How to get started in fox hunting
Posted on 17 September 2015 by Kim
Thinking about going hunting but not sure where to start?
Hunts are always pleased to see new people in the hope that they will enjoy it every bit as much as their existing members. A popular misconception is that hunting is exclusive and elitist, but this is not the case. A hunt is really a club of people with a common interest in horses, hounds and the countryside.
How do I find out about hunting in my area?
You need to contact the Hunt Secretary. Every hunt has one. If you don't know your local hunt and who runs it, the Master of Foxhounds Association will have all the details of who to contact. The Hunt Secretary will give you advice about which of the meets will suit you and your horse best, and make sure you’re introduced to people who can "show you the ropes". Alternatively, most hunts have "Newcomer's Meets". These are generally listed on the "Meet Card". This is simply a list of all the meets throughout the season.
Foot followers are welcome too. Contact the Hunt Supporters' Club Secretary for details about following the hunt on foot.
Is it expensive?
Well, it depends. It’s actually no more than a gym club membership or subscription to many other leisure activities. Details of all the different types of membership and their cost can be obtained from either the hunt’s website or alternatively the Hunt Secretary. You’ll be welcome to go out as a visitor paying the day rate or, in hunting terms, the "cap". Rates for the newcomer’s meets are often considerably lower and there are often various concessions for local riding and Pony Club Members.
Foot followers will be asked for a small donation if they’re only attending the Meet but if you were to actually follow the hunt and spend all day with them, you should expect to pay around £5.
How good a rider do I need to be?
Often with the advice of the Hunt Secretary, a meet to suit most levels of competence can be found. Contact someone from the hunt as they will know which meets involve jumping and which ones require you to never leave the ground! If your level of competence (and confidence!) lies somewhere in between, there are meets where jumps are available if you're feeling bold but avoidable if you're not.
One word of warning though; however laid back and placid your horse is at home, he’ll probably get very strong when he's in company. Regardless of the bit you normally use on your horse, think about upgrading to a stronger bit as horses tend to get a bit livelier when hunting! They also tend to ‘grow’ a hand or two… all riders know what this feels like! We all know that it’s always better to have ‘extra’ brakes on hand just in case you need them rather than find you are out of control.
Aren't there strict rules of etiquette and dress?
Yes. Just like other clubs, there are rules. However, the hunt won’t expect you to know them in advance. Most are common sense to ensure everyone's safety. As far as dress is concerned, to start with it's enough for horse and rider to come out clean and tidy. If you get bitten by the hunting bug, that’s the time to invest in all the kit. You can find all the appropriate attire here, where you can also read other hunting-related articles.
If you are interested in the etiquette of hunting, read our blog about Hunting Field Etiquette.