Vale of the White Horse Hunt hunting guide
The Pony Club Hunting Certificate – click here
The Hunting year officially begins on 1st May when any new Masters or Staff begin their duties. The summer months are very busy for the Hunt Staff and include Puppy Shows, Hound Shows and various hound parades.
The Hunting year actually begins as soon as the harvest allows; this is usually in late August, following hound exercise. Autumn Hunting begins in the early morning whilst the temperature is low enough not to evaporate the scent. These meets allow young hounds, horses and the countryside to be primed for the coming season. Young hounds are introduced to the existing pack and they are gradually coached into working as a team. Autumn hunting starts between 6am and 8am and usually lasts for three to four hours. Whilst the temporary Hunting Act is in place The Vale of the White Horse Hunt meet primarily to exercise the hounds. This is coupled with a fox-scented trail being laid in order to keep the pack working well together.
The Opening Meet in late October/early November is the publicised beginning of the season. The Opening meet is traditionally held at South Farm, Fairford and attracts one of the largest Fields during the season. The Boxing Day meet rivals the Opening Meet and is traditionally held in the beautiful surroundings of Cirencester Park, by kind permission of the Bathurst Family.
Meets are held at 11.00am and the pack will move off at 11:15am. Second horses are usually taken at about 1.30pm.
The final meet of the season is usually held in early April, usually at Ten Rides in Cirencester Park. We are fortunate to be able to continue Hunting longer than some of our neighbours due to the wonderful spring hunting that is available in the lovely woodlands of Cirencester Park.
The VWH Hunt meet four days per week during the season on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Meets may be changed at short notice due to frost or saturated ground.
We are reliant upon the goodwill of our farmers and landowners in order to carry on our sport. Please show the utmost consideration for private property and other road users throughout the day. Whether you drive or hack to the Meet, avoid creating hold-ups. Check with the Secretary where you should unbox. Please show respect for local residents by not damaging verges and not blocking access. You should arrive in good time and you should never arrive on a sweating horse.
Visitors and members should say ‘Good Morning’ to the Master upon arrival at the meet. You should never arrive late without prior permission. Visitors must contact the Secretary to ask if they may visit a few days in advance of the Meet, and they must then locate the Secretary and pay their cap at the Meet. Caps (payment for those who have not subscribed) can be paid either by cheque (payable to the VWH Hunt) or in cash.
Traditionally, the host provides drinks (Port and Whisky) and something to eat, often sausage rolls and fruit cake, at the Meet. This sustenance is always gratefully received by those present and the Master will publicly thank the host. The Master may also make other announcements, as well as giving an idea of where the trail has been laid, particularly useful for foot-followers. The Whisky draw is drawn every Saturday, raising money for the Farmers and Supporters Club. Mounted followers (the Field) should ensure that their horses face hounds at the Meet, as well as when moving off, when they should follow behind the Field Master.
The main aim of Hunting is to ‘Follow Hounds’; this may imply that you enjoy the chase and surrounding countryside or appreciate the art of hound-work. The terrain will vary during the day and may include open farmland, parkland, large coverts and steep valleys. The correct and intended hunting order is Quarry (currently a trail), followed by hounds, then Huntsman, Whipper-in, Field Master and then The Field. The Huntsman has overall control of the hounds. The Whipper-in is the assistant to the Huntsman. The Field Master is responsible for the conduct of and leads the Field, keeping as close as is reasonable to the pack without foiling the scent or hindering the hounds. Various instructions may be passed vocally within The Field, all of which should be passed on; they will include ‘Gate Please’, ‘Beware Hole’ and ‘Master/Whip/Hound(s) please’; gates must always be shut, holes avoided and space given to allow hounds or Hunt Staff room to pass.
The Field will be carefully guided across the country, only over land where you are welcome, avoiding sensitive crops and livestock and, of course, over the best jumps whenever possible when the hounds are running. The Field must follow the Field Master’s advice, as he will have liaised closely with the landowners and farmers prior to the day’s Hunting. You must make the best use of headlands, sticking closely to the hedge line and avoiding damage to crops. You must also pay full attention to livestock, causing as little disruption as possible. Gates MUST be closed and attention should be paid to when you are on ‘Gate Stewarding’ duty (see Meet Card). If you are unable to ‘Gate Steward’ on your allocated day it is your responsibility to find someone capable to replace you and inform the Secretary.
Please have consideration for the rest of The Field when you embark upon a jump, leave sufficient distance between horses and if you don’t have a textbook take off, allow others to jump before your next attempt. If you do encounter ‘an incident with a jump’, please report that it needs to be repaired to the Secretary or the Field Master.
Hunting is always exhilarating, for both horse and rider, but please remember to show consideration and courtesy throughout the day to thoughtful motorists, foot followers and other ‘normal people’; we do need to dispel the arrogant hunting image, and a simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way. All members of The Field should say ‘Thank You and Good Night’ to The Master at the end of the day (regardless of the time). Remember, an extraordinary amount of work (much of which is voluntary) and co-ordination lies behind every successful days Hunting. The Field Master will also be glad to know that nobody has been left out and lost in VWH country.
The Huntsman and Whipper-in wear black riding hats with bow tails trailing, red coats with five brass VWH buttons, white stock with pin facing North-South and white gloves. White hunting breeches and black boots with mahogany tops and white garter straps with spurs.
They wear the same uniform as the Hunt Staff, however their stock pin will run East-West and they will only have four buttons.
They wear a black or navy hunting coat, with brass VWH Hunt buttons, beige breeches and plain black boots with black garter straps and spurs.
Honorary Field Secretary:
This hard working, down trodden, timid and unfortunate individual normally wears a red coat with leather money bag over his shoulder. Easily recognisable by the permanent worried expression on his face, looks older than his years and is generally abused by both Masters and members.
A top hat (Gentlemen), bowler hat or black or blue riding hat with bow tails sewn up. A plain black hunting coat with three front buttons, a white hunting stock (pin East-West), beige breeches and plain black boots with black garter straps and spurs. Alternatively, Gentlemen may wear a red coat with three front and two rear buttons, white breeches, black boots with mahogany tops, white garter straps and spurs.
Black riding hats with bow tails trailing, black coats with three buttons or ratcatcher.
By Masters Invitation only:
The VWH Hunt buttons may only be worn (whether black with black coats or brass with red coats) by invitation of the Joint Masters.
If visitors are members of another Hunt they are welcome to wear their usual hunting uniform.
The Pony Club will advise on the most suitable dress code, which should always be smart, warm and safe.
Useful items to carry:
A knife, string and handkerchief can be invaluable for emergencies, in order to prevent further damage to horse, hound or rider. A mobile phone (silent or off). A sandwich (usually very squashed) is always popular for lunch. A hipflask and sweets will always earn friends when shared among The Field. Tissues and some ‘just in case’ money.
Turnout is just as important for your mount as it is for the jockey. Tack should be in good condition as well as clean (this is for safety as much as for looks). Tack and accessories should be either brown or black. It is traditional and smart to plait manes (except when ratcatcher is worn), however this is no longer compulsory. If a horse is either young or known to kick you must put a corresponding ribbon in its tail. Red symbolises a ‘kicker’ and green a young horse. It is the rider’s responsibility to make other members of The Field aware.
The VWH has a very loyal and committed number of foot followers, the majority of whom are experienced huntsmen and women, with excellent knowledge of the local terrain. For those who are new or visiting, please use common sense and respect our countryside, landowners and farmers. Never drive on private property without permission, do not block narrow lanes or destroy verges and wherever possible share vehicles. Your enjoyment of the day will be far greater away from the sound of a running engine, which is liable to spoil the scent. Remember, the Hunt is here to help maintain the countryside, not to pollute it.