What you should know
Rules for Field Members (Partially borrowed and customized from MFHA Introduction to Fox Hunting (see link for full list and a great introduction). The rules pertaining to fox hunting come from tradition and history. These rules are governed by safety and common sense.
- If you hack to the hunt, please avoid fields and culverts as you may be fouling a line. Keep to the side of the roads, watch for traffic and yield the right of way.
- Arrive early, and be ready to move out together at the appointed time. Late arrivals who miss the Hunt's mass departure are not allowed to catch up.
- At Stirrup cup when you greet a Master, it’s appropriate to say “Good Morning Master”
- Respect the land and the requests of all landowners. We always ride on the edges of fields (unless otherwise directed by the field master) keeping off crops and new seed.
- Close all gates that you have found originally closed.
- Report any damage to your field master. If necessary, make temporary repairs.
- Ride slowly past cattle, sheep or pastured horses.
- Do not litter the countryside.
- No smoking is permitted in the hunt field.
- Never ride across hunt country on non-hunting days unless you have permission from the landowner.
- Always volunteer to open gates when appropriate. If someone opens a gate for you, make sure you or someone stays behind with that person. Horses get anxious when left, so it’s a good idea to stay and help the person getting the gate.
Drag hunting is a privilege and most importantly requires our attention to courtesy for landowners. We are able to hunt across private property thanks to the generosity of our landowners. Their fields, fences and livestock must be respected. Individual carelessness can cause land to be closed to the hunt. A cheerful “Good Morning!” or ‘‘Thank You” as you pass across a property is always appropriate. Whenever you get the chance, thank a landowner for letting you and the Hunt ride across their land.
During the Hunt
- Never leave the field without notifying the Field Master or another person if it’s not feasible to talk to the Field Master.
- Never talk to or rate (try to correct) a hound.
- Do not speak to one another when close to hounds. Never speak their names where they can hear you. Anything that brings a hound's head up distracts from their hunting.
- Never get between a hound and the huntsman.
- Whippers-in (hound caretakers) have the right of way at all times. Make way for them, turn your horse to face them and announce "Staff please!" to warn others of their approach if you have not heard others do so.
- Always keep your horse a safe distance from other horses.
- Pay attention to other horses around you and watch hounds.
- The hunting field is not the place for long conversation.
- Watch out for holes, wire or other hazards. If you see one, use the word "ware" hole or wire or whatever the hazard may be. Speak only loud enough for the person after you to hear. You don't want to disturb hounds hunting.
- Listen for instructions: Gate please, gate open, reverse field, staff please, hounds please, hold hard, headland please (stay on the edge of the field or crops). Always point to the potential danger when you give the warning.
- Give warnings of hazards or passing individuals only as needed. If you hear a warning clearly nearby, you do not need to repeat it. It is preferred that only enough warning is given that it can be heard by all riders (by passing down the field, not yelling loudly) while minimally distracting hounds.
- Ladies and Gentlemen should assist each other and children, as necessary, in the conduct of the hunt for convenience and safety.
- Listen for the huntsman's horn calls. Learn what they mean. Knowing them will prepare you for what is next or what is happening.
- If your horse kicks, no matter whose fault it is, you MUST put a red ribbon in their tail and ride at the rear of the field.
- Maintain a safe distance between you and the horse in front. Do not crowd at jumps; leave space and take your turn.
- Stay off crops and behind the rider in front of you unless told to spread out. When forced to cross a seeded or wet area is the time to spread out and not ride behind another rider. The field master should advise when that is necessary.
- A hunt is not meant to be a trail ride, cross country jumping or nature walk. The focus for everyone needs to be on hounds hunting, the conduct and progress of the hunt. Anything that distracts from hunting is unacceptable. In the hunt field the Master is the final authority and should never be argued with. Save discussions for after the hunt.
- The hunt field is not for jump schooling. Do not take jumps that are not directly in your path on the hunt that the field master has not led you to (larking). If you can get around a jump, do not keep attempting it if your horse refuses; go around it and allow the next rider to take it.
- Be courteous and friendly to the public. A smile or wave of the hand does wonders for the good of our sport. Do not impede traffic while on your horse. Public relations are everyone’s responsibility.
- At the end of the day it is appropriate to stay in the field until the Master has released the hounds and huntsman for the day. It’s then appropriate to thank the huntsman and staff and to leave the field.
- At checks, stay away from the huntsman and the hounds. If you would like to approach them, you must get permission from the field master.
- If you must leave before the hunt is over, inform your field master that you wish to "retire." The field master will give you directions and dispatch someone to accompany you. When hacking back to the trailers at the starting site, use the roads wherever possible, not going cross-country.
- If a rider falls, generally only two people stay behind to assist the rider and possibly help catch the horse. Please inform the fieldmaster if you need to return home or if there is a serious injury.
- If you break a jump or do any damage to anything (or anyone, especially hounds), offer to pay for it and to help fix it. As soon as possible, make sure you inform a Master or the hunt secretary about what happened.
The hunt staff and field masters work hard to give the riders good sport, so your expressed thanks are always appreciated!