While Huntseat is supposed to originate out of the foxhunting world, it could be argued that as the equestrian sports are today, foxhunting and eventing- the cross country phase of eventing, that is- are most closely related. And yet still there’s a lot that separates the two.
Jack has been a foxhunter, or a foxhunting reject, all his life before being started as an event horse last year. I hunted first flight with the Mecklenburg Hounds and was an active member from middle through high school. This helps me appreciate his quirks and the holes in his training that relate specifically to eventing.
Jumping Natural Obstacles
This is easily the best advantage a foxhunter has when transitioning to eventing- experience over natural obstacles. And this is definitely Jack’s forte. While most jumps found on the hunt country are simple logs, coops, and walls/verticals, and understanding of how to negotiate terrain and solidly built questions is a handy quality in the eventing world.
Jumping with Balance
There are no bonus points for pretty out in the hunt field. Your objective is to survive to hunt another day. Much of the jumping therefore is a sort of get-er-done deal, with the goal being getting from the front side to the back side of the fence. The flight you are in typically determines the speed at which you hunt- first flight stays with the huntsman and therefore sees the most speed and challenging aspects of the hunt. Second flight, and/or Hilltoppers, often includes hunting novices or younger participants and was a walk/trot group in the club I participated in. So, jumping generally happens one of two ways- from a trot or from a gallop. The rideability and, more specifically, ‘showjumping canter’ needed for stadium rounds or technical combinations in cross country is not typically installed in a foxhunting horse.
Tolerance for Dogs
The hounds make the hunt. And years of thoughtfully produced programs and breeding are put into these [occasionally dumb] creatures, so they are a highly valued, even blessed part of foxhunting. Probably the fastest way to get kicked out of a hunt is to have your horse kick or injure a dog. This is one of the reasons why Jack is a foxhunting ‘reject’: not because he was a hound-kicker, but that the large groups of hounds baying, barking, and generally being completely underfoot was more than he wanted to handle. In eventing, this isn’t shouldn’t be a concern, as dogs aren’t meant to be part of the action at all on the cross country course.
Lord only knows how much we eventers love our colors. Gold, green, red, royal blue, orange… Life’s a box of crayons for us, and we go hog wild for that shit. Foxhunting? Not so. This is likely the place that Hunter-Jumpers relate to foxhunting still in the strictest ways. There are purposeful rules about who can wear what color jacket, with red being reserved for staff and dark colors for everyone else. For safety reasons this makes sense- you need to be able to see and follow the staff across miles of countryside. Imagine trying to pick out a staff member if everyone dressed as eventers do? Yeah, there’s not enough whiskey in the world to make foxhunters adopt lime green and orange as their attire.
While I have every hope and intention of making Jack a successful event horse, it’s important to remember that all of this is a slightly different world than he is used to!