Here are some frequently asked questions (together with answers) which should help those wishing to hunt for the first time or those who have been out and want to get it right for next time.
One of the things that stops people joining us is a fear of doing or wearing the wrong thing. Both etiquette and correct dress are important to the enjoyment of the day – as you will see – and in larger terms to ensure that hunting continues to have an acceptable public image. We are particular about showing good grace to the non-hunting public. Please thank cars for slowing down, wave cars on when you see the Masters wave them on, and keep to the nearside if you hear the shout “car please”. A smile and “good morning” to people on foot will help to dispel the usual myths about hunting people.
We pride ourselves on being helpful and tolerant to newcomers of all ages. We hope that these brief guidelines will help you feel more confident if you should decide to come out with us for your first experience of hunting. It is not an exhaustive list and you will not remember all of it, but the more you come out the more you will realise the reasons for it. We want you to have fun, that’s what you are there for, and we want you to enjoy yourself and come back again.
All followers and supporters, whether mounted or on foot must remember that our access to country is entirely dependent on the goodwill of farmers and landowners. It is vital to respect all property at all times and to respect those involved in the day who are non-participants.
What should I wear?
From the top: any form of safety hat is acceptable, but we would prefer a dark ‘silk’ if not simply a black one (adornments such as logos and pom-poms are frowned upon). A hunting shirt and hunting tie (stock) is preferred but a shirt and tie are acceptable under any safe black or navy blue coat/jacket or tweed jacket. Brightly coloured coats should be avoided. Fawn breeches are preferred, but white or dark-coloured breeches/jodhpurs are acceptable if they are all you have. Long boots or jodhpur boots are safest. Spurs are completely optional. Back protectors are acceptable and are indeed recommended for children. Don’t forget gloves (and spare if bad weather threatens).
For a description of the formal hunting attire that regular followers wear, see below.
What should I do before coming mounted to a meet?
The first thing to do is to email the Hunt Secretary – firstname.lastname@example.org – to ask if you may join the hunt for the day and check with her where the meet is, what time the meet takes place and how much the ‘cap’ (the amount of money you will be required to pay). The Secretary will also tell you the best place to park. She wants to help you enjoy your day, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. However, please do not leave it till late at night on the evening before. Last minute changes due to weather, farming problems will be broadcast on the morning of the Meet on the hunt’s e-mail system.
What should I carry?
The money for the cap; a penknife perhaps, some baler twine and possibly a sandwich if you anticipate a long day (though there will be no ‘stop’ to eat it). You may even consider carrying a handkerchief or a bandage for emergencies. If you are carrying a mobile telephone it should be turned off during hunting. They may only be used in emergencies. If you are a complete stranger or suffer from any medical condition, it is probably a good idea to carry a printed copy of your details so that we can help you should you have an accident.
What do I do at the meet?
Please allow plenty of time to get to firstly the parking place and allow time to hack from there to the meet itself. Please do not park in gateways or opposite other boxes or vehicles. Where possible ensure vehicles are completely off the road, especially on narrow roads, and allow room for agricultural vehicles to pass.
Good hunting etiquette demands that you should find the Secretary and offer her your cap or voucher, rather than waiting for her to approach you. Similarly, you should say a good morning to the Joint Masters (the correct greeting being “Good morning Master” even if you know them personally), whilst ensuring that your horse does not get amongst the hounds. In particular, find out who is the Field Master for the day and keep behind him and obey his instructions. If hospitality has been provided at the meet, please be sure to thank your host before you leave.
Should my horse wear a ribbon in its tail?
If you know your horse kicks habitually you must not to bring it hunting. If you think it might be liable to kick, it should wear a red ribbon at the top of its tail. If it is a young horse and you are not sure of its temperament it should wear a green ribbon. In both cases they should be kept to the back of the field. If the person in front of you is going through a gateway and has one arm behind their back you should be aware that their horse may kick if you crowd them. If a horse kicks badly you will be asked to leave the field. This is not a punishment but a protective measure for everyone else.
Please ensure your tack is in good condition and suitable for your horse as it is likely we shall be going round the countryside at a fair speed. Please do not wear brightly coloured numnahs or numnahs with commercial logos. We have turned a blind eye to a little tinsel on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day for the under 12s!
Do not assume that because your horse does not kick your family pet that it will necessarily tolerate a pack of hounds. Even if it will, the huntsman does not know that and you will worry him if you get amongst the hounds. Our hounds are extremely tolerant of horses and as such may be slow to get out of the way, so it is your duty to keep away from them.
What about jumping?
There are likely to be obstacles to be overcome on some hunting days. If you decide to follow the jumping field, do not attempt to jump if there is a hound anywhere near the obstacle. Always give Hunt staff priority and if you know your horse is a poor or inexperienced jumper let others go first. If your horse refuses, clear the jump quickly, go to the back of any queue, letting others go before you try again. If you break a jump please ensure you report the breakage to a Master or Secretary. Etiquette further demands that if you attempt a jump and break it you will be expected to pay for it (especially if it is a farm gate!)
There are nearly always ways around a jump and a number of people don’t jump at all, so there is usually someone to follow. If you are a stranger and do not want to jump it is best to talk to the Field Master who will know of a regular non jumper to pair you with.
What if I come across livestock?
When riding near or through livestock ensure you are between the stock and the fence and ride at a speed they will tolerate without getting upset. If stock bunch up in a corner, stop and wait for them to move out. You should not enter any field without the Field Master unless instructed to do so. You must always walk through farmyards and past stable blocks.
What happens at the end of the day?
It is important to remember that without a huntsman and his hounds there would be no sport. A “thank you” goes a long way in helping people feel appreciated, especially Hunt staff who will probably be colder, wetter and more tired than you at the end of the day. It is traditional to say “Goodnight” to the Field Master and your new friends at the end of your day. If you leave before the end of the day, you should still attempt to say ‘goodnight’.
Will I be shouted at?
The only people who should raise their voices are Masters, Secretaries and Hunt staff. If they shout – and it is unlikely – it will not be to remonstrate with you but to ensure safety. Voices are raised usually because of adverse weather conditions and the distance necessary for a message to travel. Please do not take it personally.
In order that everyone can enjoy the day, and that we can continue to access the widest possible country, here are some more details you might wish to peruse…
- gates must be left as they are found;
- broken fences must be repaired immediately if possible, reported to a hunt official and left stock proof. If the damage is extensive, the person causing it will be expected to pay costs;
- wire must NOT be cut;
- if impossible to avoid entering a field of crops, riders must keep to the headlands;
- stewardships must not be ridden or walked on;
- to avoid alarming stock, the field must ride slowly through farm yards;
- all grazing stock must be given a wide berth.
It is essential that anyone using a vehicle to follow must be equally respectful of property, highways and members of the public who are not involved.
- Horse boxes must park and unload as directed;
- public highways must be kept open at all times, as must any private driveways and gateways;
- vehicle/foot followers must remain behind hounds at all times;
- vehicles must remain on public highways and should never attempt to cross country.
Duty to Hounds, the Masters, Hunt Staff and the Field
- Always give way to the Masters and Hunt Staff and obey the Field Master
- never get between the Huntsman and his hounds or between hounds and the scent trail;
- assume that every horse kicks hounds until you know it does not;
- when hounds are ‘on’ scent allow them plenty of time to settle before following;
- never cut the tail hounds off from the main body of the pack;
- do not ride alongside the Huntsman unless you are asked to;
- never speak to a Whipper-in or the Huntsman after moving off from the meet, unless it’s vitally important to the day;
- do not break file, or race other members of the Field
Riding in the Field
- Never ride in front of the Field Master or alongside them unless invited to do so
- Never ride with the Huntsman or Whips unless a Master has given you that privilege
- When going through a gate, across a bridge or round a difficult obstacle, always wait until the horse behind you has come through, over or round it before riding away
- Always stay with the field and Field-Master. The Field-Master knows where we should go and which way
- When riding behind other horses, keep one horse’s length between you and the horse in front. A kick to you or your horse is dangerous and can be terminal to your future hunting
- If you have a horse that bucks or kicks out, keep to the back of the field and away from hounds. If you don’t, you will be told to do so by the Field-Master; so avoid that embarrassment
- Keep up with the field. If you don’t want to jump, follow the Master that knows the non-jumping way round, but avoid making the field wait for you because you are chatting at the back
- When hounds are speaking, stop talking and appreciate them working
- Always move to one side to let Hunt staff past, face your horse to the oncoming rider, and call ”Huntsman on your right” and so on
- Always stop and allow a late hound through the field to avoid harm to the hound and to give it way to reach the pack
- Always face your horse to hounds at a Meet or a rest point to avoid the risk of a kick at a hound
- Wait your turn at a jump and give time for the horse in front to clear the jump
- If you have to jump alone to catch the field, always walk your horse to the jump to check for obstacles the other side, show the jump to the horse even tapping it with your crop before returning to jump it
- Do not short-cut across crops you are uncertain about. You will be certain to be wrong and could damage not only the crop but our hope of hunting there again
- Consider all the points you have now read, commit them to memory and enhance yourself as a fox-hunter, able to help those who are new or forget
- Finally – revel in the privilege of hunting across country you could never normally access on horseback; woodlands, broad pastures and rolling Downs, in sun and rain, heat and freeze, and then – smile
Dress Code for Regular Followers
Autumn Hunting Dress
The dress code for Autumn Hunting is known as ‘ratcatcher’:
- Hard Hat with Brown, Blue or Black cover
- Tweed Hacking Jacket
- Coloured hunting tie (stock) or shirt and tie
- Buff or fawn breeches
- Brown or Black boots, or half chaps with brown or black johdpur boots
- Hunting Whip: Brown with lash and thong
Formal hunting dress is first worn at the Opening Meet and continues throughout the season until the end of the Cheltenham Festival after which time ‘ratcatcher’ may be re-adopted. There are slight differences for men and women and those who have the privilege of wearing the ‘hunt button’ dress slightly differently again, as do the Masters. ‘Ratcatcher’ is always an acceptable alternative.
- Hard Hat with black or blue cover
- Black or blue hunt coat
- White or cream hunting tie (stock). The stock pin should be worn horizontally
- White, buff or fawn breeches
- Plain black boots
- Spurs (optional) and a brown hunting whip with a lash and thong.