I've been given the opportunity to buy a lovely gelding to hopefully event at the lower levels. His only job description thus far in life ( he's 12) has been fox hunting. I tried him last week in an arena, and he was very good, besides needing reminding of his canter leads and being a little off balance in tighter circles. I jumped a couple of cross rails which he just sort of stepped over. I would like to hear stories, good and bad of how successful the transition might be and any other advice is welcome as well! Thanks!
Depending on what he looks and goes like, what war wounds he has/doesnt, I would totally try it. Galloping over uneven country, jumping whatever's in front of you, being rateable, standing quietly at checks, staying sound despite frozen ground, long hours, etc all translates well into eventing. Your test ride shows what you'll need to work on- balance, suppleness and collection- dressage that he can do if he's built for it and has the brain to do provided he enjoys it. Some horses just don't put any effort into anything in an enclosed area while they turn into superman in the field.
I've foxhunted every horse I've evented and we've all been better for it.
And the wise, Jack Daniels drinking, slow-truck-driving, veteran TB handler who took "no shit from no hoss Miss L, y'hear," said: "She aint wrapped too tight."
I do (or did) a bit of both with various horses. If he's only ever hunted you need to make sure he will jump coloured poles and fillers and that he will happily and willingly jump on his own. A few of the hunters here are fantastic hunters and will jump anything when following another horse, but won't jump bright colours and/or won't jump on their own. Obviously some will come round to the idea more than others. Lots make fabulous eventers.
When I was first a working student, the trainer I worked for imported a lot of horses from Ireland, many of whom were serious foxhunters. He generally bought horses that were great hunters but were fancy movers and could go easily on the flat with some basics (he called them "naturally round." The dealer he worked with said they made their riders "feel like they knew how to ride dressage." ). He tended to market them to ammies who wanted to show or event, but also hunt.
Most of the pure hunters made the transition to eventing easily. They already got the cross country part, and, while colored poles was often a lumberjack episode at first, they were good, smart, careful jumpers and figured that out, too (most of the true Irish foxhunters we got learned to jump in the field and often were a little baffled by poles). Most of them also took to the dressage easily.
I rode a fabulous, big, beautiful guy for awhile. He was a fantastic mover, naturally round, very sweet and willing on the flat (took to the dressage quickly, and was doing First Level type work in short order), and was a blast to jump. I rode him in his first event, at novice, and he was hilarious, but a good sport. Dressage was a little new, but he did ok. Show jumping was epic...we had taken the poor guy to VAHT and they show jumped in the Colesium. So, my good egg of an Irish horse was totally put off by this cavernous indoor with BIG white walls and people sitting above him. But, he knew his job was to get from one side to the other....but we have gone through instead of over a few Cross country was awesome. He thought,in warm up, we were about to go out for a hunt, and got all spicy and excited, and I could just tell he was looking for the hounds. Then he got completely baffled when we left the group and galloped off on our own. It took about 5 fences of him thinking "WTH are we doing? I'm so confused!" Then he totally settled in and got it carted me around like an old pro.
He went to a Pony Clubber (funny...we had two pretty big ISH boys that when bought were bought with the intention of selling to men...they both went to teenage girls because they were so sweet and took such good care), who did a lot of eventing with him and actually rode him at PC Nationals at First Level.
I've know quite a few others who've made the switch, but he was one of the few that was really pulled straight from the hunt field that I know of. A lot of our others either evented and hunted, or show jumped and hunted.
I bought a former hunter, and I can not believe what a nice willing soul he is. He had never done any eventing, and the girl who was riding him took him around all 3 phases with no issues. If I think he may look at something, I just kick. Is he a big flashy mover-no but he is a nice mover with some elevation and will jump nicely. The best buy I have ever made!
Everything in my barn hunts, and I've always found it as an asset for a horse transitioning into eventing. If it weren't for hunting, I don't think my upper level pony would be eventing; hunting gave him a passion for galloping and jumping!
Many field hunters are taught to trot their fences as a safety measure in the field. The field will line up and jump one at a time, we try to trot, or quietly canter, so the last few horses and riders aren't going at mach speed. He is probably unimpressed by crossrails, and is likely accustomed to jumping much bigger stuff out of the trot!
The exposure a good field hunter gets in irreplaceable, they will have had hounds under foot, various woodland creatures pop out around them (think hounds flushing a herd of deer right into the path of the hunt field), they will have heard gun fire, the horn and whips being cracked. They will likely have had cars go whizzing by them on the road, and they have seen every form and fashion of footing, ditches, banks, fences with no ground lines, fences with trees growing through them ect.
Back in the days of yore, most of the UL riders who had serious aspirations for a team slot wanted foxhunting experience in the background of their horses. These are the horses who have the famous 5th leg, can figure out puzzles on their own, and safely take care of their rider. Once you have ridden a good first flight hunter, you will think you have died and gone to heaven. Really.
And, please come out hunting with him. It will make you a much better cross-country rider, too. Warning: hunting is very addictive! It is incredibly fun and and you get to do it for 3 hours and there is hospitality/food afterwards...
Thank you everyone for your replies! The more I've thought about him over the last few days, seems like a good chance to take. I know this horse has hunted mainly first flight with a fairly novice rider and always jumps even without a lead. We'll see how the colored poles go, but honesty XC is most important to me. Hopefully I'll get the chance to hunt too when the season starts back up!