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Sunday, 24 June 2018
THE leaves have turned autumnal and the evenings are drawing in, bonfire night looms as another winter steadily approaches, indeed, as you exercise your horse you have probably noticed the welcome and sometimes surprising but beautiful sight of the pheasants.
Yes, the hunting and shooting season is upon us. This weekend will see the vast majority of hunts holding their opening meets in the next couple of weeks.
So what’s it all about? A few of you have contacted me to ask just that, so here is a quick insider’s guide and a few tips to help your planned day go a little more smoothly.
⚫So who are the men in red coats?
Well, the answer lies in the buttons on the jacket, it’s all secretly coded. However, in order to decipher who is who, a quick tip is to count the buttons on the front of the hunt coat.
The hunt staff are usually men but not always. They are normally employed by the hunt on a full-time basis and are responsible for the hounds.
They (when not hunting) will quite often run what’s known as a knacker-round, which involves picking up farmers’ fallen stock and despatching stock when and where necessary. They will have been busy fittening-up the hounds for the opening meet since August if not before, often out at 4am.
You might note too that they wear their stock pin in a slightly different way, this is another subtle clue to let you know that they are hunt staff.
Those with four brass buttons denotes a Master and they’re in charge! In addition to other responsibilities, they invariably will look after a certain part of the country that you and your horse will be crossing. They have a good idea of where you’ll be going and it always pays to say “Good Morning” to them upon your arrival at the meet.
I am told that even when Prince Charles used to hunt, it was the Prince who always lifted his hat to the Master to show respect and a formal greeting.
Lady Masters too wear four hunt buttons (again brass) on the front of their coat but do not wear the scarlet coat.
Men wearing the hunting pink coat but who have just three buttons (brass or with plain coloured but with lettering on) are invited “members” of the hunt. Hunt-buttons are given by hunts for recognised hard work and imply a trusted member. Once given, they cannot be given back so they are not given out readily.
Ladies awarded with the hunt-button wear buttons on their jacket that bear the hunt’s initials. These buttons are not brass unless that lady is or was a Master. Some hunts also have a particular hunt-coloured-collar, for example, mustard is the colour of the Kimblewick Hunt and dark red is the colour of the Berks and Berks Draghounds. This again, can quickly help you identify a hunt member.
A smart and well turned out horse and rider will always be welcomed. For lawn meets (these are where you are at a meet host’s home) you really should try to be plaited (although native horse and ponies can escape this rule).
Horses may have ribbons on them. Red, the most obvious, is to warn those not to get too close to the back or it may kick out, and green is for a horse that may not have been on a hunt before. You may also see a white ribbon (for sale) or blue or yellow (stallion).
Before deciding to try hunting you must check your insurance, as your policy may need to be upgraded.
If you decide to give it a go here’s a few more pointers for the day.
⚫ Do stay behind your appointed Field Master, he or she will have planned the day and will not thank you if you career past.
⚫ Take your time over fences, especially if it’s single file.
⚫ Important words to remember are: “Hold hard” means “stop”, “Ware hole” means a hole in the ground is approaching while “gate please” should be called when passing through an open gate. If you are last, then yes, you are duty bound to ensure it is closed.
⚫ A golden rule is to never, ever, turn your horse or pony’s rear legs towards hounds. If the huntsman is approaching you with his hounds ensure that your horse’s head is facing the hounds. A complete hunting faux pas is your horse kicking a hound and I have seen people sent home for this.
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