The hitchhiker's guide to hunting. 'Don't panic', and other advice from the field.
Posted by Katherine Burgdorf on October 10, 2016
- Never wear leather gloves on the hunting field
- Seven different ways with baling twine; and
- How to spot a landowner
October 22nd-29th 2016 is the Countryside Alliance’s Hunting Newcomers' Week. Hunts around the country will host events and introductions to the sport with an emphasis on information and enjoyment - no special kit required.
To do our bit, Vintage Tack Room asked our wonderful Facebook followers and a few hunting friends for their best ‘first timer’ advice. What came together is a brilliant set of comments including the funny, the practical and the just-plain-wise from those who hunt week in, week out. Read them all here.
We’ve highlighted just a few of their suggestions - the ones you probably won’t find on hunt websites. So sit up, kick on, read on...
Never jump a gate leaning toward you, or try to kiss anyone leaning away from you. Excellent advice, and not just for the hunting field.
If your horse is particularly fizzy don’t be afraid to try riding towards the front of the field. They often settle better when they can see what’s going on. We love this advice because it’s a little counter-intuitive. Being up front can be a lot easier on a strong horse and is often a safer place from which to jump (being less crowded).
The gnarly old bloke leaning against the gate post at the Meet might just be the farmer upon whose land you’re about to ride. DO say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ as you ride past him. Without landowners there would be no hunting. This is, perhaps, the best advice. But remember, DON’T try and kiss him if he’s leaning away from you!
Don’t be hard on yourself if the action initially overwhelms you. It gets better, and it’s worth it.
Eyes up, head up, heels down, have fun.
Tighten your girth. A riding hymn to live by.
Travel your horse to the Meet tacked up.
‘As a child I was told never to wear leather gloves hunting. On asking why I was told it was because you couldn’t wipe your nose on them!’ So true. Buy a pair of Vintage Tack Room’s Holdtight Hunter double knit cotton gloves: http://www.vintagetackroom.com/gloves-2/ .They give terrific grip even in the worst weather and are excellent for wiping your nose on (on and off the field. We’ve stopped buying Kleenex).
Carry a penknife and some baling twine** for securing broken gates. Great advice. In the OTHER pocket, Vintage Tack Roomers recommend carrying: unwrapped sweets, a multipurpose tool, spare gloves, a mobile phone, vetwrap, a spare hip flask and a spare horse. You’re gonna need bigger pockets.
On a wet day stick a pair of dry gloves under your girth straps for later, and pack dry socks and clothes for driving home later on.
Split. Breeches. Big. Knickers. ‘nuff said.
Make sure A&E staff cut your boots off down the back seam if you break a leg. Excellent advice in a crisis. This old hand knows that a good cobbler can repair a back seam easily, saving you the hassle of breaking in a new pair of boots when your leg has mended.
‘Always offer to do gates for older field members. They’ll remember your good manners when you f*ck up in a big way later on.’
Don't hold your horse back - let her go and she'll stop when the others do. (Unless she doesn't. In which case read the above advice again on why it's an investment to open gates for older field members...)
Strong horse? Bridge your reins when galloping and let him pull against himself.
Don’t oil or soap leather reins the night before in case it rains.
And finally, this from a third seasoner:
‘Don't panic. Hopefully this will be the first of many days. You may go out expecting to have the best day of your life - as you’ll no doubt have been promised - but it probably won’t all come together day one so manage your expectations. You’ll be nervous. Your horse might be overwhelmed. You’ll look in awe at the regulars in the right kit, riding immaculate, well-mannered hunters, joking over a glass of port. You'll wonder if you'll ever fit in. Just give it time and, one day, that will be you.’
**An ode to baling twine.
Baling twine is the God of Substitutions. You will already know this if you’re a long-time horse owner but it’s particularly true in the hunting field. Keep one full length piece on your hunt coat pocket at all times. Tied around your waist it will keep your coat closed if you pop your buttons (common), it will mend broken gates or fences until they can be fixed properly, a small length will give a nice crack at the end of your hunting thong if you lose your lash. We’ve even heard rumours that a single piece of twine can be fashioned into an emergency saddle. We’re not aware of etiquette with regards the correct colour (though I’m sure orange could be used effectively on the Moors to flag the rescue helicopter). Just carry a piece and you’ll have instant field cred in an emergency.
Hunt websites are an excellent source of information on what to expect, etiquette and what to wear. Every hunt has a slightly different way of doing things. We recommend not just reading the website of the hunt you’re about to follow, but two or three others as well. You’ll be reassured the basics are common including greetings, hunting terms and field instructions. The Blankney’s page ‘New to hunting’ is a good one to start with: www.blankneyhunt.co.uk/new-to-hunting/.
- Hunting books for the newcomer.
With thanks to ALL The Vintage Tack Room's Facebook followers including:
F. Murray, A. Gesell, P Shield, CW Young, V Cable, A McCreery, J Owen, V Cobden, A Perry, A Farrin, A Boissard, Z Jenkins, JA Florence, S Egan, J Roslan.