A HUNTING WE WILL GO
My Dear William,
I’m so pleased to hear that you have decided to take an interest in foxhunting. Your mother told me that you have spent the summer improving your riding abilities and that you intend to make a foray into the hunting field once Autumn Hunting begins; and then to continue into the season if your interest holds, as I hope it will.
You won’t mind, I’m sure, if I presume to pass on a few tips abut what awaits you. Enthusiasm sometimes takes such a hold that sometimes one can become a little carried away and one commits sins great and small that can mar one’s enjoyment. So take what follows in the spirit in which it is offered, and above all, enjoy what has given so many of us a major interest in our lives and one to which we owe so much.
The Virtuous Member of the Field
Even in the more expansive days of the ‘Golden Age of Foxhunting’, the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Field observed a very strict code of conduct, which dictated the way in which they took part in their day`s Hunting. Although times have changed and attitudes have become more relaxed generally, it is still necessary to conform to the rather different requirements of today. Keep in your mind that there is a good practical reason for everything you are asked to do, so that you will be able to enjoy as much as possible of the sport that the Masters and their Hunt Staff have arranged for you.
Some people think we`re rather old fashioned, the way we say “Good morning,” and “Good night,” and “Please shut the gate,” and “Thank you” (you can`t say “thank you” too often). But there`s more to it than that. You don`t have to dress in the height of fashion, but it is so much appreciated if you turn up at the Meet properly dressed and looking clean and tidy. Your hosts are really pleased when they see you have taken the trouble to turn up with a clean horse, clean tack and you are properly turned out yourself. The effort they have gone to in laying on their Meet then seems worthwhile. When parking your lorry/trailer, do not block roads or gates and keep off mown grass verges. It is a `crime` to be late for the Meet. If lateness is unavoidable for any reason, you must ride the roads until you find hounds. If you set off across country, there is always the chance you will foil the line of the quarry and thus spoil everyone else`s day`s hunting, so please avoid unauthorised exploration of this sort.
Moving Off – The First Draw
Once hounds have moved off from the Meet, please make sure you are behind the Field Master. If a hound stops to empty bowels or bladder, the Field Master will hold up the Field until the hound has moved on again. If this does not happen, the unfortunate hound will soon become lost among the horses of the Field and will take some time to rejoin the pack. Worse still, it might be frightened, go adrift and who knows what might happen then.
Once you reach the first draw, and thereafter, remember you are under command of the Field Master. No one must go in front of the Field Master, or leave the Field, unless specifically asked by him/her to do so; and this for a particular purpose only. Sometimes an experienced member of the Field is asked to go and sit quietly `on point` to watch for the quarry when it leaves the covert. Sometimes, when the Huntsman needs to keep a particularly long distance between himself and the Field, an individual might be asked to go forward and act in a `link` role so that the Field Master will know when the hounds have `gone away.` This might be the case on a particularly windy day or when a very large covert is being drawn. Otherwise the Field must stay where it can be under the close control of the Field Master. In this way, the Huntsman will be on his own and in a position to hear the hounds` slightest whimper, without the distraction of jangling bits or horses clattering through woodland or splashing through mud. The Huntsman and his hounds must always be given the maximum amount of elbow room at every stage of the Hunt.
It`s Kick-Off Time!
The lead Hounds are pouring out of the covert, their Huntsman now pauses to blow the `gone away` and holds hard for a moment to let the tail hounds catch up, perhaps after they have been impeded by being in a thick piece of undergrowth. They must be given every chance to drop in with the lead hounds without being trampled to death by the Ladies and Gentlemen who are concerned that they might be left; so wait a while and give them room to move, please.
The days when the hard-riding, experienced hunting person could now take his or her own line across country are, sadly, long gone. Present-day farming practices and the need at all times to take account of the requirements of our farming hosts mean that for the greater part of the time, the Field must ride with the greatest discretion; and this means still being under the control of the Field Master. He or she carries the heavy responsibility of ensuring that the Field sees the maximum possible sport, but this needs cooperation from both sides.
The Field Master will take particular care not to lead the Field directly behind the hounds, but rather to one side. It is often not appreciated how the press of horses behind them can push the hounds on, sometimes over the line of the quarry so that they drive on too far and are then at fault. Hounds take their sense of direction from the Field`s horses to a greater degree than might be imagined. So elbow room, elbow room and still more elbow room please.
If a member of the Field finds his or her horse is having a stopping day, it is important to remember that five or six attempts at a hunt jump will only delay the rest of the Field and spoil their day. Waiting until the last lot have successfully jumped the obstacle and then trying again is one solution, but finding a non-jumping alternative might be a better one that saves time in the long run. Even on the best of days, it is unusual for hounds to run for more than 20 minutes without a pause, so it will be possible to make up ground. On the subject of jumping, try not to jump over or on fallers! It could be you one day. And please do not gallop on past a faller who is trying to re-mount. Wait until they are safely on board again.
If by chance a member of the Field sees a fox (!) he or she should point his horse`s head in the direction that the fox has gone then stand in his stirrups and point with his hat in hand. If he is in a place where the Huntsman cannot see him, he should holloa. The Huntsman will not necessarily come to the holloa but if he does, an accurate report should be given as to when the fox was seen, how long ago and which way he went. (only of course if the requirements of the law have allowed a fox to be hunted on that occasion!!)
The Masters will always have in mind the fact that people have come out for enjoyment, and their maximum effort will be devoted to that end. However this is a two-way street and the Field must play their part in a constructive and helpful way, learning their lines and not bumping into the furniture too much.
During a hunt, please note all damage and report it to the Field Master, so that it can be repaired as soon as possible. Please make sure that all gates are securely shut and that no livestock escapes to where it should not be. If there is a problem here, please abandon the hunt and after seeking help (if necessary) put that livestock back where it should be. You will gain treasure in heaven, if nowhere else!
Simple rules, properly observed, will all help towards a successful day and more important, ensure that the Hunt is asked back for another day. It`s good manners and common sense, but if in doubt never be afraid to ask someone who is experienced in these matters. No one will think any the worse of you for wanting to learn. So enjoy yourself, and remember that Hunting has been going on for nearly 250 years. Let`s not do anything to spoil it now or for the future.