Fox Hunting Vocabulary
A fox hunt is made up of the following (more details below):
A pack of hounds
Masters of Foxhounds
A Pack Of Hounds
A suggested minimum being 12 couple, hounds being counted in couples, making 12 couple a total of 24 hounds. Most huntsmen wish to hunt between 10 and 15 couple, with many of the hunts going out with as many as 30 couple. There are three basic breeds of hounds suited to mounted foxhunting: the English, the American, and the Crossbred, which are a combination of the English and the American. The Bridlespur Hunt has a Crossbred pack.
The Huntsman (male or female) is the person responsible for the care, feeding, and training of the foxhounds. The Huntsman controls the hounds with voice and horn. Each horn call has special meaning to the hounds, as will as the whippers-in and field, and while the hounds understand the Huntsman’s voice, the horn covers a great distance and can be heard by the hounds long after the voice.
This is the area in which the hunt takes place.
Masters of Fox Hounds
Most of the organized mounted fox hunts in the U.S. belong to an organization known as THE MASTERS OF FOX HOUNDS ASSOCIATION (MFHA) and each hunt has its own Master or Masters of Foxhounds (MFH). The Master is the person or persons in charge of the hunt organization, makes all of the decisions as to how the hunt is run, where and when the hunts are held, employs the Huntsman and takes responsibility for a good relationship with the landowners and community. In many hunts one of the Masters will actually hunt the hounds. Bridlespur prefers to employ a professional Huntsman and the Masters assist as needed.
Each hunt has Whippers-in, which are usually honorary whippers-in as opposed to professional whippers-in. This means that they are members of the hunt club who voluntarily donate a great deal of time to helping the Huntsman exercise hounds and during the hunt they ride where the Huntsman designates to observe hounds, keep them from rioting on deer or cattle, turning them back from crossing highways and busy roads. A Whipper-In must know the names of the hounds, which are old steady hounds and which are young hounds and be generally aware of where the hounds are at all times.
The Field Master may be a MFH or a member of the hunt who has hunted for a number of years, knows the country well and has a steady, bold jumping horse. The Field Master rides ahead of the field members within sight of the Huntsman, but not too close as to interfere. The Field constitutes all of the hunt members and guests who are out with the hunt and it is their duty to stay behind (and not crowd) the Field Master, nor must they ever pass the Field Master. Most hunts have two fields, the Jumping Field, and a Hilltopping Field (non-jumping). The Hilltoppers are led by a Field Master who must know the country well, and can lead them through the country where they can open gates and get around the area without losing the hunt
The Hunting Field
As stated above, THE FIELD constitutes all of the persons hunting on a certain day. They should be in control of their horse at all times and if they experience any difficulties which will require them to leave the hunt (such as losing a shoe, breaking an item of tack, unable to control their horse, or perhaps a tired horse), they should advise a member of the field, or the Field Master. THE MEET is the place where the hunt gathers before hunting. THE FIXTURE CARD contains the time and place where “The Meet” will be on a given date.
When riding in the Hunting Field, you are asked to be as quiet as possible, so as not to disturb the Field Master or the Huntsman, who must be constantly listening for hounds. At a check (when hounds have lost the scent), the Field will often engage in conversation, which makes it difficult for the Huntsman to gather hounds if distracted by loud talking and laughing. When the Master and Huntsman decide to end the day’s hunting, and the Huntsman gathers the hounds and begins the hack back to the Meet, there is plenty of time for conversation. As a Field Member you should make every effort to keep up with the Field as it is very easy to get lost and interfere with the hounds and the Huntsman.
The Hunt Season
Hound work is year ‘round activity; the Bridlespur Hounds are walked out daily for exercise. Preparation for the fox hunting season begins in earnest on the 1st of August when the Hunt Staff commences hound exercise by horseback. This is referred to as “Roading”. This gets both hounds and staff horses into hunting fitness, and is particularly important for the young entry, as this is usually their first exposure to horses and to areas outside the kennel grounds. Ideally, this period of exercise lasts about six weeks. Members are welcome to come out during this time. It is an excellent opportunity to leg up your horse or introduce a green hose to hunting.
Autumn Hunting consists of the first six weeks of hunting prior to the opening of Formal Hunting. It is designed to enter the young hounds and continue the conditioning of both hounds and horses. During autumn hunting we work the converts slowly and thoroughly, paying close attention to keeping track of the young entry. On very warm, or bad scenting days we will not keep the hounds out for very long periods as this training period is extremely important to the success of good hunting when the formal season starts. Do not expect the autumn hunting season to provide fast or long hunts, however, this again depends on the game and the scenting conditions.
Formal hunting begins at the end of October. By this time young hounds should be steady and hunts have gradually lengthened to full scale. Hunting continues twice a week.
Please respect your FIELD MASTER and stay approximately ten feet behind him or her, as it is necessary for them to be able to hear hounds and huntsman without being crowded.
Field members ride in order of seniority. Persons with colors always ride in front of those without colors. It is appropriate to always allow those with more seniority then yourself to ride in front of you. Check with a more senior person to see where they wish to ride in the field. For more clarification, a list, of who and when colors were awarded, has been included in the back of the book.
We do not allow smoking at any time while you are mounted.
Please do not drop behind the field. If you cannot keep up, you must have someone direct you to the nearest road and hack via roads only. Never ride cross-country unless you are following the Fieldmaster. If you leave the hunt, please notify a fellow rider and he/she will have someone contact the Fieldmaster, (when convenient) so they will know who has left the field. We also ask that after a hunt you remain mounted and quiet until all of the hounds are safely in the kennel, at which time give thanks to the Huntsman for the day’s sport.
We welcome hilltoppers and plan a Hilltop Master available for those of you who do not wish to jump, and hope to make this both a learning and pleasant experience. In order to ensure that we have someone to lead the hilltoppers, we ask that you call the day before the hunt if you wish to hilltop, or if you are bringing a guest to hilltop.
Social members are encouraged to utilize the club facilities throughout the year. Hunting activities will take precedence over social activities and trail rides. Social Members are entitled to hunt with the pack two times per season.
You may have a guest during cubbing as well as formal season. We suggest you contact the Secretary or one of the Masters the day before, giving the name of the guest and whether hilltopper or jumper. Inform your guest of the proper attire, etiquette and capping fees prior to the Hunt. Upon arriving at the Meet arrange to pay your guest’s capping fee and have your guest sign a release waiver. Please note that it is very important for you to arrive early to get these things done. No one will be permitted to hunt without a signed release. Guests belonging to another hunt may pay a $50.00 capping fee or not at the Masters discretion. Guests NOT belonging to another hunt will pay a $50.00 capping fee. When you have a guest, you and your guest ride in the back of the field unless invited by the Fieldmaster to ride in another position in the field.
An Equine Professional is someone that has or operates from a place of business from which they regularly invoice clients or one who earns the vast majority of their earned income from the boarding, training, transporting, buying or selling, of horses and from the instruction of student riders. Such equine professionals who wear the appropriate indicator may ride in the hunt at no charge.
A person who is paid to assist a regular hunting member with the preparation for, and transportation to the hunt, and on a regular basis assists said member with their equine endeavors. Such grooms must be mounted on a hunting member’s horse and may ride in the hunt at no charge.
Glossary of Hunting Terms
Blank: used to denote the fact that a covert contains no fox.
Breast high: used to denote the fact that the scent is good, and that hounds are running with their heads high.
Brush: the tail of the fox.
Burning scent: used to denote a strong scent.
Cast: used to describe the spreading of the pack, when in search of the line of the fox
Check: used to denote the halt by the pack and the field, for the purpose of resting both animals and riders
Cold hunting: used to denote the fact that hounds are having the greatest difficulty in detecting scent.
Covert: a thicket, or a wooded area, reputed to harbor a fox.
Cub: a young fox
Draft: the selection of one or more hounds from the pack
Field: the riders, considered collectively (other than the master, whips, and huntsman), n who follow the hounds in a hunt
Giving tongue: the voice of hounds while they are following a scent
Huntsman: a professional, or a gentleman or gentlewoman member of the hunt, who hunts the hounds, and is in immediate charge of the kennels, and of the breeding, care and training of the hounds, under the supervision of the master.
Lifting: used when the huntsman takes the pack to another place, usually where he thinks the line of the fox lies.
Mask: the head of the fox.
Meet: the meeting place, and also the meeting of the members and guests of a hunt club, for the purpose of riding to hounds.
Pack: all of the hounds, considered collectively, in any one kennel. Also applied to that group of hounds which participates in any particular hunt. Hounds are numbered or mentioned by couple. Do not say “twenty, or twenty-one hounds”, say “ten, or ten and one-half couple”
Pad: the feet of the fox
Pack up: a term used by the master, the whips, and the huntsman to get the pack to assemble at a check, or to get them back on the line during a run.
Riot: used when hounds become disorganized, and run some animal other than the fox.
Skirter: a hound that runs wide of the pack.
Speak: used when a hound gives tongue on a scent.
Stern: the rear facade of a hound.
Vixen: a female fox.