The focus of riders in the field should be on the progress and conduct of the hunt while the hounds are hunting. There are proper conventions and etiquette that participants are expected to follow, most of which are for the safety as well as the pleasure of all involved.
BEFORE THE HUNT
Arrive at the meet on time. Meet one half hour before the scheduled time so that you are tacked and mounted before the hunt moves off. If you hack to the meet, do not ride through any coverts or across any country that is going to be hunted that day. Park your van or trailer in a spot so as not to damage fields, lawns, trees, plantings, etc. If in doubt, ask a Master or member of the staff. Always greet your host landowner, his or her family or farm manager and thank them for their generosity. Do not muck out your trailer or leave any other trash on anyone's fields or at the kennels. Introduce any guests and locate the Field Secretary to pay capping fees (waivers must be signed and can be located here). You must obtain permission from a Master to bring guests no later than the day before the meet. It is your responsibility to inform your guests of proper etiquette and to ride with them during hunting.
DURING THE HUNT
Once you move off, be quiet. Listen for instructions and pass the information to the person behind you only. Do not shout the information to the entire field. Generally, if you are warning of a danger, say "Ware Hole" or "Ware Wire." If you are requesting a courtesy such as allowing staff or hounds to pass say "Staff Please" or "Hounds Please." When the Huntsman or another staff member passes you or especially a hound, turn your horse's head to face the oncoming huntsman or field so that your horse does not kick another horse. If you are on a trail, move off to the side and allow them to pass. The same holds true if the field reverses.
If you see a fox, do not say "Tally-Ho," that fox might not be the hunted fox, and even if it is you might scare him and turn him. Get word to your Field Master, quietly, and after making sure the fox is safely on his way. The Field Master will signal the Huntsman by pointing their horse's head and cap at the spot the fox was last seen and if necessary call "Tally-Ho." Watch the hounds work is one of the most rewarding and captivating part of the Hunt.
Never speak to a hound. Never use your whip on a hound in any manner, dropping your lash to discourage a hound from going near or underneath your horse is acceptable. Keep your horse's head pointed toward passing hounds. Let the hounds proceed over coops before you jump, do not ride or jump into hounds.
Watch the horse in front of you. Do not crowd other horses. If you cannot see the heels of the horse in front, you are too close. Be particularly careful at jumps, give the rider in front "room to fall." If your horse is green, ride to the rear of the field. If you suspect that your horse might kick, put a red ribbon in his tail. If your horse refuses a jump, go to the back of the line and try again, do not continue to school your horse at the jump and do not prevent others from taking the jump and following the hunt. If you need a lead, ask a friend to stay back to give you one.
If a field is seeded, freshly plowed, or very wet, ride on the edge. When in doubt, never cross a field, always stay on the edge. Never gallop through livestock. Slow down, go around and ride carefully and quietly. Always close a gate if you found it that way and listen carefully if you are at the back of the field so as not to close one that has been left open. Go out of your way to greet and be courteous to any farmers, landowners, staff, and hounds. Remember that landowners today, unlike years ago, often do not ride to hounds, so their generosity in allowing us to ride over their land is really quite extraordinary and not to be taken for granted. Avoid confrontations with landowners. Refer questions and issues to one of the Masters. Report any damage the hunt may have caused to a Master and report any problems or landowner complaints to a Master immediately, get the name of the person to whom you are speaking and tell them that a Master will call them. If a jump, gate, or fence is broken and no longer stock-proof, make what repairs you can and report it to a Master as quickly as possible.
Keep cell phones on vibrate and only use if absolutely necessary.
Never trail ride without personal permission from that landowner of the property over which we hunt.
Do not block roads. Allow traffic to get past as quickly as possible. Thank all drivers that wait or slow down, giving then a smile and perhaps a tip of the cap if you can.
Never smoke while hunting. Not only might it be objectionable to other riders, but it can be very dangerous given the often dry conditions we encounter in the autumn and winter. Keep telephones on vibrate and use as limited as possible.
If you must leave the field, ask permission of the Field Master. You will be given directions and the optimal time of departure as to as not to interfere with the hounds. Avoid jumps where possible, larking can be dangerous on a tired horse.
AFTER THE HUNT
At the end of the day, thank your Masters, Huntsman, and Staff. Remember the Staff have duties from well before the hunt until all hounds and horses are safely returned to the kennels. Therefore, the Staff may not be able to socialize and certainly not during the hunt. It is unacceptable to become your own field or field master. Stay with your field until you are given permission to do otherwise.
For the best and most complete simplified do's and don'ts of fox chasing, please refer to "Riding to the Hounds."
Copyright © 2022 Loudoun Fairfax Hunt - All Rights Reserved.
Pictures by Austin Kaseman