The Proper Hunt

by Staff on June 3, 2014

Virginia Fox HuntingThe equestrian world is an interesting and varied place.  Similar to other locales, Central Virginia horse riders can choose to participate in trail rides, shows, breeding and boarding horses,  jumping horses, dressage, and combination eventing as well.

But in Virginia, one prized tradition is The Hunt.   Yes, it involves horses, riders, and prized hounds … all looking for the fox.  If you’re unfamiliar with this aspect of equestrian events and if this sounds like a helter-skelter scene, be assured that it is definitely not random.  The Hunt comes with its own set of rules, proprieties and etiquette that have been formed over centuries in the genteel estates of folks fortunate enough to reside in hunt country.

The ultimate authority for all hunt decisions is the Hunt Master who leads the hunt, and his/her instructions are to be obeyed without question.  A hunt may include more than one Master if the Field Master invites masters or ex-masters from other hunts to join in.  The next-ranking participants are Gentlemen and Ladies with Colors.   The right to wear the hunt’s “Colors” is a designation awarded by the Master to a hunt participant who demonstrates extraordinary skill or service,  making someone with Colors such as a scarlet coat easily recognizable as an honored participant.  When the hunt actually begins, riders go forward in the order of their rank.

Hair nets are required under the caps for both men and women who have long hair.  If your horse could kick, you’ll braid a red ribbon in its tail to let others know.  If you are allowed to invite a guest, you’ll politely ride at the back of the pack with your guests.  All details and appearances matter:  the cut of your coat, the fabric and color of your pants and equipment, the fold of your tie, the stitching in your boots.  Riding out with the look of proper traditional style is essential to a formal Hunt.  If your horse refuses a jump, you’ll politely drop to the back and allow other riders to proceed.

One other point.  The sport of fox hunting comes with its own vocabulary that has evolved over the years.  You’ll want to know such terms as tattersall, jodhpur, melton, and ratcatcher.    And you would call them hounds, they’re never dogs.  Heads up if the hunt Master tells you ‘Ware wire”… it means (be)ware of the wire!

In case you’re wondering, the foxes can survive once they go in a hole.    Around Charlottesville there are a couple of Hunt locations.  East of town is the Keswick Hunt and on the western side of town is the Farmington Hunt which has its spring hunt on May 31.  And if you’re motivated to find more details of hunts in Virginia, check out the link.

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