Our Welsh Cob Horses - the Family Heritage
Let me tell you about the horses my family raises. There are none better in all the world; indeed no English, French or Spanish horse is more courageous, stronger, swifter, more nimble or more beautiful than the fine Cobs of Wales. It is no wonder the Bards of Wales sing their praises! Our Cobs are round and muscular, with bodies are as deep as their legs are long to give room for their tremendous lungs and hearts. Their sturdy legs have abundant bone of the highest quality and hooves as hard as steel. The heads are short and wide and flat across the forehead; broad and deep in the cheeks and tapering to wide open nostrils. They have huge, bold eyes shaped like pears that shine with bold, friendly intelligence and courage.
Both my father's and my mother's families have long been renowned for the fine bold Cobs they breed and train; which bring good money as swift and sturdy mounts for Nobles and Knights. The larger Cobs are trained as destriers, the smaller as rounceys, and often a pair sells together. Sometimes we have the good fortune to raise spotted Cobs, which are highly regarded and always bring the most money. My father visits Uncle William in Pembroke every summer with 3 or 4 young stallions. We have a grand time together, for Father and Uncle and their men take nearly a fortnight to test the stallion's courage, strength and stamina. This is how they choose which of the horses will make fine Hunters for Nobles, and select the best stallions to continue in training as destriers. Two years ago, when I was 11, Father and Uncle decided I was skilled enough to ride the young stallions in the tests. This is the most exciting part of the entire year!
To do this, we ride out to hunt every day for 6 days. We hunt all sorts of game, furred and feathered. The stallions need to be unafraid of the sudden rush of feathers from our merlins, nor afright when rabbits or fowls jump out from under their very feet. They must not flinch from our spears, and must hold steady when we shoot our bows. They must ever be bold and skillful in chasing game, and be especially courageous in hunting the wild boar.
After a day of rest come the race days. On the first race day we gallop 12 miles across the fields and over breaks in the hedge rows. The second day we race 20 miles up and down hills. The third day we race to the river, jump in and swim across, jump out, gallop another 6 miles over the fields, come around the church and back across the river and home again. The fourth day we trot in the morning from the manor just south of Pembroke Castle to Llandyssul, a distance of 40 miles, and after we rest for an hour and have a meal, we trot back home again. On the last day we repeat our 12 mile gallop up and downhill and we jump over all manner and size of obstacle. Father and Uncle choose the two finest, fastest, most noble stallions to father next year's foals. If a stallion fails to show strength or courage or desire in any of the tests, they are gelded immediately for only the finest can be allowed to sire offspring.