It’s an amazing feeling, that first moment of contact, the first glimpse as the ramp of the horsebox is unfastened and lowered, hitting the ground with a heavy thump. The smell of sweat and ammonia released in a puff of warm air, the sound of hoofs against the wooden boarded floor, and the soft nickering of tentative communication. Stepping up the ramp and grasping the aluminium divider, pulling the retaining pin and swinging the hinged partition back I get my first look at the newcomer. Beautiful and scruffy at the same time the yearling colt steamed from the heat of the lorry and the stress of the journey, muscles bunched like coiled springs, ready to unleash the raw, animal power that even as a youngster, this beast had at his disposal. He was big for a yearling, well put together, with clean limbs and a well shaped back and neck. Red and white, not uncommon colours for the breed, but in beautiful proportions marking him out as one to watch in the ring, his size and shape and markings were what had first caught my eye when I saw his photos.
He was unhandled beyond the effort to get him onto the horsebox. He didn’t fit the criteria of his breeders, so he was a cast off, but there was little doubt that in the right hands he had a lot of potential, and his bloodlines confirmed that initial assessment. I’d paid top dollar for what was essentially a reject, but I had an instinct for these things picked up over years of experience and time spent with some of the finest horses the World has known. Those first few moments confirmed my initial instincts, that this little chap was something a bit special, something with that elusive secret ingredient that makes a horse stand on and more importantly makes a judge take a second look in the competition ring. There was a purpose to the purchase, this wasn’t a heart ruling the head moment. This youngster was the start of something that would grow and flourish and become not just sustainable, but worthwhile for the development of a different type of sports horse. One based more firmly on the ‘cob’ type that had been overlooked as nothing but a throwback to the days of horses being beasts of burden. One that elevated the cob cross to the status of the Irish sports horse as a multipurpose competition animal. Bred to succeed in any form of equestrian competition.
He clattered down the ramp, leaping off the end into the field of lush summer meadow grass and as he flicked his back legs, bucking and squealing, galloping to the hedgeline before lifting his head and tail and trotting along the fence as though he owned the place I smiled, happy with my choice and certain that I had made the right decision….