Foxhunting etiquette and rules are based on traditions that harken back hundreds of years to the very beginning of foxhunting. They have evolved through the need to handle certain situations in a uniform, disciplined manner to preserve order and safety in the Field. A group of well-trained riders on well-schooled and well-equipped horses can find tremendous pleasure, excitement, sport, and camaraderie enjoying this centuries-old pastime. We must all take steps to ensure the safety of hounds, horses, and riders, as well as, to protect the interests of our generous landowners.
Know the Rules: Please read, study, and discuss these rules thoroughly with an experienced member of the Field before hunting. If you are bringing guests, it is your responsibility to see that they have read, studied, and discussed these rules with you ahead of time (and that you have received permission from the Masters to bring these guests).
Be Timely and Prepared: Make every effort to be mounted prior to the hounds being released. Be sure that you and your mount are ready for foxhunting. Members, be sure your guests are well trained, well mounted, and properly attired whether riding with the First Flight, the Second Flight or the Hilltopper Flight.
First Time Riders: If you have any doubt about your readiness for the First Flight or about your horse’s readiness, join the Second Flight until you have gained enough skill and confidence for the First Flight.
Review the Rules: All members, no matter the number of years of experience, should review this guide prior to the hunting season each year, and periodically during the season.
Master of Foxhounds (MFH): The Masters are in charge of every facet of the Hunt. All decisions concerning the Hunt are made by the Masters. This includes everything from where and when we hunt, to naming the staff that assists the Masters, as well as all matters concerning the well being of the Golden's Bridge Hounds. They are assisted by the Huntsman, the Whippers-In, the Secretary, the Treasurer, and the Field Masters. The Masters may decide to act as Field Masters themselves, or they may appoint others to serve as Field Masters. Except for the professional Huntsman, the Staff Members are volunteers and are not compensated for their services. The word “Honorary” is used before their titles.
Huntsman: The Huntsman is the person who actually hunts the hounds. Using voice and horn, the Huntsman is able to control the hounds and move them from covert to covert as the hunt proceeds. The Huntsman and hounds always have the absolute right-of-way as the Huntsman follows the pack or leads them to a scent or covert. You should listen, quietly ask questions of experienced members, and learn the sounds that the Huntsman makes with voice and horn as they indicate the ebb and flow of the Hunt. The Huntsman’s authority during the hunt is second only to the Masters. Always turn your horse’s head toward the Huntsman and hounds if they pass close to you so that your horse cannot possibly kick them.
Whippers-In: The Whippers-Ins (Whips) are responsible for controlling the pack hounds (Pack), and for riding with the Pack, as directed by the Huntsman, during a chase. They are the eyes and ears of the Huntsman. Due to their far-ranging duties, they often overtake the Field, at which time they have absolute right-of-way so they can proceed in their work without delay. Yield to them immediately whenever you see or hear that they are coming. The cry of “Ware Staff” or “Staff Please” will alert you that Staff may need to pass by you. Always turn your horse‟s head toward the Whippers-In when they pass close to you.
Secretary: The Secretary is the business manager of the Hunt. The Secretary maintains a list of all members and mails a monthly fixture card indicating the dates and times of meets, as well as, other scheduling information.
Treasurer: The Treasurer collects all subscriptions due from members. The Treasurer is also responsible for maintaining the Hunt's accounts. Submit your payment upon receipt of the invoice from the Treasurer, always prior to Opening Hunt.
Field Masters: The Field Masters lead the Field during the hunt, keeping the Field as close as possible to the Huntsman and the Pack, but not close enough to interfere with them. The Field Masters represent the authority of the Masters and are responsible for maintaining order and safety in the Field, as well as for protecting the interests of the landowners. Listen carefully to the announcements of the Field Masters and follow their instructions during the hunt without hesitation. There will be separate Field Masters to lead the First, Second, and Third Flights.
The Pack of Hounds: Golden’s Bridge Hounds consists of hounds whose bloodlines have been selected to produce good scenting ability, voice, obedience, stamina, drive, and desire. The Pack is the lifeblood of the Hunt. Great care is taken to protect each individual hound from harm and to improve the Pack’s aggregate hunting attributes through selective breeding. There are four foxhound breeds recognized in America: English, American, Crossbred, and Penn-Marydel. Golden’s Bridge Hounds consists of Penn-Marydel hounds.
Guests & Juniors: All guests must obtain permission from the Honorary Secretary prior to the Meet. Guest(s) must download and sign release forms prior to the Meet. The capping fee and signed release must be given to the Field Secretary upon arrival to the meet in an envelope, prior to mounting their horse. Guests should be properly attired and introduce themselves to the Masters. Members should ride with their guest acting as his/her escort throughout the Hunt. Juniors (18 years of age and younger) should also be accompanied by a parent or other suitable escort.
Presentation of the Pack: At the sound of the horn, signaling the release of the Pack from the kennels or the hound trailer, face the Pack and remain silent. There will usually be a greeting from the Master who may make an announcement or recognize special guests in the Field at this time. The Field Masters may also make some remarks or give instructions to the Field at this time. When the Pack moves off to begin the hunt, take your proper position in the Field as outlined below.
Position in the Field: Golden’s Bridge Hounds follows the traditional order in the Hunt Field, unless otherwise ordered by the Masters: Field Master of First Flight, Special guests of the Masters, such as a Master from another Hunt, GBH members invited to wear colors ( members with greater seniority precede newer members), Visitors from other Hunts invited to wear colors of their own Hunt, Members not yet invited to wear colors, Guests without colors, Junior riders 18 and under, Horses that habitually refuse and/or habitually kick, regardless of the status of rider, Young / Green Horses. Field Master of Second Flight, Second Flight Field (following the same order as that of First Flight). Field Master of Third Flight, Third Flight Field (following the same order as that of First Flight). At the conclusion of the hunt, the hounds are returned to the kennel or hound trailer, at which time the Field gives thanks to the Masters, the Huntsman, the Field Masters, and the Whippers-In. This ends the formal hunt.
Rules to Protect the Landowners:
Never Damage a Landowners Property: Never cut or damage his wire fences or gates or allow his livestock to escape. It is much better for the future of the hunt if you are left behind than to upset a landowner by damaging his property or allowing his livestock to escape or be injured.
Protect the landowner’s fields and crops: Stay to the edges of the fields or in the field rows, avoid unharvested crops, and do not take shortcuts. Follow the Field Master, who will sometimes command “single track”, which means follow single-file to minimize trampling of crops. The Field Master also might command to “spread out” or “take your own line” to avoid tearing up turf with a single track of so many horses.
No Smoking: Smoking presents a serious fire hazard to our Hunt Country.
Close Gates: NEVER leave a gate open that was not already open, even for a few minutes, and be sure that you latch it securely. If you are the last to go through a gate and not sure whether it was open or closed, CLOSE IT, and reattach the chain. (However, you must also tell the Huntsman or Staff about this gate after the hunt, as you might have trapped livestock in a place not agreeable to the landowner.) If you unlock or unchain a gate, make sure it is locked back, If you are the last to jump a coop and not sure whether the pole was up or down, PUT THE POLE UP.
STAY Off LAWNS, GARDENS, FLOWERBEDS, Etc.: Landowners will not appreciate your horse trampling their lawns. Do not soil the lawn of whatever landowner is hosting the meet by cleaning your trailer onto their property. (Carry your refuse home.)
RULES OF THE PACK, THE STAFF, AND THE FIELD
Never Do Anything That Might Harm a Hound: Do not jump a fence until all hounds are clear. Turn your horse’s head toward passing hounds to avoid kicking one. Always yield to a hound on the trail or working in your vicinity. Advise the rider in front of you if a hound has passed you and is approaching them from the rear, saying “Ware hound (left or right)” The only people who have authority to address a hound are the Huntsman, Staff, and Masters. Do not call to, cheer, rate, discipline, drop your whip or gesture to hounds unless specifically asked to do so by a Master, the Huntsman, or Staff.
Do Not Pass the Field Master: You must follow (and keep up with) the Field Master of either the First or Second Flight. Under NO circumstances may you take your own line.
Take Your Proper Position in the Field: Foxhunting is not a competitive sport. Share position in the Field with other riders of the same rank while yielding to riders of greater seniority or rank. Yield to another rider if you have been enjoying the front for a period of time. Take a turn at closing a gate. It is not necessary to be right in front all day in order to enjoy the Hunt.
Do Not Talk While Hounds Are Working: A successful chase depends upon the Master’s and Huntsman’s ability to hear the Pack, and to follow them while staying within earshot. They must have silence when the hounds are working a line or are running. When you talk during a lull in the hunting (called a “check”), keep your voice low. This is especially necessary when the Field is large.
The Field Masters Commands: Foxhunting relies on standard commands for reacting to many different situations. Some commands are verbal and some are visual. Knowledge of these commands is essential because they require quick, decisive actions. Failure to execute them properly may endanger someone's safety and can result in a swift reprimand from the Field Master. Many of these commands can be anticipated simply by being alert and watching the riders ahead of you as well as by watching the Field Master and the Staff. For example, whenever the Field is stopped on a trail, look around for a spot to back your horse into for a “reverse” and if a “reverse” looks probable, go ahead and back your horse out of the way. 1. “STAFF PLEASE” OR “WARE STAFF” may be said by a Staff member or a member of the Field. This command requires your immediate yielding of the right-of-way to a Staff member, most often a Whipper-In. Back your horse off the trail with its head toward the Staff member and remain in position until he/she has passed, or move your horse to one side of the trail if the Field is moving. (“WARE” is a contraction of “BEWARE”).
“REVERSE THE FIELD PLEASE” is the signal for each member of the Field to back off the trail so that the Hunt can reverse itself and backtrack from whence it just came. Wait until all those ahead of you have reversed and passed by you before moving out so that the previous order and position in the Field will be maintained.
“WARE WIRE”, “WARE HOLE”, “WARE BOG” OR “WARE VINE”, etc. is a warning passed back to the rider behind you to warn that rider of a hazard to his/her horse. Do so in a SUBDUED VOICE if possible, loud enough to be heard by the next rider, while pointing to the hazard so that the next rider will readily recognize it. (“WARE is a contraction of “BEWARE”.)
“HOLD HARD” is a hand signal made by a vertically raised forearm. This signal requires that you halt immediately without catching up to the horse in front of you stand silently and still. If horses are bunched up on a trail, turn your horse’s head away from the trail to discourage him from kicking the horse behind you. This command requires immediate, perfect execution, as it is done when the Field Master must listen for the Pack in silence. It is a difficult maneuver because the riders and horses are caught up in the thrill of the chase, but it is crucial to determining which way the Pack is going and to the ultimate success of the day’s sport.
“RIDER DOWN” is shouted if a rider ahead of you has fallen and may be in your path, especially at a jump. If you hear this signal, do not proceed until the fallen rider is safely out of your path and someone has stopped to help him or her.
“TALLY HO” is the cry that every foxhunter longs to hear. If you have the thrill of viewing the fox, pass word along to the Field Master, as you may or may not have viewed the correct quarry.
“SINGLE TRACK” or “SINGLE FILE” is the command given by the Field Master when passing over ground that is easily damaged or when passing through a narrow opening between wire or other obstacles. This command means to proceed in single file, directly behind the horse in front of you. It is relayed back through the Field in a SUBDUED voice.
“TAKE YOUR OWN LINE” or “FAN OUT” is the command given by the Field Master when the going is heavy and a single file could cause the ground to become so soft that all the horses might not make it through. This command is also used to minimize the damage to plowed farmland. All horses should form a line abreast of each other, move across the field or woods until the problem is cleared, and then return to the proper position.
“LOOSE HORSE” is the signal that a horse is loose. When this cry is heard, stop your horse and look for the loose horse who may be running at a full gallop and may pose a threat to others. Do not do anything that will excite the horse further. Do not chase the horse. Usually, the loose horse will allow himself to be caught easily and then can be led back to its rider.
“HARK” is the signal given by the Field Master or a member of the Field who has heard the Pack "open‟ (beginning to cry or speak). Immediately become silent and look for direction from the Field Master. If you are the Field member who has heard the hounds, raise your hand in the direction from which you heard the hounds so that the Field Master can take advantage of this information.
“WARE HOUND (LEFT OR RIGHT)” is what you will hear from another Field member who is warning you that a hound is overtaking you from the rear on one side or the other. You should yield to the hound. Make sure that your horse in no way endangers it then notify the rider ahead of you “Ware hound (left or right)” in a subdued voice.
“RUNAWAY” is the signal that a rider has lost control of his horse and that the horse is running away with him. This signal may be given by a Master, Field Master, the horse’s rider, or a member of the Field. Get out of the way of the runaway horse.
Rules For You and Your Horse:
1. Do not crowd the horse ahead of you. It is neither polite nor safe, as it may cause a kick to you or your horse resulting in injury. Maintain a distance of one to two horses' length between you and the horse ahead of you. Maintain a greater distance when approaching a jump. A rider with his arm held horizontally behind his back is signaling you that you are crowding his horse and annoying him. Remember that almost ANY horse will kick if run up on or otherwise provoked. Chronic kickers present a separate problem altogether, as addressed below. When stopping your horse, turn his head away from the trail to discourage him from kicking the horse behind him. It is your responsibility to be alert to the activity of the hunt in front of you and to be prepared to stop. Your horse should be bitted and tacked appropriately in order to achieve a sudden halt without crowding the horse ahead of you.
If your horse kicks habitually, tie a red ribbon in its tail and stay at the very rear of the Field. You do not want your horse to injure a rider or another horse. It is best to avoid riding a kicker. A horse that injures other horses may be permanently excused from the Hunt.
Do not lag behind. If you cannot keep up, you must get permission to leave the Field. If you must leave the Field due to an injury to your horse or yourself or because your horse is winded, obtain permission to do so from the Field Master who will then give you directions to get home. If you have been left behind and your condition prevents you from being able to speak to the Field Master, ask the nearest member of the Field to notify the Field Master at the next available check. This avoids unnecessary worry for the Field Master who might otherwise initiate a search! Do not simply disappear from the Field. Do not begin a Hunt with the idea that you will not finish. Have yourself and your horse in good condition so that you can keep up with the Field and finish the Hunt. When hunting, you are either 1) in the Field, 2) catching up with the Field after stopping for some unavoidable reason or 3) returning home after receiving permission and directions from the Field Master. It is not permissible to be separated from the Field Master before moving from First to Second Flight and vice-versa.
If another rider has trouble and needs assistance, the nearest rider should stop to help. If more help is needed, one or two additional riders should stop. The rest of the Field will continue and those who stopped may resume their position in the Field at the next check. The Field Master should be notified if anyone has left the field.
Closing gates and raising poles that were let down is the responsibility of the “last man” to pass. The person nearest to him should stay with him to assist.
When approaching a jump, form a distinct line, single file, separated by four to five horse lengths minimally and jump in order. Do not cut in front of another rider. If a rider ahead of you falls before or after the jump, cry “Rider Down” and do not proceed until it is safe to do so. Do not ride so close behind the horse ahead of you that his refusal also causes your horse to refuse, or so close that you would be dangerously close to the rider ahead of you if he or she were to fall in front of your horse. Only jump what the Field Master jumps. Do not jump a jump that the Field Master does not jump. In general, the field master will know which jumps are safe and which are not.
You must also be on the lookout for and yield to Staff and hounds!
If your horse refuses a jump, go to the rear of the line before making another try. If your horse refuses only once during a hunt, you may resume your position in the Field at the next check. If your horse refuses more than once during the hunt, you should stay in the rear of the Field for the remainder of the hunt. This will allow horses who do not refuse to be able to keep up with the Hunt. A horse that refuses holds up everyone in the Field that is behind him.
If your horse damages a jump, you are responsible for repairing it. Stop at once and make repairs on the spot. Get another rider to help if necessary. If the damage is too serious to repair without tools or help, make careful note of the location of the jump, nature of the damage and its location so that you can explain the damage to the Field Master and the Staff. This will enable them to find it when they return with the necessary materials.
If separated from the Field, follow their tracks or stay on roadways. Do not take a short cut that could place you ahead of the Huntsman as this would interfere with the working of the hounds and spoil the day’s sport.
Use the “buddy system” especially when riding at the rear of the Field. This will ensure that no one falls behind or falls off their horse without someone being aware of it. This is especially important for the last person in the Field, newcomers, and guests.
If your horse runs away with you, exert a steady pull on one rein and try to steer toward some obstacle that will slow him down. If other horses and riders are in danger, shout “runaway!” so they can get out of your way. DON‟T PANIC! Just hang on and keep pulling on one rein until he stops. THEN DO SOMETHING TO PREVENT HIM FROM RUNNING AWAY WITH YOU AGAIN! Unsafe horses are prohibited from the Field.
Cooperate with your fellow riders. We are all out to enjoy good sport and good fellowship. Share position in the Field according to the proper order discussed earlier. If you see improper behavior, you may want to report it to the Field Master or a Master so that is can be corrected.
Turn off cellular phones and audible pagers. While cellular phones are a welcome safety device in the event of an emergency it is not appropriate to make or receive calls after the hounds have been cast. The Staff and Field Masters may utilize radios and/or cellular phones as necessary for the safety and betterment of the Hunt.
Do not charge up hills or gallop past other riders! Do not overtake another horse without asking permission to pass from that rider. Conversely, if your horse has trouble keeping up, yield to other riders so that they are not detained and work on your horse’s fitness. Always maintain a proper distance between yourself and the horse in front of you.
Field Masters' Admonitions!
Golden’s Bridge Hounds have identified a number of behaviors that, if avoided, will enhance the safety and enjoyment of all participants of the Hunt. While the Field Master might be able to enjoy riding abreast and quietly conversing while the hounds are being carried forward or working at a distance, please stay in a single file behind him/her when on a run. Do not gallop next to or at the flank of another rider. GBH country can often lead the Field down trappy paths and over steep hills with sudden turns. Staying at a safe distance from other horses while on a run is mandatory. Be quiet enough to hear the hounds open. The Field Master regularly needs the assistance of attentive Field members to identify the proper direction to lead the Field. Be listening. If the Field Master holds up his/her hand (“Hold Hard”), be silent and still immediately.
Let the Field Master know by whatever available means if you are required to retire from the day’s hunting. You must request permission from the Field Master to join the other flight at a check. If you or your horse are not quite fit enough to endure a long First Flight run, hunt with the Second Flight. Under no circumstances is it permissible to take your own line or stray away from the Field.