Everything you wanted to know about hunting, but never dared ask
What we wear is important and our clothes out hunting have evolved to be sensible and comfortable in all weathers, while maintaing the tradition of the sport.
A well-turned out member of the field improves the day no end and makes the farmer feel proud to see us on his land.
Must fit properly and be comfortable. A velvet cap is traditional for hunt officials, farmers and ladies. For those who wear them the ribbons must be sown up.
A Crash hat with a dark blue, green or brown cover is sensible.
JEWELLERY of any kind should not be worn as it can cause nasty accidents or worse.
A hairnet should be worn to hold unruly hair in place.
For AUTUMN HUNTING – RATCATCHER is the correct attire.
A tweed coat, breeches, black boots, a necktie or hunting tie.
HUNTING FROM THE OPENING MEET ONWARDS
Black coat, breeches, black boots. Any smart waterproof coat that does not make you look like a tramp.
BUTTONS and COLLARS
Hunt staff mostly wear five buttons, Masters wear four, and Subscribers wear three buttons. The Huntsman carries the horn.
Every hunt has it own distinguished buttons and collars and the wearing of these is only for those who have been awarded their “Hunt Button”. It is only in the gift of the Masters to award them.
They are the future and should be nurtured. Starting in the Pony Club, their education is expanded further with hounds. A well-turned out young rider should wear a crash hat with a velvet cover, a tweed jacket with a Pony Club badge, a shirt, a tie and gloves. Jodhpurs and jodhpurs boots are correct. Leather chaps are also a good idea. Back protectors are smarter if worn under the jacket. Hand me downs are most helpful with ever growing children.
A hunting whip is a vital working tool of the day; a cutting whip is next to useless.
Essential, they keep your hands warm and stop the reins getting slippery. A spare pair can be kept under the saddle flap.
BOOTS AND SPURS
If you can afford them, leather boots give greater protection, although chaps are an alternative. Garter straps and spurs compliment the clean and shining boots.
IN YOUR POCKET
Some useful things to carry in your pocket are a length of baler twine, a packet of mints, a single blade penknife, an emergency £10 and a mobile phone, which is on silent mode. Any one seen texting or using a mobile is instantly fined.
Can be carried in your pocket, but more importantly, what is in the flask. King’s Ginger has people smiling within ten minutes even in the most Arctic conditions.
Percy Special and sloe gin have similar warming powers.
Autumn Hunting is where the education begins for both horse and rider, take the trouble to take a day off midweek and come out when the field is small. Build up to a Saturday. Horses are athletes and need careful and thoughtful feeding, depending on the amount of work they are doing.
THE WELL TURNED OUT HORSE
A hunter should have five, seven or nine plaits up the neck and one for the forelock. Plaits are put in when a lawn meet is being given, once again complimenting the landowner for his generosity. The bridle should not have any brass adornments or coloured brow bands. Numnahs should fit neatly under the saddle and be discreet n colour. Clipping is a skilled job, but is essential for the well being of the horse, you know how much you dislike being hot and sweaty.
CONDUCT IN THE FIELD
A coughing or a kicking horse should never be in the field. A coughing horse should be kept at home as the cough is so contagious. A kicking horse should have a red ribbon on its tail, be at the back of the field and not be ridden into gateways or jumps when other horses could crowd it. Never ride into the back of another horse and accuse the rider of being on a kicker. If you are riding an inexperienced horse wear a green ribbon. It is your responsibility to keep your horse away from kicking another.
Kicking a hound is a cardinal sin, a being sent home offence, but accidents do happen. When you hear the cry “Hounds please”, “Whip please”, “Master please”, turn your horse’s face to the “oncoming traffic”. If a hound does get kicked make sure the Master knows, as at the end of a long day an injured rib may get missed.
ON THE ROADS
Do not park in a gateway or blind corner and take car not to damage grass verges. Find a place with hard standing; be thoughtful to other people who may becoming to the same place.
It is all mounted and car followers’ responsibility to keep the roads clear at all times. The icing on the cake for somebody going late to an appointment is a smile and a hand up saying thank you from the members of the hunt.
If you are not sure where to park ring the Secretary, do not follow another vehicle into a farmyard, it may have got special permission to be there.
SOMETHINGS NOT TO DO
Never overtake the Master or Field Master, if you can help it.
Do not ride over any growing crops or young grass leys.
Do not gallop down a hill when it’s wet. It makes much deeper hoof prints and rips the root structure.
Do not go through cattle or sheep at anything other than a walk, they may get pushed through a fence.
Do not go through a farmyard at more than a walk.
Do not speak to the hounds on a hunting day. If they appear lost they will concentrating on hearing the Huntsman’s horn.
Do not chatter.
Do not ride too close to the Huntsman and his Hounds down a road or narrow lane as this can push the Hounds forward and this could cause a problem.
SOMETHINGS TO DO
Say “Good Morning” to the Master when you arrive at the meet.
Offer your Cap money to the Secretary; it is not his job to come to you.
If you have been lucky enough to have been at a lawn meet make sure you thank the host and hostess on leaving.
Listen carefully and make every effort to keep with the field.
Ensure all gates are shut by you or somebody behind you.
The cry of “Gate Please” should be passed back through the field. If someone is far behind you, raise your whip high to indicate from a distance that the gate must be shut and wait for them to acknowledge by the same action.
Go round the edge of a field (the headland) if in any doubt.
Always put your horse’s head towards a Master, Huntsman, Hounds or a Whipper-in when they pass. It is safer.
Keep your distance. Do not get too close to the horse in front.
If someone gets too close to you put your hand up behind your back to warn him or her.
If someone has had to get off to shut a gate, wait for them to remount, it is near impossible to do when someone is trying to catch up.
Wait after a gate or a bridge until the next horse is through before galloping off.
Warn riders behind you of any danger like “ware hole” or “ware wire” (ware is short for beware).
If the Master says “Hold Hard”, he wants you to wait.
Say “Good Night Master” at the end of your day and “Thank you”.
CROSSING THE COUNTRY
Enjoy the ride and think of others, you might be the next to be struggling across the field in search of your horse.
Always think of the person behind you. Go slowly across a slippery bridge and wait for the next one to come across to you before going on ahead. Do not allow agate to slam in front of someone coming through; hold it open with your hunting whip.
Remember the land is somebody’s livelihood. If in doubt about crops, ride on the headland.
The rides are for access of forestry work and timber extraction, not for our benefit.
If an area has been felled, it has probably been replanted – do look for tiny trees.
If the ride is grassy and well kept, take care not to chop it up needlessly.
Do not allow your horse to eat the top out of a sapling – the young tree will be deformed for life.
When riding at a fence make sure the person in front has cleared it first.
If you refuse at a fence, clear out of the way and let those who can get on their way.
Your refusal does not mean you can cut in at will.
Do not keep trying to jump a fence, it makes a terrible mess, there is always a way round.
Never beat your horse. Let your next fence be an inviting small one to get him going again.
If you do break a fence please report it straight away to the Master/Secretary in order that repairs can be made before the end of the day.
What would we do without them; they are a National Treasure.
The majority of Foxhounds are registered in the Foxhound Kennel Stud Book. Their lines can be tracked back centuries.
As part of a young Hound’s education he is sent out to “Walk”, which means at eight weeks he leaves the kennels and goes to live on a farm with a family or in a house surrounded by farmland. He will learn amongst other things about chickens, cars and children. The hounds get grounding in basic discipline. They are intelligent and fun and always remember their Walkers if they meet them later out hunting.
The young Hound will return to kennels the following winter or spring. It is then the Huntsman will take over his education. When they come back from Walk they become part of the “Young Entry” which will be shown at the Hunt Puppy Show held in the summer.
The Puppy Show is held by the kind invitation of the Masters and is the occasion for them to thank the Puppy Walkers. It is an honour to be invited and everyone should make an effort to dress for the occasion. The hounds that are shown will be entered the next season. As for a dress code, a pretty summer frock with a hat for the ladies and for the gentlemen, a summer suit and a Panama hat. Visiting Hunt Staff wear dark suits and a bowler hat. The Huntsman however wears a white coat over his suit for showing his hounds.
These take place at the local Agricultural Show during the summer months. The Parade of hounds is one of the most popular attractions, as all their local supporters cheer them on. It is also a rare opportunity for young people to mingle with the hounds and a pleasure for us to watch their mutual enjoyment.
Hounds are pack animals. They are not pets and are happiest living and working together. Hunts keep at least 30 to 45 couple of Hounds to enable them to take out hunting around 20 couple, two days a week. This allows for Hounds that are lame or the Bitches that are in season to off work. Over the years a type of Hound that suits each country has been evolved through a local breeding policy. The most common types of Foxhound are the Old English (strongly built, black and tan), the Welsh (broken coated) and the modern Foxhound (lighter in build and faster).
The huntsman brings to the meet either the Bitches or a mixed pack. The “bitch pack” is usually brought out for the days in the hills, where faster hunts are anticipated. The mixed pack is used in more wooded country where persistence – a characteristic of Doghounds – is required.
HOUND TYPES COLOURS
Old English Blue Mottled
Welsh – wooly/broken coated Black and Tan
Modern English Foxhound White
Harrier- smaller than the Foxhound Badger Pye
These will include lodges for the hounds with benches for them to get out of any draughts. Whelping boxes are for expectant mothers, and a draw yard is needed so that hounds can be fed by drawing them individually – shy feeders first and the fat ones last.
There are grass yards for hounds to relax in and a flesh house, where all the fallen stock arrives.
COUPLES AND COUPLES
Hounds are counted in couples. For example 42 ½ couple makes 85 hounds in kennels. When Hunt Staff are counting their hounds out hunting, it is quicker and more accurate to count them in couples.
Hunt Staff usually consist of a Professional Huntsman, at least one Whipper-in, Countryman/Terrierman and possibly a Groom. Many Hunts also have an amateur Whipper-in as well. Where an “Amateur” hunts the Hounds, there is also a Kennel Huntsman. The Amateur is usually a Master.
Life at the kennels is twenty-four hours a day. The hounds and horses need constant attention.
The Terrierman is now often the Countryman as well. He is responsible for much of the hard work done during the summer, laying woodlands, maintaining paths, repairing jumps, clearing rides and managing habitat generally. On hunting days, he will cull foxes from below ground if asked to do so by landowners and farmers within the terms of the Hunting Act 2004.
FOOT FOLLOWERS – HELPFUL HINTS
Find the person collecting the foot followers’ cap and make your contribution.
Do not stop or park your car on a corner.
Do not stop your car in a gateway, road junction, and drive entrance or opposite another car.
Take care not to park on neatly mown verges outside homes.
Switch off your engine as soon as you stop, however much you might need the car heater, you need to be able to hear.
Please shut any gates that may have been left open.
Always open a gate, as fast you can, for the Huntsman and the Field Master.
Assist in putting back any sheep or cattle that have escaped.
Have a cheery wave and thank you for any of the locals, have a chat.
Private individuals host lawn meets to welcome the hunt.
Some are at grand homes; some at farms and some are at local pubs.
The most important lawn meets of the year are the Opening Meet, which usually takes place at the end of October and the Boxing Day meet. Every one is on parade in their best finery, plaited and turned out to the best of their ability.
There are many lawn meets during a season and everybody is welcome, they do not need to be invited. Their hosts enjoy welcoming the hunt. It is only polite to appreciate their kind hospitality by tuning out and looking your best. And it is always bad form to arrive late.
PROVIDING A LAWN MEET
A nerve-wracking affair. It is customary not to start serving the drinks until after the Huntsman and his Hounds have arrived and to finish when they have moved off. Percy Specials, port and whisky are the staples. It is wise to serve from sturdy glasses in case they get dropped. Hot sausage rolls, bite size portions of good fruitcake and mini Mars bars for the children are the essentials.
The hunt calendar is very busy for one very good reason, fundraising. It is much more than riding to hounds. The country community comes together and organizes events that raises funds for the hunt and local charities, the Air Ambulance being very popular. Most of these could not take place if it were not for the voluntary help and goodwill of the hunt supporters.
THE POINT TO POINT
These start as early as December and go on into June.
A sub-committee of the hunt, under Point-to-Point Authority rules, runs Point-to-Points.
Each horse has been fairly hunted and has a certificate to prove it.
It is the making of many young riders and horses, who then progress on into a racing career on both counts.
Please be nice to those taking money on the gate, as they are all volunteers.
HUNTER TRIALS, SPONSORED RIDES AND ONE-DAY EVENTS
These are designed to improve the cross-country skills of both horse and rider. Hunting especially has been recognized as a great schooling ground for most of the top event riders and their horses.
THE HUNT BALL
A fabulous party. It is organized by hunt sub-committee and is the big night of the year. There are also a number of other entertainments going on throughout the year.
THE TERRIER AND LURCHER SHOW
Another must. Terrier racing attracts large crowds; it is always a fun day out with added attractions like ferrets and birds of prey in attendance. Every one with a terrier may enter but it usually on a first served basis.
THE HUNT SUPPORTERS CLUBS
No events happen without the infrastructure of hunting. The Hunt Supporters’ Clubs are busy organizing Horn blowing competitions, Hunter Trials, Terrier Shows, Horse Shows, Quiz nights, Carol Evenings raising money for the hunt.
GLOSSARY OF HUNTING TERMS
See the “The Little Hunting Hanbook” available from Hunt Staff Benefit Society c/o Puddledock Cottage, Westerham, Kent TN16 PUU
All packs of Foxhounds should be recognized by the MFHA and are strictly regulated. Each hunt has a registered country and any border disputes are sorted out by the MFHA. There is a book of rules that must be followed, including the welfare of the hounds and it has the power to discipline a hunt if any bad practice occurs.
Even with every care taken, accidents can happen. So if your horse kicks a horse, human or car it is advisable to have third party insurance. This can be done automatically when you join the Countryside Alliance. This organization has campaigned tirelessly to protect our rural way of life. We must all give it out full support.