Hunting season is now underway and despite fears amid the foxhunting community that the sport would disappear following the passing of new laws governing hunting with dogs in 2002, the sport has flourished. Riders can now enjoy a fun day out riding across the country safe in the knowledge that no wildlife will be killed at the end of the day.
If you fancy a day out hunting, what can you expect? Foxhunting is extremely traditional and basic rules of etiquette must be observed. This is primarily for safety reasons to ensure that everyone has a good time and finishes the day in one piece.
These guys are the senior hunt officers and generally organise the day’s sport. They visit farmers and landowners to get their permission for the hunt to cross their land. There is always at least one of the Masters out with the hunt on the day and he/she will give a short speech at the meet before hunting begins.
The Huntsman controls the hounds on hunting days and it is he who carries the horn. The Huntsman trains the hounds and oversees the day to day running of the kennels.
The Whippers-in are the Huntsman’s assistants and assists in controlling the hounds.
The Field Master
The mounted followers are known as ‘the field’. They are guided by the Field Master and should follow any instructions that he gives.
The Field Secretary
The Field Secretary is responsible for collecting the fee for the day’s hunting (‘cap’) from the mounted followers.
What to wear
All members of the field and their horses must be smartly turned out. Hunt members will wear formal hunting attire (red or black hunt coats). Mounted followers can wear a riding jacket or tweed coat with a tie or stock, breeches or jodhpurs and a bowler or hard hat. Body protectors are optional.
The Hunt and its followers meet at a pre-arranged location for greetings and refreshments before the day begins. The Field Master is introduced; make sure you know who he/she is so that you can follow their instructions. You must stay behind the Field Master at all times; do not overtake!
Much of the jumping on hunting days is optional and there are gateways that you can cut through instead. If you do have a stop at an obstacle, wait for a lead before re-presenting your horse. Keep your horse’s head turned towards the hounds as if he is not accustomed to them, he may kick out.
Lend a hand by taking your turn to open and shut gates. If you are passing through a field containing livestock, slow to a walk and give them a wide birth. On roads, keep in single file to avoid inconveniencing motorists. Always be polite and courteous.
The Hunt are a very welcoming and friendly bunch who will be happy to guide you if you’re unsure of what to do.
At the end of the day, the Master will blow, “Going Home” on his hunting horn. If you decide to leave early, always thank the Master and tell him you’re going. He will then be able to direct you to the best route to take so that you don’t ride across fields that farmers want left hoof print-free.
Should you come across a damaged fence or gate, do your best to repair it to prevent livestock escaping before you move on. Any damage must be reported to the Field Master so that arrangements can be made to repair it at a later date. It’s a good idea to carry a length of baling twine in your pocket for such eventualities.
Hunting to hounds is an exciting and fun sport, which can now be enjoyed without the fear of harming a lovely wild animal. All UK hunts offer a warm welcome to visitors; why not try something new and spend a day out with them.
Image source: Flickr