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Is there anything special that my horse should wear?
For Autumn hunting horses are not expected to be plaited, but from the Opening Meet horses should be plaited (although you won’t be sent home if you haven’t done so!). If you know your horse is liable to kick it should wear a red ribbon at the top of his tail. If it is a young horse and you are not sure of its temperament it should wear a green ribbon. In both cases they should be kept to the back of the field. If the person in front of you is going through a gateway and has one arm behind their back you should be aware that their horse may kick if you crowd them.
Is there anything I need to know about the hounds?
Do not assume that because you 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. Always turn your horse’s head to hounds when they are passing.
Riding near or through livestock
When riding near or through livestock ensure you are between the stock and the fence and ride at a speed they will tolerate without getting upset. If stock bunch up in a corner, stop and wait for them to move out. You should not enter any field without the Field Master unless instructed to do so. All gates must be shut by the last person/people in the hunting field. Children should always volunteer to get off to open/shut a gate rather than letting an adult do it. (Many gates can be opened/shut without getting off though!). Pass back the instruction “gate please” when you go through it.
Whilst the Masters try to put in as much jumping as possible a lot will depend on the area being hunted and the ground conditions. There are nearly always easy ways round a jump and a number of people don't jump at all, so there is usually someone to follow. If you are a stranger and do not want to jump it is best to talk to the Field Master who will know of a regular non-jumper to guide you.
Do not attempt to jump if there is a hound anywhere near a fence. Give Hunt Staff priority and if you know your horse is a poor jumper let others go first. If your horse refuses, clear the jump quickly and let others go before you try again. If you break a jump make sure it is stock proof before you go on and ensure you report the breakage to any of the Masters or the Hunt Secretary.
While it is easy to avoid fences it is very difficult if you can’t jump ditches. If you have to go round a ditch then please take great care not to ride on growing crops. Unfortunately if you don’t know your way and are unable to follow the Master you run the risk of going on land where we are not allowed to hunt which can cause enormous problems. If you have successfully jumped a ditch it is polite to wait for the person who jumps it after you before you gallop off.
We all have them! If a person falls off in front of you, it is etiquette to stop and assist them and for someone to help catch the loose horse. If it is your turn to fall off, then make sure you thank the person who helps you. After the Opening Meet we run a Tumblers Club where, if you have a fall, you are encouraged to give a voluntary donation of £5 which goes to the East Anglian Air Ambulance and there is a trophy awarded at the end of the season to the person who has had the most number of falls!
End of the day
It is important to remember that without a Huntsman and his hounds there would be no sport. It is traditional to say "Goodnight" and “Thank you” to the Master and the Hunt Staff when you go home. It goes a long way to help them feel appreciated, especially the Hunt Staff who may be cold, wet and tired at the end of a long day.
General Do’s and Don’ts
Always follow the Field Master. Don’t ride on a public footpath and avoid riding on mown grass.
Don’t ride across growing crops - they are the farmer’s factory floor and your hoof prints can cost him money! Pay particular attention in the autumn when what looks to you like a stubble field may in fact have been sown with oilseed rape. It is polite to walk through gateways and also through farm yards, especially when you don’t know what hazards may be just around the corner. It is also polite not to gallop past people and upset their horses!
If you spot a hole (or similar hazard such as wire) it is polite to alert others to the problem. The traditional shout was ‘ware hole’ (from beware but pronounced war) but “hole on the right/left” is now more usual. However, it only works if you shout as you are passing the hole - and pointing to it - and not if you just repeat the refrain down the line with no idea of where the hole actually is!
It is surprising how many people leave their manners on the ground when they get on a horse. Please thank cars for slowing down, wave cars on when you see the Masters wave them on, and keep to the nearside if you hear the shout "car please". A smile and "good morning" to people on foot will help to dispel the myth that everyone on horseback is a snob and too good to talk to people on foot. We must remember we are guests on a farmers land and should treat them with respect as without them we have no sport. We should also avoid any confrontation with anti-hunt protestors should they be present. Good manners cost nothing!
Car and Foot Followers
At a meet please park considerately and don’t use up spaces that are needed for horseboxes. On the roads please don’t block the traffic and allow all non-hunting vehicles to pass as quickly as possible. It is very easy to upset people by delaying their journey! Do not stop in gateways unless you remain with the vehicle and can move it quickly if tractors or horses need to come through. Do not assume that because you are following the hunt that you automatically have permission to go up private drives and tracks. Always switch your engine off when hounds are near to minimise noise and prevent smell! If you are walking remain as quiet and well concealed as possible and always assist in opening gates, holding horses etc. Remember you are a guest on someone’s land and respect that privilege.
Have fun, that's what you are there for, and we want you to enjoy yourself and come back again. Remember, though, “if in doubt, ask!”