THE HUNTING YEAR:
Officially the year begins on May 1st which is the date upon which new staff or Masters begin their duties.
In this very early part of the season meets are held early in the morning before the temperature rises and evaporates the scent (see terminology). Meets are held shortly after sun-rise and are part of the process of preparing horses, hounds and the country for the coming season. The Dress code for Autumn Hunting is called ‘Ratcatcher’ (see below Dress Code).
THE MAIN SEASON:
The formal season starts with the “The Opening Meet”
WHO IS WHO – THE MASTERS:
Are in overall command of the hunting activities. They decide when and where hounds will meet, which land will be drawn, and when hounds will go home. They are responsible for hounds showing the best possible sport under existing conditions; and are responsible for the hounds, the staff, and making sure the riders only go where they are permitted neither causing damage nor annoying the landowners who make the sport possible.
Controls the hounds, indicating to them by his horn or voice when he wishes them to follow a scent, left by the trail layers or hunting rabbits. He attempts to be sure that hounds work together as a pack by encouraging the tail hounds and steadying the lead hounds. In the case of a check he must be prepared to assist hounds to recover the line by use of a cast if necessary. His technical decisions must be quickly made, and staff and Field must abide by them.
Assist the Huntsman in controlling hounds by turning them back to the Huntsman or by encouraging them forward to him as necessary. Whippers-in are also used by the Huntsman to retrieve the hounds. No one except the Huntsman gives orders to Whippers-In. No one, except by request of the Huntsman or Master, should accompany them or attempt to assist them.
Consists of the mounted followers and is controlled by the Field Master who rides at the head of it. The Field Master is responsible for and leading and controlling the Field across the country in pursuit of hounds. Whilst also seeing that the Field does not interfere with hounds in their work; and he is also responsible for seeing that the Field avoids damage to the landowners’ property. The Field should follow the Field Master and follow his instructions.
Deals with the hunt’s administration, collects the cap (the payment for the day) at the meet and is happy to help you in any way.
HPH DRESS CODE & ETIQUETTE
Members of both sexes to wear “Ratcatcher” which in layman’s terms is a tweed jacket along with any sensible neck tie. Technically Ratcatcher should be worn with brown boots and a bowler hat, but it’s now perfectly acceptable to wear the same boots and head gear as for Main Season Hunting.
MAIN SEASON – to be correctly dressed during hunting the following applies:
Gentlemen Members: may wear, with the agreement of the Masters, a Green coat with scarlet collar and Hunt brass buttons. Top Boots (mahogany tops) and spurs. Hunting Cap in black with the ribbons at the back sewn up. A hunting tie (stock) in white or cream should be worn with the pin placed horizontally for safety. Otherwise a Black Coat with black buttons, buff breeches and black butcher boots.
Lady Members: Black or Navy Blue coat with green collar and Hunt Buttons with agreement of the Masters, buff breeches with plain black butcher boots. Bowler Hat or Hunting Cap in black with the ribbons at the back sewn up. Hair should always be tied up and held in a suitable hair net. A hunting tie (stock) in white or cream should be worn with the pin placed horizontally for safety.
Farmers: Black Coat with black buttons, buff breeches and black butcher boots. Black Hunting Cap with the ribbons at the back sewn up.
Followers not covered by the above should wear either a Black or Navy coat, A tweed coat is also perfectably acceptable. Hunting Cap in black with the ribbons at the back sewn up, buff breeches and black butcher boots. A hunting tie (stock) should be worn with the pin placed horizontally for safety.
The numbers of buttons on your coat:
Subscribers = 3 buttons
Masters who don’t hunt hounds = 4 buttons
Huntsman & whip = 5 buttons
IS THERE ANYTHING SPECIAL THAT MY HORSE SHOULD WEAR?
If you know your horse is liable to kick it should wear a red ribbon at the top of its tail. If it is a young horse and you are not sure of its temperament it should wear a green ribbon.
Plaiting – it is traditional to plait ones horse for hunting. There should be an odd number of plaits with the poll plait making an even total. Hogging the mane is another option. Whilst plaiting is very smart, it is not compulsory. As a mark of respect horses should be plaited for lawn meets.
IS THERE ANYTHING I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE HOUNDS?
Do not assume that because your horse does not kick your dog at home that he/she will necessarily tolerate a pack of hounds. Even if he/she will, the huntsman does not know that and you will worry him if you get amongst the hounds. When in the vicinity of hounds always turn your horse’s head towards them to minimise the risk of kicking one.
END OF THE DAY
It is important to remember that without a huntsman and his hounds there would be no sport, and without the farmer there would not be a country to cross! A thank you goes a long way in helping these people feel appreciated, especially Hunt Staff who will probably be cold, wet and tired at the end of the day. It is traditional to say “Goodnight” at the end of your day.