Many people think of Irish Cobs as just strong docile animals pulling heavy Gypsy wagons. Yes, they were bred over hundreds of years to do just that, but they are also much much more.
Photo Courtesy of North Star Gypsy - USA
Although it has only recently been accepted as an official breed, the Irish cob, along with the Irish Draught horse and Connemara pony, is one of Ireland’s oldest recognized breeds. Worldwide they are known by many names such as Gypsy Cob, Gypsy Horse, Gypsy Vanner, Irish Tinker – Gypsy Cob being the most popular name in Australia.
The Gypsies (or Traveler’s as they prefer to be called) have always been known and respected for their relationship with horses. They bred them very selectively but did not keep written records, the lineage’s being passed on verbally from generation to generation. The quality and linage of his horses usually determine the wealth and status of the traveler, whose very existence depended on these animals that became a part of their family, living tethered next to the wagons they pulled
For hundreds of years these sturdy, hardworking horses pulled the wagons and flat carts of the travelling people throughout Ireland, Britain and Europe. The breed was created to fulfill the traveler’s need for a useable horse, gentle enough to be handled by children but sturdy enough to pull a wagon all day. If any horses showed temperament problems or had bad manners, they were immediately removed from the breeding program. Bad temperaments were simply not tolerated, consequently the horses have long been prized for their intelligent, willing temperament their athletic ability and extraordinary good looks.
It is thought that local draft and pony breeds, namely the Shire and Clydesdale, Dales and Fell ponies and the Galloway were first used to create the Irish Cob. This resulted in various sizes of horse which became types within the breed but it was, and is, one breed with the characteristics breeding true throughout the generations.
A purebred Traditional Irish Cob exhibits specific traits; they are ample in both muscle and bone making them compact and powerful, but still possessing a wide range of ability in various disciplines. Their appearance is rather imposing as the stout, powerful body is carried with great pride and agility and they are noted for their high knee action, incredible, almost intuitive, temperament and lots of flowing hair, indeed if grown and maintained properly their manes and forelocks are exceedingly long and their tails can drag on the ground. There is often long hair under the jaw giving them a look of ancient wisdom, but more important is the amount of ‘feather’ which is the hair that grows down the leg and all the way around the hoof. If this is not THICK and FULL then, by Gypsy standards, this is not a high quality horse.
“Hair isn't everything, but, you can't have everything unless you have the HAIR”
Ireland and England have long been famed for their quality horses and the Irish Cob is another example of such fine breeding. Many of the mares and stallions that are now recognized by the travelers as the great producers, were of Irish origin. Horses like The Old Roadsweeper, The Lob, The Banks Mare, The Henry Horse and The Checkity Stallion (so named because his owner refused a blank Cheque offered for him) were bred and foaled on Irish Soil
(photos courtesy of Jacob Lassen)
The Irish cob makes a perfect starter horse, especially for people who want a horse that isn’t physically challenging, is a good weight bearer and hardy in whatever size. Their extreme versatility, kindness and outstanding mental outlook make them ideal for children, pony clubs and adults alike for riding or driving either competitively or at leisure.
As a ridden horse, their wide short backs and sturdy conformation combined with the high knee action make them comfortable under saddle. They excel in the dressage arena with their instinctively high and flamboyant movements, while their natural endurance and athleticism make them equally at home out hunting or going across country and they are not put off by jumping logs, fences or ditches.
(photos courtesy of Theresa Fryer)
It’s hard to believe that these stout, smaller horses can move so well but they are incredibly agile and combined with such a willing attitude and trainable nature, they make a formidable partner who will form a lasting relationship of trust and companionship.
They are flashy, intelligent and personable but most importantly docile and forgiving, so if you are looking for a horse that is incredibly versatile and will be a faithful companion to you and your family, the Irish Cob may just be the perfect horse for you!
above - A young mare, Parnell's Aibreann, who has recently started jumping.
Above -Parnells "blue" stallion, Parnell's Leannan (by Clononeen Dunbrody) in jump training (Photo credit to Parnells Irish Gypsy Cobs)
Below - Back from a ride and in training -(Photos Courtesy of North Star Gypsy - USA)