A lot of people are worried about the mysteries of hunting etiquette, but if you follow a few basis rules, you will find that everyone is keen to help you and to welcome you into the hunting community.
Remember that we can only hunt over the land if the farmers give us their permission and without them there would be NO hunting activities of any sort. ALWAYS LOOK OUT FOR ESCAPING SHEEP/CATTLE, OPEN GATES, BROKEN FENCES AND WIRE and report it to the Field Master or Hunt Secretary.
There follows a brief list of do’s and don’ts, as a guide to help you:
Do NOT be late for the meet.
DO make yourself known to the Secretary (now is the time to pay your “cap”) and say “Good Morning” to the Master.
Call all Masters, “Master” regardless of their gender (you don’t need to know their names!)
Keep horses’ heads TOWARDS the hounds at all times during the meet, or if you meet them on a road, so that they don’t kick a hound – this is a serious offence and you may be asked to take the kicker home.
If you think your horse might kick others, ALWAYS tie a red ribbon round the top of its tail as a warning to others to keep away from its hind legs.
If your horse is likely to kick and has a ribbon, you must keep it at the back.
A green ribbon on the tail means a young or inexperienced horse.
ALWAYS thank passing traffic for slowing down on the road (even if they don’t! – maybe they will next time …?)
Be careful not to ride on mown grass verges.
When going through a gate you may hear the cry “GATE PLEASE” to signify that the last person through should shut the gate. Always pass this back and ensure the person behind you has heard. If you are the last SHUT THE GATE securely.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, make sure that any gate you have opened is closed behind you, firmly and securely.
Always wait for the next horse when closing a gate or going over a wooden bridge. Do NOT gallop off until the next horse has come through.
If others are jumping a fence close to a gate, then wait until they have all finished jumping before opening the gate.
If someone is in trouble then go and offer to help them – it may be you next time!
Keep quiet and still when the huntsman is drawing a covert (looking for the scent to hunt) and listen for the hounds to speak, which shows they have picked it up and you will soon be off!
Stay behind and follow the Field Master at all times.
Listen to any helpful advice you may be given about holes, wire on the ground etc. and pass the message back; keep your eyes and ears open!
In the event of action from ‘antis’ there should never be any reaction.
It is courteous to say ‘Goodnight’ to the Master when you go home at the end of your day – but it is not essential to stay out until the Master goes home. You must look after your horse and take it home before it gets too tired – remember, a tired horse makes mistakes and that is when accidents may happen.
Followers in cars are requested to take the greatest care not to block the road for normal traffic. You are requested to park all vehicles on the same side of the road and turn off engines when in the proximity of hounds.
Car followers are requested to remain on the roads at all times and not to drive across fields or along peoples’ drives without the owners’ express permission.
Cross country driving is confined to the hunt quad.
There are some words which, used in a hunting context, mean something completely different – here are a few, the meanings of which you may find it useful to know;
The Field Master … is in charge of the day. He/she must be listened to if they have something to say at the meet and must be carefully followed around crops and across grass. Farmers are good enough to have the hunt on their land, it is vital that we respect their wishes. The Field Master will have seen the farmer before the day and will know which fields we may ride through and in which ones we are not welcome.
To draw a covert ….. this means that the huntsman will put his hounds into a wood or a rough place and encourage them to sniff around for the scent.
Hounds (they are NEVER referred to as ‘dogs’) are speaking/giving tongue/giving mouth … this means the hounds have picked up the scent of something and are barking as they hunt the trail.
The line … this means the line of the scent/trail.
To cast … the huntsman asks his hounds to sweep forward, or behind, or to the side of him in an arc to try and find the scent.
The field …. this means all the mounted followers, as in ‘on Saturdays there is a large field’, meaning that a lot of people come hunting on Saturdays.
A check …. this means that the hounds have temporarily lost the scent and they may have to ‘cast’ again in order to find it and carry on hunting.
A couple of hounds …. obviously, this means two hounds, but they are nearly always counted in couples, as in ‘two and a half couple are hunting in the covert’, meaning five hounds altogether.
Gone away … this means the hounds have found the scent and have left the covert, hunting.
Goodnight … when you leave the hunting field, even if it is only 12 noon, you should say ‘goodnight’, rather than ‘goodbye’ to the Master. This is a custom that comes down from the days when everybody had enough horse power to stay hunting until it was dark!
WHAT TO WEAR
Essentially, the important thing is to be warm and dry and safe. However, there is a certain dress code attached to the hunting field, which has evolved from centuries of trial and error. It keeps everyone looking neat and tidy, which helps to maintain the good appearance of hunters when out on the road in public view; it also shows respect to our hosts, the farmers, on whose land we are riding and by whose invitation we are out.
During Autumn Hunting adults should wear Ratcatcher, ie. breeches and brown or black boots, or jodhpur boots with smart half chaps, a shirt and tie or coloured stock, a tweed hacking jacket and a hard hat.
Traditionally, from the Opening Meet (either the last Saturday in October or the first Saturday in November), adults should wear a black or dark blue (ladies only) hunt coat with white or beige breeches, black boots, spurs and a white hunting tie or stock, white or fawn gloves. Gentlemen wearing red coats wear white breeches, black boots with mahogany tops and spurs. In all cases a riding hat with dark blue or black velvet cover.
It would be sensible not to wear jewellery (such as earrings) in case they get caught and damage ears and/or get lost. Long hair should be tied back and/or kept tidy in a hair net.
However, as long as you turn up looking reasonably smart, we will make you very welcome.