What is Foxhunting?
It is tradition.
In the 15th & 16th century in England’s countryside, foxhunting (hunting) originated. A local event, where residents set out on horseback alongside a pack of hounds to find and kill any vermin. This type of pest control (fox, deer, rabbit) was the community effort, mostly of nobility, to protect farmers’ crop and livestock. Landowners would mutually agree to allow the “hunt” to ride through their properties. Horses would cover miles of land and jump over any obstacles that stood in the way (stone walls, gates, hedges, logs, ditches).
Foxhunting became more recreational toward the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1753, 18-year-old Hugo Meynell, often called "the father of modern foxhunting," helped turn the sport into a chase of speed, endurance and athleticism. To match this style of hunting, Bloodhounds were being bred especially for speed, stamina and keen sense of smell.
With the Industrial Revolution and the creation of railroad transport, city dwelling socialites were also connected to the rural farmlands for a day of recreation on horseback. Foxhunting events became immensely popular not just for their sport and tradition but also for socializing. Women were invited 1878 to the Rose Tree Hunt, and rode sidesaddle, also soaring over hedges and other obstacles, creating quite the sight. Today in places like England and Ireland it is still common to see a few women riding in this style.
Today, while the killing of any animals has been outlawed in England, the tradition is still active as ever. The scent of the fox is dragged through prior to the hunt for the hounds to follow instead of any live animal, this is called a Drag Hunt.
Objective: To preserve the tradition of one of the oldest equestrian sports, preservation of land.
Season: Informal from August - October, also called cubbing and a time when both hounds and horses are getting fit and typically warmer weather is had. Formal from November - March when hunts are longer, weather is colder and all parties are consider much fitter. Sometimes over 100 riders can be seen participating in a single hunt on special days like Opening Meet, Boxing Day and Closing Meet.
Informal or cubbing season: Ratcatcher- a tweed coat in muted colors like beige, brown or green which may be lighter and therefore less hot than a full wool coat. Paired with beige or rust breeches and brown or black field boots. Gentlemen wear a tie with a light colored shirt other than white, again in muted tones. Ladies wear a colored stock tie, necktie or choker. Tan, beige, brown or black gloves can be worn as well as a vest in a similar style to the jacket. It is also customary for women to tie their hair up with a hairnet. A black or brown helmet can be worn.
Formal Season: Black or navy wool coats are worn with a white shirt and white stock tie with a stock pin affixed. Beige or tan colored breeches paired with black boots and a black helmet or cap (traditionally the velvet hunt cap) are worn. Women's hair should be tied up with a hairnet. A canary vest is traditional as well as black gloves.
You will see other colored coats such as red and green, well as boots with both brown and black leather, which are strictly reserved for hunt masters and members who have received special privilege to wear these colors.
Riding Etiquette: The traditions of hunting are still very strong and respected today as they were in the 1800’s. Here are some of the notable points to know...
*Say “Good Morning” to the Huntsman and other riders you approach no matter time of day
*Provide warnings of hounds near the horses, “ware hound” “hound left” “hound right” (one of the worst things that can happen is for a horse to kick a hound)
*Pass along information like “gate”, “single file”, “jump”, “tree down” (as a new hunter it is best to stay somewhere near the middle or back of the group so you can observe and mimic the riders ahead of you)
*Do not call the hounds "dogs," they are hounds
*Horses should be clean and properly tacked, boots and equipment should be cleaned and polished
*Never pass the field master (the member of the hunt who leads the riders)
*Single file through crop fields to avoid destroying fertile land
*Give some distance for jumping
*Red ribbons on tails of horses who kick
*Green ribbons on tails of new or young horse
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