OK, so hunting isn’t for everyone and it is probably one of the most divisive topics but many say that it has its place in the countryside and below we answer a few pertinent questions on the lips of beginner hunters.
How do I know where to go to hunt?
To find your local hunt, visit www.mfha.org/hunts (foxhounds) or www.amhb.org.uk (harriers and beagles, click on “go hunting”). Then ring the hunt secretary. Packs often offer incentives for under-25s and people who farm in the hunting country.
Do I need a companion when I am hunting?
If you have a friend with a well-behaved horse to accompany you then that is a good starting point, particularly if your horse hasn’t been out before. But it’s not essential. You should make sure you explain to the hunt secretary that this is your first time as theya re likely to be able to suggest someone to look after you for the day.
Is my horse suitable?
This is the $64,000 question and one you will not know the answer to until you get out there!
Many horses get a little overexcited but can you blame them? A hunt is like a really exciting party for horses! Hunting in the Autumn is ideal for those who haven’t hunted before and for green animals because things happen at a more gentle pace.
Do I need to plait?
Manes should be neat, tidy and clean, but you shouldn’t get sent home for not plaiting. However, most people will, out of smartness and courtesy to those whose land they are crossing, but it’s not compulsory, especially during the Autumn hunt.
What should I wear?
Autumn = tweed jacket and shirt and tie or coloured stock, pale breeches, clean boots and gaiters/half-chaps or long boots, dark gloves and a hat with a dark cover.
In the main season, most adults tend to wear black or navy coats, but you will see some in tweed too. If you don’t own a tweed coat for autumn hunting, don’t worry about it too much. Girls: hairnets, not flowing locks, please. Make-up is fine, but not Jordan-style, and take off jewellery unless you want to risk tearing your earlobes off on low branches. You may wear a body protector, but preferably under your jacket rather than over it
What should my horse wear?
If you aren’t sure about your brakes, err on the side of caution or take a stronger bit/martingale in the lorry with you. Numnahs should be dark and follow the shape of the saddle — save that white dressage square for another day. If you know he might kick, put a red ribbon on his tail and stay well out of the way whenever possible. A green ribbon denotes a young horse, and if someone puts the back of their hand in the hollow of their back, it means “don’t get too close”.
Should he wear boots?
If you live in wall country, knee boots are de rigeur. Otherwise it’s your choice, and you know what suits your horse. But remember the boots will be on for a lot longer during the course of a hunting day than they would be during a cross-country round, and the risks of rubbing and overheating are greater. You’ll find plenty do and plenty don’t.
Must I jump hedges?
In short, absolutely not! Even if your hunt has a reputation for being a serious jumping pack, you can always go round — and there will be other people taking the roundabout route, too. Only jump what you feel happy with.
How fit does my horse need to be?
Your horse needs to be fit enough to canter up a hill without collapsing, but really doesn’t need to be racehorse-fit. And you can go home whenever you like — don’t feel compelled to stay out for hours if you and your horse are over tired.
Golden rules for first-timers
- Find out who the master is and say good morning
- Never overtake the field master, and always listen carefully to his instructions
- Never block the road
- Always thank traffic that slows down or stops
- Don’t park in gateways or driveways unless specifically told you can
- If you hear the shout “huntsman please!” or “whip please!” get out of the way sharpish so they can get through
- Always call them hounds, not dogs
- Always shut gates
- Mobile phones should be switched off, and talk quietly while standing at the side of a covert
- Never ride across the middle of a field of sown corn, even if you see hunt staff doing so
- Do ask questions about what is going on. The more you understand about a day’s hunting, the more you will enjoy it. People will be very happy to answer your queries