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With the Countryside Alliance’s newcomers’ week almost upon us and opening meets fast approaching too, we’ve put some tips together for those planning to follow hounds for the first time - and for those who might wish to refresh their memories - to help ensure that your day following hounds goes as smoothly possible.
You don’t need any special knowledge, kit or clothes, and everyone is welcome whether mounted on a horse, following on foot, on a bike or in a car, but planning ahead and being organised may really help to improve your experience!
Before the day:
- Contact the hunt secretary and make the necessary arrangements well in advance so they know that you are coming.
- Plan your journey so that you arrive in plenty of time - find out from the hunt secretary (or relevant hunt official) where they recommend that you park and establish how long it will take you to walk or hack to the meet.
- Don’t worry too much about what to wear if you don’t want to buy a complete set of hunting kit - just turn yourself and your horse out as smartly as possible to show respect for the landowners who permit you across their land.
- Consider clipping your horse and putting in a stronger bit than you have for hacking out at home and, if practical, try riding out with other horses if you usually ride alone, just so your horse or pony doesn’t get too over-excited at the sight of others.
- Have a trial run with all your own kit so you know you’ve got everything - nothing worse than scrabbling around at the last-minute searching for a hairnet and making yourself late.
- Check your transport is prepared for the journey - always best to avoid filling up with fuel or pumping up tyres when you are wearing clean breeches and polished boots.
On the day:
- Tack up beforehand if you can - tying up to the back of a trailer or lorry on the side of the road when other horses are hacking past on their way to the meet doesn’t make it very easy to do up a girth or put a bridle or hoof oil on.
- On arrival at the meet, introduce yourself to the hunt secretary and pay the cap (if you haven’t prepaid online).
- Find out who the field master is so that you know who to follow and listen to any special instructions given at the meet.
- If you aren’t sure about how your horse will behave around hounds, keep out of their way whenever possible and always point their head towards hounds.
- If your horse may kick or you aren’t sure how they will act in company, please wear a red ribbon to warn others to give you a wider berth than usual and keep towards the back of the field. Likewise, wear a green ribbon if your horse is young or new to hunting.
If you are following on foot or in a car:
- Wear comfortable walking boots and take a walking stick to help with difficult terrain.
- Introduce yourself to the secretary at the meet and pay the relevant cap for foot followers.
- Avoid parking anywhere which will impede other road users and stay off newly-mown grass verges.
- Keep your engine switched off when stationary so that other followers can hear hounds.
If hunt saboteurs or monitors are present, please do not engage with them. Be aware that they may try to provoke a reaction from you to discredit hunts and hunting, and that you may be being filmed at all times.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions and always enjoy yourself - it is supposed to be fun!
Further advice and guidance can be found in A Newcomer’s Guide to Hunting.