses especially well with the Thoroughbred to produce hunters, jumpers and event horses or with the Arab to get a riding pony with more bone and substance. At one time cob mares were in great demand as the foundation for Polo Ponies to obtain the agility and nimbleness necessary.
Any colour is allowed – except piebald or skewbald. Chestnut, bay, brown and black are most usual. Greys are rare, but there are a number of duns, palominos and creams.
The Welsh Cob is, beyond doubt, the most versatile of animals in existence and long ago established a reputation as the best ride and drive animal in the world.