The major concern of people wishing to hunt for the first time seems to be a fear of wearing or doing the wrong thing. Whilst etiquette is important to ensure safe and enjoyable hunting and respect for landowners, those who come to hunt with the Hursley Hambledon for the first time will find us diverse, friendly, tolerant and, above all, fun-seeking. Introduce yourself to one of the Masters or any Member and we will look after you.
We hope this guide will help you feel more comfortable and confident. You will not remember all of it, but the more you hunt the more you will realise the reasons for a code of conduct.
Will my horse and I have the required ability?
The hunting field is not a good place to try a new horse. However if you know your horse well and have enjoyed and felt confident riding at various events, it is likely that you will be able to cope with it out hunting.
What should I do before coming to a meet mounted?
The first thing to do is telephone the Hon Secretary (see Contacts) and ask if you may join the hunt for the day and check with her the amount (cap) you need to pay to take part.
You can also find out the best place to park and any other matters you are unsure of. The Secretary will want to help you so, don't be afraid to ask questions.
Also by "booking in" you can be informed of any last minute changes due to weather, farming problems etc.
What should I have in my pockets?
The money for your cap, a penknife, some baler twine and possibly a chocolate bar. (You might also like to bring a hip flask to share with your new companions). You may even consider carrying a handkerchief or a bandage for emergencies.
If you are carrying a mobile telephone it should be turned off during hunting. If you are a complete stranger, or suffer from any medical condition, it is a good idea to carry a printed copy of your details so that we can help you should you have an accident.
Is there anything special that my horse should wear?
If you know your horse is liable to kick it should wear a red ribbon at the top of his tail to warn other riders. 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 out of harms way.
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.
Going to the meet
It is much more relaxing to allow plenty of time to get to the meet/unboxing place as you are more likely to find a convenient place to unbox. So leave early…
Please do not park in gateways, mown verges or opposite other boxes or vehicles. Where possible ensure vehicles are completely off the road, especially on narrow roads, and allow room for agricultural vehicles to pass.
Do not park in farm yards unless you have the owner's permission.
What should I do at the meet?
You should find the Hunt Secretary and offer her your cap, rather than waiting for her to approach you. Similarly you should say good morning to the Joint Masters (the correct greeting being "Good morning Master" even if you know them personally), whilst ensuring that your horse does not get amongst the hounds. In particular find out who is the Field Master for the day and keep behind him/her and obey his/her instructions. They will look after you or assign someone to look after you throughout the day.
If hospitality has been provided at the meet, be sure to thank your host before you leave.
How can I tell who the Joint Masters are?
The Joint Masters of the Hursley Hambledon wear red coats but sometimes a non-master will act as Field Master if necessary.
The Masters will have done a lot of work setting up the day and liaising with landowners and will know where riders are allowed on that particular day and the general direction of the draw. You must stay with, but behind, the Field Master (or non-jumping group) at all times.
The Field Master will usually give a short talk highlighting any instructions and thanking the host – do listen carefully as they often have to compete with some noisy and excited hounds.
The Joint Masters carry full responsibility for the day and have invested considerable time and money in the hope of providing you with an enjoyable day. You should understand that if anything goes wrong or if damage is done, it is the Joint Masters who will have to put matters right. In return you should treat them with some respect and give them priority at gates or jumps.
You should always inform a Master of any damage to gates and fences that needs attention.
Is there anything I need to know about the hounds?
Always remember that the hounds come first and give them plenty of room and keep quiet when they are working. They need to concentrate and if scent is difficult they can be distracted. Sweaty horses will impair scent, and moving horses or a noisy field will cause the hounds to lift their heads and lose the scent.
Do not assume that because you horse does not kick your dog at home that it will necessarily tolerate a pack of hounds. Even if it will, the huntsman does not know that and you will worry him if you get amongst the hounds.
Always point your horse to face the hounds.
The Hunt Staff
Please always give priority to hunt staff - they have worked hard all week to ensure you have a good day. Hunting days are their most important day of work, they have a job to do so try and help them whenever possible by opening and shutting gates, holding horses etc. When gathered on a track or tight space warn other riders of an approaching hunt staff and/or hounds and always move to one side, pointing your horse’s head towards them so that it won’t be startled and kick out – they are often in a hurry!
Always remember that there would be no hunting without the generosity of landowners. Please respect them – we are a guest on their land which is their livelihood.
Always follow the Field Master and ride on the very edge of fields (headlands) in single file. You may be instructed to keep to the ‘tramlines’ as this is sometimes less damaging to crops.
Shut every gate you go through - unless expressly told to leave it - even if no animals are there at the time - the landowner may turn stock into that field later in the day once the hunt has passed through. Be aware that just because you went into a certain field last time, does not mean it is alright the next time - conditions/stock may have changed.
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.
Do not attempt to jump if there is a hound anywhere near a jump.
Give Masters 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.
Allow enough room between jumpers in case there is a faller in front of you and do not crowd, cut in, or creep towards a jump as this causes accidents.
If you break a jump make sure it is stock proof before you go on (this is where you might need that baler twine) and ensure you report the breakage to a Master.
Do I have to jump?
No, we usually have a non-jumping contingent led by a knowledgeable rider who knows alternative routes – ask the Hon Sec or Field Master at the meet who that might be.
If there is a gate adjacent to a jump let all the jumpers go first before opening the gate for the non jumpers.
A Master or Huntsman should never need to open a gate - a member of the field should offer to do it.
If you hear people in front shout "gate please" (meaning please close the gate) you should do similarly to people following you and ensure they have heard it. If people behind you are too far away to hear you, you should either wait until they can, or shut the gate and leave them to open and shut it.
Leave plenty of space around gates – don’t crowd – and try to push/hold gates open for the rider behind you and thank those, mounted or otherwise, who open or hold gates for you.
Never leave someone to shut a gate on their own – always wait so their horse does not fidget at being left behind – the same applies if they are dismounted.
General courtesy and safety
Just because you are part of the field, led by the Field Master, do not lose individual responsibility and consider the effects of your actions on others i.e. do as you wish to be done by.
Help anyone who falls off, or is struggling with their horse.
Do encourage and help children wherever you can - they are the future of hunting.
Always ride single file on roads and keep off the highway whenever possible and thank all traffic that slows for you – even if everyone else has too!
Please be polite and friendly to everyone – hunt followers or not.
In the light of recent publicity regarding cattle harming humans, foot followers – with or without dogs – must not enter fields which have cattle in them.
Dogs should be kept in cars at meets to avoid the spread of kennel cough to hounds. Dogs must be kept on leads at all times following the hunt.
General common sense applies! Do not delay or impede other traffic or block gateways. Stay behind the huntsman and hounds and switch engines off so as not to interfere with scent. Please park your car throughout the day with consideration for other road users and to property owners.
At the end of the day
It is important to remember that without the Masters, Huntsman and hounds there would be no sport. A thank you goes a long way in helping these people feel appreciated.
It is traditional to say "Goodnight" at the end of your day but importantly it lets them know you are leaving and they are not left worrying you have had an accident.
Did you fall off, get in the way of the Hunstman or Whipper in?
Don't worry, we've all been there. It's all part of becoming an experienced horseman/woman!
Have fun, that's what you are there for, and we want you to enjoy yourself and come back again.