Hunting etiquette can be considered under three main headings: safety, good manners and turnout. Of these, the first two are more important, but the third is the one that everyone worries about, so here goes.
As a novice, you can forget about red coats, gold foxhead pins, silk hats or any of the other fabulous peacockeries to be glimpsed in the more theatrical Shire counties. You are aiming to look tidy and inconspicuous. A tweed jacket, fawn breeches, a white shirt with a tie, black boots and a velvet cap or jockey skull with a dark silk will do it.
Do not be tempted into unwise expressions of individuality. Lipstick is fine; dangly earrings are not. One mild-mannered hunt secretary of my acquaintance has a particular aversion to the sight of people sporting amusing bobbles on their silks, and has been known to turn savage and send them home.
Your horse and tack should be clean and, unless you have specifically been told otherwise, you should plait the horse’s mane. Generally don’t plait for Autumn Hunting but do from the Opening Meet.
The business of getting all dressed up in order to get covered in mud the instant you leave the meet may seem wildly eccentric, but, by looking smart, you are honouring the generosity of the people who have invited you to ride over their land, and the skill and hard work of the hunt staff.
Autumn Hunting & Gate shutting:
- Tweed Hacking Jacket
- Collar & Tie or coloured stock
- Horizontal plain pin
- Beige or Fawn Breeches (Children jodhpurs & Jodhpur boots)
- Brown or Black Butcher boots
- No Spurs
- Black or Brown garter straps – tongues
- Strap Loops
- Headgear: safe (traditionally bowler)
- Hunting Cap Ribbons
Whips – A hunting whip should always be carried.(Please note the whip illustrated above is incorrect) You need a whip with a handle to open gates with.
A crop grows in a field or is part of a bird’s stomach. This is not a crop, it is a cutting whip. Drop the thong to keep hounds away from your horse’s heels. Gates.
Gloves should be worn. Traditionally string yellow or white. Spare gloves under girth strap.
Hair: Tied back tidily in a net. 2 hair nets.
Pockets: knife & string (for mending tack), binder twine for gates, & money in waistcoat
No Drop Earrings:
Opening Meet onwards:
If you have been awarded the Hunt Button:
Ladies: A plain black three button coat. The coat to be worn with 3 brass buttons with the official Cresselly Hunt 2 similar small buttons on each cuff. The coat to have the dark blue collar. No buttons to be worn on the back of the coat. Buff or yellow breeches should be worn. Black Butcher Boots to be worn with black garter straps.
Gentleman: Black coat should be worn with the official Cresselly buttons: 3 on the front, 2 on the back and 2 all buttons on the cuffs. but with no coloured collar. Buff or yellow breeches should be worn. An ordinary black riding cap may be worn. Mahogany or Tan topped black boots should be worn with black garter straps.
Non-Button: No top boots or colours.
Stress Cap Ribbons.
Red Coats (Not Pink). Only worn by Male Masters & Hunt Staff here.
We insist that all riders carry mobile phones with the app What3words installed. This invaluable software will pinpoint your location to within 9 metres. Now that you are looking respectable, let us think about safety. The more flustered you are, the more likely you are to have a silly accident. Hunting directions often have a curious, impressionistic quality and it is upsetting to find yourself desperately seeking an elusive meet, so allow masses of time.
Before you set off, check your equipment. You do not want to discover, halfway to the meet, that you have forgotten your hat. I did this once and looked a real plonker for turning up at the Children’s Meet at Tedion in a flat cap!
If your horse is new to hunting, you should tie a green ribbon in its tail. If it might kick, tie a red ribbon. In any event, keep your distance from other horses and from hounds. Hunts have long memories and 20 years hence you will have grown very weary of hearing the story about how your mare kicked a hound your first time out.
Always do what the field master says. “Hold Hard!” means “Stop now. And don’t move until I tell you.”
Mention of masters brings us to the subject of manners. Perhaps you have encountered the master socially. Do not, however, hail him on a hunting morning with a cry of “Hi, Timmy darling!” or “Yo, Otis, my man!” He will not be amused.
What you say is “Good morning, master”. Without giggling. In fact, “good morning” is what you say to everybody.
It is essential to park considerately and (as far as possible) not hold up traffic for long while unboxing – if you do have to, a smile and wave of thanks goes a long way.
Please always park at least half a mile from the meet. This will give your horse a chance to “empty” and will calm him or her down.
Similarly, courtesy to road/footpath users during the day is critical; such encounters are often the only time that the general public see us day to day.
For newcomers to hunting, ‘if in any doubt – ask’; more or less everyone will be delighted to advise/help.
When you arrive at the meet please say good morning to the Masters and the Huntsman, Jack Harris, remembering to ask him how many hounds he has brought. This is important as you may be asked to count hounds at the end of the day.
Nowhere in Britain, except on the hunting field, is it acceptable to speak to people you don’t know. So make the best of the unaccustomed freedom, and if you see someone you like the look of, zoom over and say “good morning”.
Whether you like the look of them or not, you must say “good morning” to the masters, the huntsman.
Please also say good morning to Sue Brace, the Hon. Field secretary, to whom you must hand, unprompted, your Field Money . She is the one with the haunted expression who clanks when she moves, because everyone has given her their riding money in loose change.
Please also thank the Meet hosts.
Don’t, in this flurry of good mornings, forget to include people on the ground. That unsavoury figure in the corduroys held up with baler twine is the owner of most of the land over which you are about to ride. And the white-haired old biddy in a pinny is his mother. Snub them at your peril.
At the covertside, it is safest to behave as though at a quite formal drinks party. Chat politely, but don’t shriek; turn off your mobile, don’t get drunk — tragically easy, with everyone offering you sips from their flasks — and if you break anything (jumps, gates) offer to make good the damage. Make way for masters, hunt staff and passing cars, remembering to smile, not scowl, at the latter.
Be kind to the old, the young — even the loathsome child who cuts you up at a jump — and the fallen. One of these days, it may be you lying winded on the ground and you’ll be glad of the sympathy.
When hounds are trying to find the scent (drawing) they require lots of concentration. So please be fairly quiet. Eventually they might temporarily lose the scent, this is called a Check. The huntsman will “Cast” them. At this point it is essential to keep absolutely quiet.
All hunts claim to embrace newcomers with enthusiasm, and so they do at the meet. But when the hunt moves off the enthusiasm becomes vaguer; it is a bore to be lumbered with someone inexperienced and easy to assume that someone else is looking after them.
Some hunts operate an official system of hunting nannies, which is an admirable idea, for it stops the newcomer feeling anxious or guilty about spoiling someone’s day by tagging along behind them and benefits the hunt as well. After all, a happy newcomer who has had a thrilling day is next season’s subscriber.
That’s it. You have negotiated your first day’s hunting, made friends, watched hounds work, had an amazing adventure — and now it is time to go home.
When you want to go home please don’t just slip away, though. For a start, you don’t want people to think you’re lost but more importantly you might spoil a good hunt. The general rule is if hounds are running you stay put. you are part of something now; you have joined the hunting community.
So say goodnight (even if it is still light) and thank the masters and huntsman.
And on the long, cold hack to the boxes, you can warm yourself with this thought: next time you come out, you won’t be a newcomer any more.