NPSW Guide to Trimming & Turnout of Welsh Cobs for the Show Ring
Originally written for our Trimming & Turnout Demo – 9th August 2013 @ Trekerwys Stud, St Day, Redruth.
Pictures kindly supplied by Sarah Thompson.
The level of production of a cob will always make and break placings in the show ring and with a careful eye to detail and turnout that is correct for breed type, we hope that we can help you reach some higher placings when you next compete. The attention to trimming and turnout generates the all-important ‘overall picture’ and first impressions will always count – so make them good!
TRIMMING A WELSH COB
Once your cob is looking in a condition suitable for showing, the final preparations can take place in the last days leading up to the show. You need to be able to look at your cob with a critical eye as how you trim can help to exaggerate the very best points of the pony and detract the eye from the bits you’d prefer the judge didn’t notice.
Your cob should have a beautiful, quality head and jawline with clean cut ears.
- Remove all of the beard and any cat hairs along the underside of the neck. Make sure the jawline is trimmed clean.
- Whiskers – some people remove these with a razor. We don’t remove any of these hairs as we feel they are an important part of the pony’s protective sensory system. They are unable to see their muzzle and without whiskers can easily bang themselves or catch on sharp branches when grazing hedges.
- Trim up the front of the ears by folding the ear in half with one hand and and cutting straight down the front of it with the other hand. Any extra ear wax can be removed with a damp sponge.
- The mane should all lie on the off side of the horses neck. The mane can be trained by plaiting it over for several weeks (the mane should be brushed out and replaited every 3-4 days).
- The mane should not be too thick. Pulling of the mane can thin it, or the use of a thinning comb with an inbuilt blade. Hoods can also be used the night before a show to make sure the mane lies close- this will give the impression of a stronger, thicker neck.
- Welsh Cobs are shown with neatly pulled manes. How short or not you pull the mane will depend on both your personal preference and how your cob is built. A pony with a weaker back-end and a big front should have a longer mane as this will help make the back end appear a little larger. A pony with a poor neck or lacking topline needs a very short mane to make the neck look as wide as possible.
- Shape of the mane – If your cob’s shoulder is a little more sloping than is desired, the mane can be shaped with the longest point at the shoulder blade, this will give the appearance of a more laid back shoulder as the neck will appear a little more ‘upright’. If your cob has a good big, laid back shoulder, show it off! Trim the mane in a line so the longest point is at the top of the neck and it is at it shortest at the wither.
- Don’t forget on the day of the show to put in a small plait behind the ear. This helps to show off the head, in particular the quality jowel that should be seen in the Welsh breeds.
- The forelock should be a little longer than the mane. A long head can be shortened by leaving the forelock even longer. The sun-bleaching effect should be lightly trimmed off with a razor and the end of the forelock should be shaped to a V – never cut straight. Trimming the ends of the forelock will also help it grow back thicker and healthier.
Welsh Cobs should have silky, quality feather at the base of all the legs.
- Cobs should not have feather above the three-quarter point of the cannon bone. Remove ANY excess feather and cat hairs from the back of the knee right to the top of the leg.
- Ponies which are lacking bone can be made to look more substantial by exaggerating the feather. Back combing the hair on the underside of the base of the leg can make it look more voluminous. The hair at the back of the cannon bone can be brushed upwards and hair sprayed to give it a wider appearance.
- Ponies with coarse, ‘cart-horse’ type feather can have it thinned a little or alternatively well oiled and brushed downwards to make it appear more silky.
- Hooves should be well kept by a farrier and senior cobs are often shod to encourage a bigger action.
The tail is what we get most asked about! The shape of the tail is a defining feature of the breed for two major reasons. Historically, the Welsh Cob was a working horse and a short tail meant that it could be easily tied up and out of the way for the pulling of a plough or when driving the produce to market. In the trotting races on a Sunday afternoon, a shorter tail also meant the cob could really use their hocks without a great tail hindering them. The second reason, is to encourage ‘flagging’! When a Welsh Cob performs, they love to put their tails in the air and a lighter tail is easier to lift. All the weight should be taken out of it and the shape of the trim should really make it look like a flag flying!
- GOLDEN RULE – Never bang off a cobs tail (a banged tail = cut straight).
- The top of the tail should appear neat and tidy. Thinned with a rake, clippers or pulled with more traditional methods. A backside can be made to appear more plump by thinning the top of the tail further so it sits closer into the bottom. With a damp sponge and a tail bandage on the morning of the show the tail can look even more narrow.
- The base of the tail should look like a V when viewed from the back and slope downwards away from the hocks when viewed from the side. This is achieved with a razor blade or a pair of scissors. Don’t be afraid to go too short for in-hand showing! Really take all the weight of the tail out and start the shaping from a good bit above the hocks. If your pony has curbs, capped or generally not very special hocks, don’t take the tail too short and start the shaping a little lower down so the tail is at it’s widest at the hock. This will help hide the faults. This same trick can also be used for ponies that lack depth in front the stifle or have weak hindlegs.
- Sometimes there are cat hairs down the back of the hindquarters. These should also be removed.
TURNOUT & PRESENTATION OF A WELSH COB FOR SHOWING
It’s essential that a Welsh Cob is turned out in a manner appropriate to the class and to promote its best assets.
- Mares, geldings and youngstock are usually shown in white halters (except colts 2 years or over that must be bitted). The style of halter you choose can really flatter a head. Plaited halters can encourage quality, a rope halter is good for a very refined face and a wider noseband will help shorten a head and give it a more ‘dished’ appearance.
- But what if I can’t hold my pony in a halter? There are some good designs of halter suitable for a strong pony where a detachable chain runs under the jaw. This has a far more severe action upon the head and is sure to hold up even the strongest of ponies.
- Colts aged two or over and stallions must be bitted. A smart havana leather in-hand bridle is used with brass points; clencher browband, rosettes and buckles along with either a rubber bit with brass rings or a stallion ‘horseshoe’ bit is most appropriate. Attached to the bit can be either a standard chain or a Newmarket chain (leather alternatives are available) with either a leather or white webbing leadrope.
- The roots of the stallion harness come from the historic practise of stallion walking – this is where rather than standing a stallion at stud, the stallion would tour an area serving mares as he went. The person responsible for walking the stallion would ride another pony, often a mare, whilst leading the stallion. The stallion would wear the bridle to keep him under control, side reins to keep the stallion standing tall, the roller would have bags attached to carry much of the ‘luggage’ for their journey and the crupper keeps it all in place as well as giving a good tail set – he is afterall, a walking advert! Stallion tack/harness can still be used in the show ring, although in recent times has become less popular and under some judges it comes with a pre-conception that the handler is inept, the horse is difficult, or it is being used to hide/disguise a fault. Stallion tack for many users is simply traditional, others use it to keep a horse moving in a straight line or to prevent biting of the handler and for some it can improve the overall appearance of a pony – particularly a cob that is long in the back where a wide roller can make the back appear much shorter. It can also help keep the head carriage high, although this is not a common reason for using it. It should be noted that it is normal practise to unclip the side reins for the individual trot up so the judge can see the natural way of going.
- It’s important the handler is turned out for the ring in a manner which both compliments the pony and is practical for the job. Shirt and tie are a must along with a smart pair of trousers and a belt. A waistcoat is usually worn by women and sometimes by men. A cob whip is normally held by the handler and shoes should be sturdy, with a good tread and most importantly, you must be able to run in them! Trainers or footballers ‘spikes’ are commonplace. On colder days, tweed jackets are also seen. Hard helmets are optional, but it is, of course, safest to wear one. Long hair should always be tied out of the way.
- Havana leather is most traditional, but black can sometimes look better on a black horse. Whichever you choose, make sure the saddle and bridle are the same colour leather. Some synthetic saddles can be equally as smart as leather or suede and you’d hardly know the difference.
- Plaited leather browbands are becoming increasingly popular and can really add some quality to a plain head – so long as it’s not hidden under a very thick forelock! Clencher browbands are forbidden in ridden classes.
- Welsh Cobs should be shown in plain, hunter-type bridles with a flat noseband which will show off the beauty of the head. A plain face, or a particularly long face can be given an even wider flat noseband to give a more dished appearance.
- Be careful not to buy a bridle that is too heavy for a quality head. By this I mean the width of the cheek pieces, throat lash and headpiece of the noseband. They can look too bulky around a good looking head – equally, they can help disguise an over large head.
- Plaited or plain reins are very much a personal preference and I don’t feel they can help too much in altering the overall ‘picture’. A plaited rein can be easier to find when you’re using a double bridle, so this should be the snaffle rein and the curb rein should always be the narrower of the two.
- A straight cut saddle will help show off a shoulder and will allow for a greater action, however, I very strongly feel that the fit of the saddle must come first. I’d rather use a saddle that fits well but not very tidy or not of an ideal style, than an ill-fitting saddle – after all, it is the pony that is being judged, not the tack. An ill-fitting saddle will hinder the way of going and generate resistance in the pony.
- A brown ‘fluffy’, wool-style numnah is most on trend, or ‘limpet’ pads can help with a saddle that may not sit too still on a round cob. Whichever you choose, it should contour the saddle and a brown synthetic or leather girth (unless the horse is black, at which point a black girth is appropriate) will finish the look.
- It’s important for the rider to be turned out to a high standard with a smart shirt and tie and beige or light yellow jodhpurs. A tweed jacket is correct and should be well fitted, not too baggy, nor too small and should be in a colour which compliments the pony. Some competitors like to be creative with their tweeds and colours of tie, but remember it should be tasteful! Brown or light coloured gloves should be worn – brown gloves will help to hide hands that are not very tidy – and the gloves should have suitable grip for the reins. A velvet riding helmet should be worn, navy for women and black for men and a flesh coloured harness is most smart. Long leather riding boots (or short boots and leather gaiters) should be well polished and although hunter tops are traditional, dressage tops are acceptable. If a whip is to be carried, it must not exceed 30” by most society rules (please check your rulebook!) and should be brown or black in colour, some very smart ones are available with silver tops or plaited leather.
- Remember – there is no substitute for a well trained, beautifully mannered ridden cob. Many people invest lots of money into top quality, expensive equipment, where this money could have been better spent on lessons!
We hope this proves useful to you. It is by no means a definitive guide as everybody trims their ponies slightly differently. However, if you’re starting out, or wish to improve your turnout, this will go a long way to helping you. If you have anything to add, please do so in the comments box below.