The informal or cubbing season occurs in the fall before the regular season begins. Dress for this season is referred to as “ratcatcher” or “informal” attire. This apparel is characterized by earthy colors and patterns.
Formal attire is worn during the regular season, which begins at Opening Hunt (first weekend in November). Formal attire is different for members and non-members, and for ladies and gentlemen.
With LFH, informal attire is appropriate throughout the year when hunting during the week. It is never incorrect to wear formal attire. Formal attire should be worn during the regular season on weekends and holidays.
Please do not hesitate to ask any attire or etiquette-related questions by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Attire Reference: Horse Country Proper Etiquette and Turnout Guide
During cub hunting season in September and October, there is no distinction in attire between members who have been awarded colors and those who have not (or, for that matter, between the field, masters, and staff). There is also very little difference regarding the attire of gentlemen and lady members.
Hacking jackets are worn by both ladies and gentlemen, preferably wool tweed or a linen material and in an earth tone color such as shades of brown or green. Subtle plaids, checks, herringbones and houndstooth patterns are correct. Jackets should have three buttons, all of which are kept buttoned during the hunt. The jacket should be tailored specifically for riding with a single vent; a conventional sports coat is not an acceptable substitute. The weight of the jacket cloth depends on one’s locale.
Shirts and blouses should be a pastel color and muted striping or subtle patterns are allowed. Both men and women may simply wear a dress shirt and tie, either bow tie or long tie. Ladies may wear ratcatcher collars, either plain or with a stock tie. If a stock tie is worn, it should be colored and/or patterned but not a plain white or ecru formal stock. Gentlemen may also choose to wear a hunting shirt and stock tie. The ends of a stock tie should be secured to the shirt with safety pins to hold the tie in place. Gentlemen wear a 3” plain gold colored stock pin, ladies a 2 1/2” gold colored stock pin. Turtlenecks may be permissible and stock pins with embellishments are seen.
Breeches may be beige, buff, rust, or canary. White breeches and dark colors, such as forest green or navy blue, are not correct.
Brown and black field boots are appropriate footwear for the informal season, black dress boots are acceptable. Paddock boots with gaiters or any variation thereof are never proper in the hunt field for adult riders during either cub hunting or formal season.
Regular hunt-style helmets should be worn (more about headgear under Formal Season). Bowlers with hat cords are also acceptable. The MFHA has “strongly suggested a helmet with chin harness fastened.” Black velvet safety helmets are preferred. Ribbons at the back should be sewn up except for masters or staff, whose cap ribbons should hang down. Unless close cut, hair should be tucked up under the hat, or done up in a bun, then covered with a hair net.
Gloves may be shades of light or dark brown, either full leather or with crochet backs. Pigskin, deerskin and leather are used.
Once formal season begins, more distinctions apply based on the member’s gender and whether or not he or she has been awarded colors. There are, however, four elements of proper turnout that are universal—headwear, neckwear, gloves, and vests.
• Headwear: All members of the field should wear a hunt-style helmet which is defined as a brimmed cap with a black velvet covering. Safety harnesses are recommended and, if the helmet is so equipped, the harness should be kept latched at all times during the hunt. Ribbons at the back of the helmet should point up. (Masters and professional staff signify their positions by turning the ribbons to point down.) Top hats and bowlers are proper under certain conditions as will be noted below.
• Neckwear: The only appropriate neckwear during formal season is a white or cream stock tie, properly tied and secured with a plain (i.e., no emblems, ornaments, initials, etc.) gold pin. The pin should be placed horizontally; only professional staff may place the pin vertically. It is also recommended that the ends of the stock tie be secured to the shirt or blouse with safety pins to assure the ends of the tie do not work out from beneath the coat and flap loosely in the wind. Again, men wear a 3” stock pin, ladies a 2 1/2” stock pin in gold.
• Gloves: Gloves worn during formal season may be brown, either dark or lighter shades such as tan or buff, full leather. White or buff string gloves or chamois gloves are suitable for rainy conditions.
• Vests: Appropriate vests are canary or tattersall (in various color combinations). A vest made from material matching the hunt’s official color is also acceptable in that hunt field only. Canary is the most formal color.
Gentleman Member Without Colors
Coat: Plain black, oxford, or dark navy hunting jacket with a single vent or frock coat, with plain black buttons.
Breeches: Beige or buff with black jacket, white with frock coat.
Boots: Plain (i.e., without brown leather tops) black dress boots with garters. Laced field boots are not proper.
Gentleman Member With Colors
Coat: Black, oxford or dark navy hunting jacket or frock coat with black buttons displaying the hunt’s emblem. A gentleman with his colors is entitled (although not required) to wear a scarlet coat with the hunt’s color on the collar and with gold buttons embossed with the hunt’s emblem. A gentlemen member of the field should wear a single vented jacket with three buttons. Masters signify their position by wearing four buttons and a huntsman, or a master who also hunts hounds, wears five buttons. (To get very technical, a field member’s coat should feature rounded skirts while masters and huntsmen wear coats with squared skirts. This arcane practice is rarely observed today. However, when selecting a new scarlet coat, if there is a choice between rounded or squared skirts, choose rounded.) Scarlet is appropriate for special days such as Opening Meet, Blessing of the Hounds, and New Years Day. It is also proper to wear scarlet for a joint meet where one’s hunt is the host hunt. However, scarlet should not be worn to a joint meet where you are the guest of another hunt unless the host hunt has extended the invitation for guests to wear their colors.
Breeches: Beige or buff is proper with a regular hunting jacket. White should be worn with scarlet or a black frock coat.
Boots: Black dress boots with brown leather tops are correct with both black and scarlet coats. Plain black dress boots are also acceptable with black jackets but not with scarlet or frock coats. Black garters are worn when wearing a black jacket. White garters are worn when wearing white breeches. Laced field boots are not correct.
Lady Member Without Colors
Coat: Plain black, oxford, or dark navy blue jacket with plain black buttons. A lady without her colors may also wear a black shadbelly (with plain black buttons). Ladies may wear a frock coat.
Breeches: Beige, buff, or canary.
Boots: Plain black dress boots (i.e, without black patent leather tops). Laced field boots are not correct.
Headwear: Standard hunt-style helmet. A bowler may also be worn with a regular hunting coat. A top hat is correct with a shadbelly.
Lady Member With Colors
Coat: Black, oxford, or dark navy blue jacket or frock coat with black buttons imprinted with the hunt’s emblem in white and with the hunt’s color on the collar. A black, oxford, or dark navy blue shadbelly may also be worn, with the hunt’s color on the collar and black buttons with the hunt’s emblem, and is particularly suitable for formal days such as Opening Meet and Blessing of the Hounds. (A lady only wears scarlet if she is a master or huntsman, both of which are gender-neutral titles.)
Breeches: Beige, buff, or canary.
Boots: Black dress boots with black patent leather tops and black patent garters. Laced field boots are not correct. Ladies with their colors may wear plain black dress boots.
Your horse should be well groomed and trimmed with his mane pulled neatly. In the winter, it is a good idea to clip him. If you plan to do anything more them quietly hilltop, you should have him shod either with borium or have his shoes drilled for studs. The paved roads can be extremely slippery, as is the ground when very dry or frozen.
Hunting tack is not fancy. Bridles should be flat without
embellished stitching. Keep tack clean, simple, and in good repair. A standing martingale and breastplate is appropriate if needed but neither is required. Colored or ornamental brow bands are not appropriate. The bit should assure sufficient braking power. Only fitted white cloth or natural wool (sheepskin) saddle pads should be used. Square pads or sheets, colors, and decorative elements such as initials are incorrect. If you need extra leg protection, use leather or neoprene boots with either buckles or Velcro closings. If you use bell boots, use the ribbed pull-on boots. The ones with the Velcro closings don't stay on very well for hunting. No polo wraps, they are extremely dangerous if they come loose while galloping across country. Fly hoods and ear and muzzle covers are not appropriate in the hunt field.
For the best and most complete simplified do's and don'ts of fox chasing, please refer to "Riding to the Hounds."
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Pictures by Austin Kaseman