Fox Hunting- "Riding to Hounds "
The Fraser Valley Hunt Club keeps alive the age-old tradition of riding to hounds. For the riding enthusiast, nothing can compare to galloping a fine horse, eager to meet his fences, across open country on a crisp fall morning with hounds in full cry.
As in most of Canada and Continental Europe, ours is a ‘drag hunt’ ; the hounds follow an artificial scent laid from horseback; no foxes are endangered, yet the horsemanship, hound handling, camaraderie and excitement of the sport are wonderfully preserved.
Since the course taken can be predicted, the integrity of the farmlands loaned for the purpose is preserved, and the safety of the horse and rider is emphasized.
Most ‘hunts’ last 1 ½ to 3 hours, riding over varied terrain in spectacular countryside not usually available to the public.
Because it’s so much fun for both horse and rider. Horses love, thrive, and benefit from the opportunity to gallop freely, exercising their jumping skills, while riders revel in the thrill of this exciting, yet non-competitive sport. It’s ideal for conditioning eventer’s and jumpers, and builds confidence and skills for any trail horse and rider.
The hunt is divided into groups, called ‘fields’, according to the speed ridden, so riders from all walks of life and virtually any age group can enjoy the experience.
New riders, or green horses, need not jump or fast gallop; they can start in the “hill-topping” field with their own Fieldmaster travelling at a reasonably sedate pace at the back, and move up to the Second Field which travels at an easy canter as they build confidence.
Advanced riders can challenge themselves over both man-made and natural jumps in the First Field immediately behind the Huntsman and hounds and pursuing at a full gallop. The field masters in the hilltopping and second field will ensure, fences and obstacles can be jumped or avoided at the rider’s discretion.
To cap off the morning’s excitement is the opportunity to socialize, relax and swap stories at the traditional hunt breakfast which follows. The camaraderie and good sport experienced by the Fraser Valley Hunt would be impossible without an eclectic mix of members. We are actively seeking new-comers and invite one and all to enjoy the unique and timeless tradition of riding to the hounds with us.
About FVH -
The Fraser Valley Hunt was founded in 1968, and was recognized in 1972 by the governing body of Hunts in North America – the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America. Our hunts are drag hunts, meaning that the scent of the fox is laid down or dragged in a manner to simulate live hunting.
Today’s hunters have a special reward, the permission to ride over private land, which constitutes magnificent open spaces. No group of individuals is more aware of this privilege, nor is there a group more outspoken in their desire to protect and preserve their environment.
Since the course taken can be predicted, the integrity of the farmlands is preserved and the safety of the horse and rider can be emphasized. It is no doubt a fun day on your horse and galloping over the countryside on a fine horse that boldly meets his fences is exhilarating. People from all walks of life and any age enjoy it.
In addition to riding across country and watching hounds work, hunters enjoy the very great pleasure of the fellowship and camaraderie that goes with the sport. What finer way to meet with friends than to hunt during the day, then relax and socialize during the breakfast afterward.
These guidelines are in place to help keep everyone safe, to maintain the traditions of the hunt and to provide an enjoyable day of sport in our hunt field.
The Master of Fox Hounds (MFH) is in charge in the field; to help him are a huntsman and two or more whips. Give these officers complete right of way and obey requests promptly and willingly. Be far enough away so as not to interfere with their work and do not attempt to assist them unless asked to do so. Ask all the questions you want.
Do not over-ride your Field Master! You will crowd or over-ride the main body of hounds. In overtaking straggler hounds, give them as wide a berth as possible to avoid any chance of stepping on them.
Don’t crowd the horse in front. Watch out for checks; be able to pull up your horse in plenty of time. At checks, keep behind and well away from the pack.
When hacking between runs, the field should keep as compact as possible behind the Field Master. When in traffic you must keep to the right, going single file and yield to traffic.
Ride quietly to the hunt, keeping behind the leading officers. Ride home quietly after a hunt and bring your horse in cool.
Learn to take an interest in the hounds and in watching them work. Know as many of them as you can by name.
Visitors should give way to members and keep well back until thoroughly familiar with their horse and with the procedure of the hunt.
Spectators following in cars must keep behind or well to the side of the line of hunt.
Remember hunting is not a race. Ride safely and sanely and be sure you can fulfill the requirement of safety.
Report any damages to property to the Field Master, particularly to fencing or jumps.
Close all the gates after passing through. It is proper to designate one person to close the gates; a courtesy is for a second person to wait for them.
Allow at least 30 minutes before the scheduled departure of the hunt to have sufficient time to saddle your horse and present yourself to the Masters.
Proper dress is desired. Guests and juniors always have permission to wear “ratcatcher” at any meet. See any of the Masters should you have any questions or if you need guidance on appointments or attire.
Should you bring a guest to the meet, please introduce them to the Masters and the Secretary. Assure their safety by providing them with this pamphlet: informing them of the rules. (Secretary and the Masters have them available). Also see that the guest signs a release form and pays their capping fee
There are many things you can do to help ensure your own safety as well as the safety of others. Please read the following guidelines and familiarize yourself with them before you come out to hunt.
Helmet with harness is recommended for Adults and MANDATORY for juniors under 18.
Inspect your horse and equipment before mounting, giving special attention to your girth and curb chain. Safety is paramount.
Do not be afraid to ask questions.
Remember, controlling a horse is a knack, not strength.
Do not give your mount an opportunity to kick or bite another horse.
Known KICKERS should have a red ribbon tied in the tail to warn others of a potential kick. Horses with ribbons are asked to hunt in the back of the field. Please remember, any horse can kick when provoked. Continual tailgating or bumping may get you or your horse kicked. The proper warning that your horse is being provoked by the actions behind him is to place your arm horizontally across your back.
Do not crowd or ride too close behind another horse, especially at jumps.
Jump straight – a horse jumping at an angle, or swerving along the jump, can be a danger to others.
Do not ride away from the group. Always stay behind your field master,there may be serious hazards.
Regularly, the staff or hounds will pass through the field. Please face your horse toward any hound coming through in order to minimize the possibility of the hound being kicked or stepped on. Never speak to the hounds-they are working.
Try to allow three lengths between horses at a jump. Should your horse refuse a jump, rather than delaying the field, permit the remainder of the field to jump prior to presenting your horse to the jump again.
Announce hazards to the rider behind you in a voice only loud enough for that person to hear. “Ware hole”, “Ware Wire” etc. is proper.
Field Masters - Leads each field and controls the pace and guides the group.
Huntsman- Leads the hunt and is in charge of the hounds.
Whipper In - Helps the huntsman control the hounds.
Dragboy - Rides ahead of the huntsman and pack, lays a scent for the hounds to follow.
When starting out with the hunt it is not required you have all the correct attire and appointments but please come with neat, tidy well fitting tack and attire. Helmets and boots with a heel are required. Helmets should fit well regardless of whether they have a harness or not. Long hair is best contained in a hair net.
Saddle flasks, sandwich cases, fence tools, camera cases, etc. should be unobtrusive. Try to keep appearances neat, clean and workman-like as well as make sure your cell phone is turned off.
Coats should remain buttoned while a rider is mounted. Hunting tack is simply that which is most appropriate for the job: plain and strong. Bridles, reins, and stirrup leathers cut from a heavier pattern are more dependable in the hunt field. It must be clean, serviceable, and reliable. Check girth, reins, and stirrup leathers frequently. Breastplates are a good idea, both for the comfort of the horse and the added safety of the rider. ASTM safety helmets and safety vests are always welcome!
Cub Hunting Season
Excepting Masters and staff, members wear a tweed jacket of a muted colour; tan or brown breeches; a plain tie or ratcatcher shirt; brown or black boots and black velvet helmet.
Formal Hunting Season
FVH members with buttons: Specifics of the proper formal hunting coat are available from the MFH. Generally the gentlemen member’s coat is scarlet, round corned, single-breasted frock coat of Melton cloth, with forest green collar. The member’s coat will have 3 buttons in front, 2 buttons behind and 2 or 3 buttons on the cuff of each sleeve. The lady’s coat is black with forest green collar and buttons same as the gentlemen’s coat. Breeches should be white or buff for gentlemen members; buff, brown or yellow for the lady members. Boots are black calf hunting boots with brown tops for gentlemen and optional black patent tops for ladies. A gentlemen’s top hat or ladies bowler are permitted but NOT recommended.
FVH Members without buttons: should wear black coat as above, breeches should be tan and black boots without tops.
Juniors & Guests: are not required to comply, however, chosen dress should be clean and neat.
The stock tie is a very useful part of a fox-hunter’s kit. It can be used as bandage, sling, tourniquet, headlight reflector when hung behind at night, etc.
The season opens in late September with weekly cub hunting and the opening meet takes place in late October or early November. From then until Easter, the hunt meets every Saturday morning at 11am.
Cub hunting is the early season hunting which traditionally was when young hounds were introduced to the pack. During this early part of the season, the attire is less formal. During all hunts, riders in a hunt may be divided into two or three groups, each led by a field master. The first field follows the hounds as closely as possible. The second or third fields (hilltoppers) follow at a slower pace. New members are recommended to ride with the hilltopping group until they feel comfortable with their riding ability and their horse’s behaviour.
Fox Hunting Terms
Every sport has it’s own unique terminology and the hunt sport is no exception. Following are a number of commonly used terms that you may hear in the hunt field.
Appointments – uniform or livery of the hunt. Black Melton frock coat. Canary Vest. Tan breeches. Traditional Black boots. Bowler or hunt cap with harness. White shirt and white stock with plain gold stock pin. Gloves, brown leather or chamois. Blunt spurs if worn. Crop with thong and lash.
Away – the hounds are following the line of scent.
Babbler – unnecessarily noisy hound.
Capping fee – payment for the day’s hunting, for the maintenance of the hunt.
Cast – hounds seek to find the scent, either on their own or at the urging of the Huntsman who “casts” the pack.
Check – a pause in the hunting, when the hounds lose the line of scent or the run is completed and the riders stop together. Generally there are 4 to 5 checks in a hunt.
Colors – distinctive colours of coat and buttons each hunt club adopts as their livery..
Couple – hounds are counted in pairs. Five couple would be 10 hounds.
Cry – voice of the hounds as in “full cry”
Cubbing, Cubhunting – a cub is a young fox, cubbing season tests the young hounds in the field before the formal hunting season begins.
Drag, Drag Hunt – scent of fox, a hunt where an artificial scent is laid and followed by the hounds.
Entry – hounds “enter” regular hunting with the pack. Young riders are often called “young entry” by older members of the hunt.
Field – riders of the hunt, but not the hunt staff.
Fieldmaster – hunt staff member in charge of the field of riders during the hunt.
Fixture – list of places, times and dates the hunt meets. A fixture card is sent to members.
Hold Hard – a command used by staff – Stop NOW.
Huntsman – hunt staff member who controls the hounds in the field.
Lark – jump unnecessarily and irresponsibly
Line – trail and scent of the drag.
Master – Master of Foxhounds (MFH) person in command of the hunt in the fields and kennels.
Meet – assembling of staff, members, hounds to hunt.
Panel – jump-able portion of fence or obstacle.
Point – straight line distance of a run
Ratcatcher – informal dress worn during cubhunting season. Black, brown or grey tweed coat. Tan, buff or brown breeches. Black or brown boots. Hunt cap with harness. White shirt and white stock with plain gold stock pin. Gloves, brown leather or chamois. Blunt spurs if worn. Crop with thong and lash.
Rate – warning or correction of the hounds by the Huntsman.
Riot – game that hounds chase other than a fox or a drag scent.
Run – a gallop for the field when the hounds are on a line.
Scent – physical odour of a fox such as his urine that the hounds follow, can vary with weather and ground conditions.
Speak – hounds give tongue or voice.
Staff – huntsman and whips.
Stern – tail of a hound.
View – sight a fox.
Ware – a caution – WARE hound, WARE wire, WARE hole. An action which if not heard, can be seen to warn others following to beware of danger.
Whipper-In – hunt staff member who assists in controlling the hounds.