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What is Fox Hunting?

 

It is tradition.

In the 15th & 16th century in England’s countryside, fox hunting (“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 of protecting farmers’ crop and livestock. Landowners would mutually agree to allow the “hunt”group to ride through their properties. Horses would cover miles of land and jump over any obstacles that stand in the way (ie stone walls, gates, hedges, logs, ditches).

“Fox Hunting” became more recreational towards the 17th and 18th century.  In 1753,  18-year-old Hugo Meynell, often called the father of modern fox hunting, 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. https://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/archive/fox-hunting/

Today, while the killing of any animals has been outlawed in most countries for over a hundred years, the tradition is still active as ever. The scent of the fox is dragged through prior to the “hunt” for the hounds to follow the scent instead of any live animal. 

Objective: to have fun in the countryside, on horseback with other equestrians and partake in long held traditions. 

The season of Hunting is typically October to April. With sometimes over 100 riders participating in a single hunt.

The Riding Attire:

There are (2) seasons of hunting, Cubbing which is early on, like a pre-season, weather is still warm and both horses and hounds are getting fit. Cubbing attire is 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. 

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Following “cubbing” is the formal “hunting” season in which black or navy wool coats are worn with a white shirt and white stock tie with a stock pin affixed. Beige, tan or rust colored breeches paired with black boots and a black helmet or cap (traditionally the velvet hunt cap) are worn. 

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. 

 

The 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

*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 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

*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 

Join us this season!  Find out what hunts we are participating in and other unique riding experiences on our “Events Page” of ManhattanRidingClub.com, updated daily. Cheers!

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