Continued from the Etiquette Page

4. Next step, after the money details are nailed down: This is the time to make any and all attire/tack inquiries. There is no question to dumb to ask, at this point, and if the hunt official to whom you are speaking implies that you have asked a dumb question, this ain't a Real Hunt. The hunt official to whom you are speaking will (or should) appreciate that you are making the effort to 'do the right thing' and inform yourself. This is also the time at which you can learn a lot about whether the hunt in question needs a shipment of dinosaurs or has its priorities in order. If, for example, you only have square saddle pads, say so! No reasonable hunt will require you to go out and buy new stuff for a trial run at the sport. As for tack color, type, figure 8 or not, raised bridle or not, etc, Don't Even Ask - what you have is just fine, provided you follow two rules:
  • 1) use what you need to maintain control of your horse at all speeds, at all times,
  • 2) whatever tack you are using should be scrupulously clean BEFORE you get to the meet (I just hate it when I see people at the meet polishing their boots or 'wiping off' filthy tack that wasn't cleaned after the last day of hunting, to me it sends a message that clean tack/tack in good repair isn't a priority for such folks). And not just the leather- take some Brasso to those stirrups and dee rings and nameplate and buttons, believe me, it makes a difference and is way impressive! And if you use a Wintec, well great, that much less leather to clean, but make sure it's clean and spot free. As for attire, you can never go wrong with black coat, beige breeches, PLAIN BLACK BOOTS. These are always correct even during cubhunting. If it happens that you don't yet own all of these, ask if you can wear your green show coat or whatever you've got, and maybe a neutral colored turtleneck if you don't own a stock tie, a Real Hunt will always say yes, of course.

5. So, now you've established your day of hunting. The day BEFORE the meet, get your stuff organized, clean your tack, polish your boots, lay out your hunting clothes, load the right stuff in your trailer, even hook up your trailer if convenient so you are Ready to Roll and have the least possible number of things to stress out about on the Morning Of. Bathe or thoroughly groom your horse.

6. Morning Of: THOROUGHLY groom your horse before loading. Yes, he'll get a little dirty on the way, but you'll have a far easier time just touching him up as needed at the meet. I recommend tacking at home (possibly except for the bridle) and hauling to the meet tacked up, it has always helped me to make sure I get there with everything I need, but if you don't tack, triple check that you have everything, saddle, pad, bridle, horse, before pulling out of the barn.

Plan to arrive at the meet an hour early. Gives you plenty of time to get organized, pay capping fee, greet Master, field master (if different) and others, and be groomed, tacked, and on your horse 5 minutes before the appointed hour. Much more pleasant experience than frantically rushing while simultaneously stressing about First Day of Hunting.

7. When hounds move off, go to the end of the line. Two reasons: members get to go first, and at your first meet you will want to stay in the back, out of trouble. If the field master or MFH invites you to the front, by all means, go and enjoy! If hounds are running and there are slow pokes in your way, feel free to pass even the most senior of hunt members. Just remember to return meekly to the rear when that run is over. Won't go into the excruciating protocol details here, just rest assured that if you follow this advice at a Real Hunt, those in charge/those to whom it matters will be mightily impressed.

8. Three rules for your first day, no, three.

  • 1) hounds have right of way at all times, do whatever it takes to ensure your horse does not get in a position where he might step on or kick a hound or block its path. This rule is orders of magnitude more important that what you or horse are wearing or anything else for that matter.
  • 2) Be quiet! No chit chatting or shrieking in terror when hounds are working. If others come to you to initiate conversation (and they will, there are lots of yakkers out there), whisper, keep it short, etc - you are fundamentally there to enjoy the hunting, the chit chat can happen afterwards. Those involved in providing the day's sport will MUCH appreciate your contribution to as quiet a field as possible so the hounds can find what they are lookin' for.
  • 3) At the end of the day: Thank field master, MFH (if different), huntsman, and whippers-in for the day's sport. NOTHING is more important than your expression of gratitude for the hard work they have put in; if you've showed up bareback on a dirty zebra and remember to thank them at the end of the day, you will be In Like Flint.

9. Day After. A good old fashioned Thank You Note to the Master. No matter how many mistakes or faux pas you think you might've made the day before, spending (the price of a stamp) to say thanks one more time will wipe any demerits clean and give you some brownie points in the bank, too.

I think those are the highlights, and as always, Just My Opinion. Regards, Beverley Heffernan, Sandy, Utah, USA.

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