Our aim is to provide you with a safe and enjoyable day’s hunting without causing inconvenience to anyone and/or damage to our hosts’, the landowners and farmers, land. To do this we need everyone’s help and cooperation. Sadly, one thoughtless act can damage a hunt’s reputation, even if everyone else behaves well.
Accidents can happen, but if they do, it is essential it is reported to hunt officials as soon as possible, so that any remedial work can be carried out and any necessary apology given. This guide aims to give beginners helpful information before the day, but riders are welcome to ask the Masters or the Hunt Secretary any questions they may have on the day.
First time out
Before you come out for the first time, you are advised to ring the Hunt Secretary and discuss any concerns you may have.
- If your horse is known to kick, it should have a red ribbon in its tail and be kept to the back of the mounted Field. If it is a young horse and you are not sure of its temperament, it should have a green ribbon in its tail and, again, it should be kept to the back of the mounted Field. Having a red ribbon on the tail does not diminish your responsibly to keep it out of harm’s way. Stallions should wear a white ribbon.
- Horses should be turned out in plain tack, the use of brightly coloured browbands, numnahs and bandages is discouraged.
- There is no requirement for horses to be plaited with this hunt, but during Open Season many riders do choose to plait. We do expect your horse to be clean and groomed as a sign of respect to our hosts and landowners.
- Correct hunting attire for Training Meets is a hacking jacket, shirt and tie or coloured stock, fawn breeches/jodphurs, riding boots and riding hat. This dress is known as ‘ratcatcher’.
- Hunting dress for the Opening Meet onwards is a black hunting coat (or dark blue for ladies if they prefer), white stock, white/cream/fawn breeches and boots. Children under 18 traditionally still wear ratcatcher but may also wear the adult clothes if they prefer.
- Any safety hat is acceptable. Hat covers should preferably be black or dark blue to match the jacket, they should not have tassles or pom poms.
- Riders are advised not to wear earrings/piercings for safety reasons. Long hair should be in a hairnet or neatly held together.
- Spurs are completely optional.
- Back protectors are absolutely acceptable and are indeed recommended for novice children.
- For those without formal hunting attire, who are just trying the sport out, then tidy clothes of sober colours are acceptable and you will not be made to feel out of place. If you find you like it and intend to come regularly then you will be expected to conform to the correct dress (although a first season wearing ratcatcher would be acceptable). By all means discuss this with the Hunt Secretary.
In order to minimise damage or congestion to the public, parking arrangements for trailers and boxes will normally have been investigated and details posted (Facebook, website, etc.). Please do not park in gateways 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 or on private land unless you have the owner’s permission, or are directed to do so by the hunt. Do allow plenty of time to find a parking place and hack to the meet. The time of the meet is the time you should be on your horse at the meet.
On arrival you should find the Hunt Secretary or the cap collector to pay the cap. Costs are detailed on the Subscriptions page on the website/available from the Hunt Secretary. Bring the correct money – there won’t be the time to provide change/etc. There is no charge for foot/car followers, but there is likely to be a Hunt member with a bucket for donations.
You should also find out who is Field Master for the day, as that is the person you need to stay behind. From this moment on it is your duty to keep your horse away from the hounds. One kick from a horse can either destroy a hound’s confidence at best, or kill a hound at worst. Even if your horse is good with dogs at home does not mean it will be good with the hounds.
The hunt usually moves off half an hour after the meet time, depending how long a start the Quarry needs to get ahead. If hacking along a road, ride in pairs unless told by the Field Master to be in single file. Wave cars on only if the Field Master waves cars on and always thank cars for passing slowly.
Car followers please do NOT drive along behind the hunt; you only delay other road users. Pass the hunt when waved on, or pull off the road until you see where the hunt is going. Hunt Supporters will have maps of the hunts and will be able to guide you if you are uncertain where to go; alternatively join the Hunt Supporters’ Club and you will be emailed the map each week.
Hunting Etiquette and Hunting Terms, Language and Signals
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 with The South Downs Bloodhounds will find us tolerant 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.
We are a child friendly hunt, delighted that so many children decide to hunt with us and we are keen to encourage them. HOWEVER, whilst we will always do our best to help children, we cannot take responsibility for their welfare. Young children coming out for the first time should be accompanied by a responsible adult and we advise that they wear body protectors. Unaccompanied children (and indeed single adults) should have in their coat/jacket pocket (NOT IN THEIR HAT) full contact details in an emergency and full details of any medical conditions a doctor would need to know about in the event of an accident.
Leaving the day early
You can leave at any time during the day. There will be people who can direct you the best way back to the boxes. You should not attempt to find your way across farmland but go to the nearest road.
What should I have in my pockets?
A penknife, some baler twine and possibly some food. 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.
What should I do at the meet?
Etiquette demands that you should find the Hunt Secretary and offer her your cap (or designated cap collector), rather than waiting for her to approach you. Look for people with SDB on their buttons, these should be more experienced members of the hunt who will be able to help you and tell you what is going on. In particular find out who is the Field Master for the day and keep behind them and obey their instructions. 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 South Downs Bloodhounds wear blue coats with four or five silver buttons on the front and two silver buttons on the back. They will also have mustard collars. The hunt staff carry white whips and it is essential that they are given clear passage at all times. 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.
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 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. Bloodhounds are particularly bad at getting out of the way, so it is your duty to keep away from them. If the hounds should be coming towards you, either from in front or behind, always ensure your horses head is turned towards the hounds to ensure it doesn’t kick a hound. Equally, keep to the same side of a ride/road as everyone else when hounds are passing. The hounds should never have to pass between horses on either side of its path.
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. 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 or the Hunt Secretary. If you attempt a gate and break it you will be expected to pay for it. If you are not committed to jumping do not ride near the front of the field alongside those that are – a rider going round/avoiding jumps will potentially pull other horses away from a jump and be dangerous.
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’, they are indicating that the gate you are coming to must be shut. You should shout 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. Never leave someone to shut the gate on their own, the last three horses are responsible for shutting a gate. If in doubt shut the gate as opposed leave it open.
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.
End of the day
It is important to remember that without a Huntsman and Quarry there would be no sport. A thank you goes a long way in helping these people feel appreciated, especially the Quarry 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, regardless of the time.
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.
Have fun, that’s what you are there for; we want you to enjoy yourself and come back again.
Here is a useful glossary of hunting terms, language, and signals. You’re not expected to know them all by any stroke of the imagination. The more widely used/useful ones are in bold type.
|Training Meets||The early part of hunting from August until the Opening Meet in early October – we call these Training Meets often referred to as 'Tub Hunting' (at the start of the Season our Quarries can be a bit 'tubby')|
|Babbler or babbling||A hound that speaks when it is not hunting is said to be a babbler or babbling. However it is quite normal for bloodhounds to babble when they move off from the meet or when they approach the start of a hunt|
|Cap||A daily charge for non-subscribers|
|‘Car please’||Is shouted to tell the Field to keep to the left to let cars through on the road. This message should be passed back or forwards as circumstances dictate|
|Cast||When the hounds are looking for the line. The huntsman may cast the hounds towards where he thinks the hounds will pick it up. Everyone needs to stand still and keep quiet while this is being done|
|Check||When the hounds lose the line|
|Clean boot||Hunting the clean boot is the hunting of human beings with no artificial scent added or dragged by the runner|
|Committee||An elected section of the hunt which carries out fund raising to meet all or part of the overall costs of the season|
|Couples||Hounds are counted in couples (i.e. one hound, a couple, a couple and a half, two couples, etc.). Couples are also two collars linked on a chain and can be seen hanging on the hunt staffs' saddles|
|Cur dog||A canine which is not a hound|
|Drag hunting||Drag hunting is the hunting of an artificial scent usually on a rag dragged by a runner or rider|
|Enlarge||The ‘Quarry’ is said to be enlarged at the point where the hunt starts|
|Entered||An entered hound is a hound that has done a season's hunting|
|Feather||Hounds are said to feather or be feathering when they have the line but are unable to speak to it|
|Field||The mounted followers|
|Field Master||The person in charge of leading and controlling the Field|
|Foil||Any smelly or disturbed ground which spoils the line|
|‘Gate please’||Shouted backwards on going through a gate which should be closed|
|Gate shutter||A person specially designated to shut gates and mend fences. Sometimes wears a white armband. Even when these people are present, you should shut gates where necessary|
|‘Good morning’||The appropriate greeting at the meet|
|‘Good night’||The appropriate salutation for the end of the day even if it was an Autumn Hunting morning which ended before midday|
|Green ribbon||Worn on the tail of a young horse/inexperienced to hunting|
|Hand behind the back||Means this horse might kick if you crowd it|
|Hand in the air by gateway||Signal to people coming towards a gate, but out of hearing, that the gate should be shut. The response to which should be to hold your hand in the air to show you have got the message and will shut the gate|
|‘Headland please’||Shouted when the Field is required to ride in single file close to the fence boundary of field in order to protect crops or sensitive grassland. It is the Field's duty to ensure that not only they keep to the headland, but that those immediately in front do so as well. Take special care not to cut the corners|
|Heel||Hounds are said to be hunting heel when they hunt the reverse direction to the route of the quarry|
|‘Hold hard’||Shouted by the Field Master to stop the field overtaking them|
|Hot bitches||In season bitches|
|Hound||All scent hunting dogs are referred to as hounds. It is the duty of mounted followers to keep out of the way of the hounds, not vice versa|
|Huntsman||The person who hunts the hounds. There is only one huntsman on the hunting field per day, they may also be a Master, and they have absolute right of way at all times|
|Hunt||A hunting day usually consists of 3 - 5 hunts, each hunt being 2 - 5 miles long. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as ‘runs’ or ‘lines’|
|Hunt button & collar||Subscribers who over a period of time have gained knowledge and been helpful to the hunt may be awarded the hunt buttons and collar of the hunt. The buttons are black with the hunt logo. The collar of the SDB is mustard and only worn by officials of the hunt|
|Hunt staff||The people responsible for working the hounds. i.e. Huntsman and Whippers in. They may be Masters, amateurs or professionals|
|‘Kick on’||You may get this response when you make way for a Master or Huntsman at a gate or jump. It means you don't have to wait for them and should carry on|
|Lawn Meet||A meet where refreshments are provided by someone, usually the owner of the property where the meet is taking place. This person should be thanked by everyone as they leave the meet|
|Line||The scent left by the quarry; naturally by bloodhound quarries or artificially in drag or trail hunting|
|‘Loose horse’||Shouted when someone has fallen off and the horse is running away|
|Master||Maybe a Joint Master. These are the people responsible for the running of the hunt and particularly for liaison with the farmers and landowners. They should have right of way at all times second only to the hunt staff|
|‘Master/Huntsman/Whip/Hound please’||This means give way to these people as they have a job to do. If it is heard on a road or a track everyone should get to one side, not line both sides, to reduce the chances of them being kicked|
|‘Master/Huntsman/Whip/Hound on the right/left’||This means the Master/Whip/Hound should be let through on the side shouted. The side corresponding to the direction of travel of the majority of the Field|
|Mixed Pack||A pack consisting of dogs and bitches|
|Mute||A hound which hunts without speaking is mute|
|Opening Meet||The start of formal hunting|
|Puppy||A hound which is new to hunting that season. It will appear fully grown|
|Quarry Captain/Quarry||Quarry Captain is a regular runner who has experience of the technicalities of setting a hunt. Other runners are known as Quarry|
|Ratcatcher||Term used to describe the official dress for mounted followers during Autumn Hunting and consists of a Tweed jacket as opposed to a black jacket. Ratcatcher is also an acceptable form of dress after the Opening Meet|
|Red Ribbon||Worn on the tale of a known kicker. These horses should be kept at the back of the field until they become educated and no longer need to wear a ribbon|
|Ronald 18||Ronald is a hound’s name and the 18 is the year he was entered. Therefore Ronald 18 is likely to be one year older than the suffix indicates. So in the season starting 2020 he will be three years old|
|Riot or rioting||When hounds hunt something other than that which they are supposed to be hunting, they are rioting. In the case of bloodhounds hunting the clean boot all wildlife is known as riot|
|Scent||The smell, indiscernible to the human nose, left by the runners. The hounds also use the smell of the disturbed ground where the runners have been to stay on the line|
|Season||Runs for 12 months from 1st May|
|Secretary||Usually the Honorary Hunt Secretary (unpaid) who deals with day to day inquiries from subscribers and those wishing to hunt on a daily basis. It is more correct to make inquiries about hunting with a pack of hounds through the Hunt Secretary. Visitors should contact this person before coming out with a pack|
|Speak or speaking||Hounds do not bark, they speak or are speaking when they are ‘on the line’ (hunting a scent), bloodhounds speak gloriously|
|Stern||A hound's tail|
|Subscriber||Someone who pays an annual subscription to hunt with a pack of hounds|
|Training Meet||These are the meets before the Opening Meet. The hunts are shorter, the dress code less formal and the Cap reduced from the normal rate|
|‘Ware Hole/Wire/Glass’||Ware is often pronounced ‘War’ and means beware. Therefore if you hear ‘War 'ole’, or Ware 'ole’ it actually means mind out there is a hole in the ground coming up! Similarly any other hazard. This message should be passed back|
|Whelp||A new born hound is a whelp until it goes out to walk, when it is referred to as a puppy|
|Whip in the air (usually by Field Master)||This means stand still where you are, not wait until you get level with the Field Master and then stop|
|Whip held to side by Huntsman||If the whip is in the Huntsman's right hand they will be keeping the hounds to their left. You should therefore let him pass so that his horse is between you and the hounds. Similarly, if the whip is being held in the Huntsman's left hand, they will be keeping hounds on their right|
|Whipper-in||The person who helps the Huntsman control the hounds. This person has right of way at all times and will only give way to the Huntsman|