Guide to Hunting

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 hunting has an acceptable public image, we hope that people who come to hunt will find us accepting and helpful. We hope this guide will help you feel more comfortable and confident if you should choose to come out with us for your first experience of hunting. You will not remember all of it, but the more you hunt the more you will realise the reasons for a code of conduct.

As a visitor to the Dartmoor Hunt before coming to the meet mounted you should telephone the Honorary Secretary and ask if you may join the hunt for the day and check with her the amount (cap) you will be required to pay. You can also find out the best place to park and any other matter you are unsure of please don't be afraid to ask questions.
 

Proper Attire
Every hunt has two seasons: autumn hunting when young hounds are introduced into the pack (August to October), and the formal season (October until April).

 

Autumn season

Autumn hunting allows for less formal attire called "ratcatcher". It is correct for both sexes to wear “Ratcatcher” which is a tweed jacket with a shirt and tie or coloured stock. Technically this should be worn with brown boots and a bowler hat, but most followers now wear the same boots and head gear as for Hunting after opening meet.  The hunting cap/riding hat should be black or blue (ladies only) velvet covered (the ribbons at the back should be sewn up, as only Masters and the Hunt staff are entitled to wear these down).

Formal season

Hunting gear has changed little since foxhunting began, is based on practicality. Heavy boots and breeches protect riders from branches and brambles. Heavy melton coats are almost waterproof. The stock tie, fastened with a plain gold safety pin, can serve as a bandage for man, hound or horse in case of an accident.

 

When the formal season opens the masters and staff wears its livery, red coats with white breeches and black boots with tan leather tops. Lady Masters never wear red coats, only black or blue, but do sport brass buttons rather than black ones.

 

Gentlemen should wear black hunting coats, buff breeches and black leather boots.
Ladies should wear black or navy blue coats with black buttons, buff breeches with plain black leather boots. Hair should always be tied up and held in a suitable hair net.

A white hunting stock should be worn by both ladies and gentlemen with the pin placed horizontally for safety and an appropriate hunting cap/riding hat (as above).

Hunt Buttons are awarded entirely at the discretion of the masters for long service and helpfulness to the hunt. The masters write a personal letter awarding hunt buttons, these are black with white inscription. The numbers of buttons on your coat;


Subscribers = 3 buttons
Masters who don't hunt hounds = 4 buttons
Huntsman & whip = 5 buttons
 
What you should have in your pockets?

The money for your cap, a penknife, some baler twine and possibly some food. You may even consider carrying a handkerchief or a bandage for emergencies (traditionally the stock is used for this purpose). A mobile phone, for emergencies only, is acceptable but reception in our country can be patchy.

Plaiting
It is traditional to plait your horse for hunting. There should be an odd number of plaits with the poll plait making an even total. Hogging the mane is another option. Whilst plaiting is very smart, it is not compulsory but as a mark of respect horses should be plaited for lawn meets.
 
Going to the meet

Conduct in the Field End of the day
It is important to remember that without a huntsman and his hounds there would be no sport. A thank you goes a long way in helping these people feel appreciated, especially Hunt Staff who will probably be cold, wet and tired at the end of the day. It is traditional to say "Goodnight" at the end of your day, whatever time you leave.

Did you fall off, get shouted at?
Don't worry, we've all been there. It's all part of becoming an experienced horseman/woman!

General Etiquette
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.

If you are a visitor or a new comer to hunting and this all sounds complicated and scary don’t worry the members of the hunt aren’t and will always be willing to help welcome you into the hunting community. Never be afraid to ask for advice.

At all times remember that you are a guest of the farmer or Landowner and that without their goodwill hunting would not be possible.

We look forward to seeing you soon.
 

Hunting Terms De-Mystified: