Drag Hunting

oldman

Welcome to drag hunting with Misty Morning Hounds!

If you have never ridden to hounds before, those antique hunt prints that have adorned walls throughout history are about to take on a whole new meaning. For most people, a brisk morning, fresh horses, and baying hounds are indeed a life-changing experience. We hope it will be for you. Stand forewarned, however, no matter what your riding discipline, it can become addictive.

We hope that your experiences with us are invigorating and inspiring and simulate as closely as possible the sport of foxhunting. Drag hunting has, in fact, been a part of foxhunting for centuries. Then, as well as today, drag lines were laid to insure sport on poor scenting or ceremonial hunt days when it would have been deemed somewhat of a disaster to have a blank day (a day in which no fox was found to run). Today, drag hunting has these same advantages, as well as several others. Since more control can be exercised over the terrain to be crossed, hunts tend to be safer and more controlled. This, however should not be confused with slower. Drag hunts often move at a faster pace than fox hunts. In areas where territory is limited, full advantage can be taken of the lay of the land. Natural and man-made obstacles can be utilized, and a safer run for hounds can be provided which guides them out of harms’ way. In the end, nothing is killed except a brown bag of meat scraps mixed with dry dog food.

PREPARATION TO HUNT

HORSE: Any breed of horse or pony is suitable for hunting. The horse should be physically sound and adequately fit for an outing of several hours. Highly excitable horses usually calm down considerably after a few times out. In fact, these excitable horses often take intense pleasure in hunting once they get used to the routine. It is not unusual for the horses to attentively listen to the hounds, turn to face them when they give voice, recognize calls on the hunting horn, and anticipate the moving-out of the field. Stallions are not allowed in the hunt field. If a horse is excitable, he should wear a blue ribbon in his tail. A kicker should wear a red ribbon and stay at the back of the field. Horses should be reasonably, if not show clean, during formal hunting season. Braiding of the mane is customary, though not mandatory, for Opening Meet and Closing Meet. Braiding of tails is optional on these meets. Tying the tail in a “mud knot” is appropriate at any time in the hunt field.

We anticipate hunts to last 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 to hours. Though the hunt does not encompass galloping the entire time, the horse should be fit enough for short cantering/galloping spurts of roughly a mile before checking (stopping and waiting for hounds to pack-up or find the scent). If at any time you feel your horse is becoming physically stressed, notify your Fieldmaster at the check. She will likely allow you to move to a slower field, follow the field at a slower pace, or hack back to the trailers. At no time should a rider simply drop out of the field without notifying the Fieldmaster. In the case of an injury or fall of horse or rider, it is critical that word be passed up, yelling if necessary, to the Fieldmaster. The cost of a fall, by the way, is a bottle of champagne to the Master at the next meet. A lot of hunts have fun with this aspect of falls, setting-up a “Hunters’ Court” for the allegedly guilty party, with conditions and witnesses to the fall. If the horse fell as well (shoulder touching the ground) the rider is found not guilty and does not owe the champagne. The whole process totally embarrasses the rider and is a real hoot for everyone else. All in good fun and sport…

It is not necessary that your horse jump in order to hunt. There will be alternative routes around obstacles, however these might take more time and entail a little faster pace to “catch-up” with the action. Depending on the number of riders per meet, there might be a second or even third field of non-jumping riders. Jumps are anticipated to be not more than 3’3″. Most will be more on the order of 2′ – 2’6″.

It is fine to use protective gear on your horse. Use your own judgement as to whether you want your horse shod or not. Many will shoe their horse only in front. Some want pads all around.

TACK: Since much of the appeal of hunting is tied to aesthetic tradition and the overall “look” of the formal hunt, we would like all of you to dress and tack-up in a fairly uniform way. Traditionally, English tack is used in hunting. Forward seat/jumping saddles are best and safest for covering natural terrain and obstacles at speed. Leather tack is traditional, however we do not object to synthetic saddles and tack, provided they are of a natural color such as brown, tan or black. Please use plain white or fleece shaped saddle pads (not square) under your saddle and do not carry excess saddle accessories without confirming this with the Master prior to the meet. Because of some unique terrain hazards within our territories, standing martingales are discouraged. Running martingales and breastplates are fine. All tack should be show-clean and in safe condition. Stirrup bars should be in the open position. Use of break-away and Peacock stirrups are allowed and encouraged. If tack adjustments are required, ask the Fieldmaster’s permission prior to dismounting.

BE ABLE TO CONTROL YOUR HORSE! Often this means “stepping-up” your bit choice in the hunt field from what you normally use. It is highly improper and dangerous to run ahead of the Fieldmaster or right-up on the heels of another horse. The inexcusable sin is to step on a Hound or get in the Huntsman’s way. Anticipate your horse being stronger in the hunt field while moving with a “herd.” If a severe bit is used, such as a gag, be sure you know how to properly use it and practice with it prior to hunting. Bitless bridles are not permited.Excessive punishment of the horse, and dangerous or unhorsemanlike behavior in the hunt field is frowned-upon. The Master or Fieldmaster has full authority to excuse anyone behaving in such a manner from the hunt with no refund.

Drugging your horse with Ace, Bute or other drugs to mask pain or help in control are considered dangerous because they dull the horse’s natural instincts which are critical in the hunt field. We discourage their use. Your horse should be controllable and healthy when you join us to hunt.

If you want to use Western tack, or apparel different from that listed below, please check with the Master regarding such prior to the meet and with your Fieldmaster the day of the meet as to where to ride. You will be asked to ride at the back of the Field. This is not a prejudice, we simply want to preserve the traditional look of foxhunting as much as possible.

RIDER ATTIRE

CUBBING & INFORMAL HUNTING:

Hunt field wears white polo or tee-shirts. PLEASE DO NOT WEAR RED ON YOUR SHIRT. Breeches of tan, buff, canary, or white may be worn. Please do not wear grey breeches (worn by Staff members only) or colored breeches such as green, rust, blue, or black. Black velvet hunt cap or helmet with black velvet cover is required. Helmets should have a chin strap or harness. Tall black dress or field boots are appropriate. No half-chaps, please. Boots with hunt tops as well as carrying of the hunting whip with thong are reserved only for Subscribing members with colors. Gloves are optional. Spurs are considered part of proper hunting attire, but not required. Long hair should be contained with a hair net.

Hunt staff wears red polo or tee-shirts. Grey breeches are worn only by staff. Black velvet hunt cap or helmet with black velvet cover is required. Helmets should have a chin strap or harness. Tall black dress or field boots with or without hunt tops should be worn. Gloves are optional. Spurs and hunting whip with thong are considered part of proper hunting attire, particularly for staff. Long hair should be contained with a hair net.

FORMAL HUNTING:

Hunt field wears white stock shirts with stock tie and plain gold stock pin. Breeches of tan, buff, canary, or white may be worn. PLEASE DO NOT WEAR GREY BREECHES (worn by Staff members only) or colored breeches such as green, rust, blue, or black. Wear a black hunt or dressage coat. Canary vest is traditional, if weather permits. Members who have been awarded colors wear the traditional hunt collar. Black velvet hunt cap or helmet with black velvet cover is required. Helmets should have a chin strap or harness. Tall black dress or field boots are appropriate. No half-chaps, please. Gloves are optional. Spurs are considered part of proper hunting attire, but not required. Crops are optional. Never loop your crop around your wrist. Long hair should be contained with a hair net.

Subscribing members wear the attire listed above for the Hunt field. Boots with hunt tops as well as carrying of the hunting whip with thong are reserved only for currently Subscribing Members of the hunt with colors.

Guests riding with us who are members of other hunts may wear whatever formal attire is customary at their club.

Hunt staff wears white stock shirts with stock tie and plain gold stock pin, grey breeches, and traditional red coat (“Pinques”). Staff typically wears a hunt collar. Canary vest is traditional, if weather permits. Black velvet hunt cap or helmet with black velvet cover is required. Helmets should have a chin strap or harness. Tall black dress boots with or without hunt tops. Gloves are optional. Spurs and hunting whip with thong are considered part of proper hunting attire, particularly for staff. Long hair should be contained with a hair net.

General:

If rain is expected, rain coats may be carried, tied tightly to the saddle. If temperature is below freezing, layer-up clothing beneath coats. Stirrup warmers and ear muffs are permitted on extremely cold days.

Permission to ride on the hunt territories is only allowed on the specified meet days, at the time of, and in the company of the hunt.

Safety Equipment: As previously stated, the wearing of safety helmets is strongly encouraged. However, if they are not solid velvet in black, brown or navy blue, they should be covered with a velvet hat cover. Many hunters are now choosing to wear safety vests as currently required by the USEA for cross country. However, if they are worn on top of the hunt coat, they should be of the same color as the hunt coat.

ORGANIZATION OF THE HUNT

Please read Wadsworth’s “Riding to Hounds in America” prior to hunting. It is the classic foxhunters’ guide, concise, and available from the Hunt Secretary for a $5 donation.

A few brief facts to ALWAYS remember in the hunt field:

Check in with the Hunt Secretary the morning of the meet. This person can be identified by her red coat with an armband which displays a black hunt cap with an orange fox mask (the international foxhunting symbol). She will also most likely be carrying a clipboard and be stationed in a central spot or at the entry. She will collect your Subscription or Capping Fee, verify your Coggins, have you sign a liability waiver, and guide you to a Fieldmaster or other person as to where to ride. Car followers, as well as any others attending the Hunt but not riding, need to sign a waiver.

Keep your horse under control.

HOUNDS ALWAYS HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY!!! Never step on or kick a hound. Turn your horse to face hounds or Staff when they pass. If hounds are coming up behind others, shout “Ware hound (right/left)” to notify those in front of you.

Never speak to a hound, unless the Huntsman specifically asks you to do so.

NEVER pass your Fieldmaster.

The utmost courtesy must be afforded to landowners. We are THEIR GUESTS and our sport would not exist without their generosity. Stay off their crops and to the edges of fields. Do not run their cattle. Close gates after passing through or re-set panel wires if you are the last through.

If your horse paws at the trailer, fill in the hole neatly and pack-down prior to leaving. Kick out manure piles to spread.

Take any and all trash with you. This includes tissue you might have with you at “pit stops”.

If any damage to property is noted, TELL YOUR FIELDMASTER or MASTER as soon as possible and make sure that they understand you. This may entail reminding them after the meet when arrangements for repair can be made or attended-to.

When Staff approaches, make way for them by clearing out of their path, turn your horse to face them and stand quietly. Notify others of Staff approaching by shouting “Ware Staff.”

Stay QUIET! Talking should be kept to very low voices both for safety and so as to not interfere with hounds and Huntsman. A large part of the Huntsman’s and Whippers’-in job depends on listening to the hounds, blows on the hunting horn, and in some cases, whistles. If the Huntsman sounds two loud, single, short definite blasts on the horn, it means YOU ARE TOO LOUD – GET QUIET NOW!!!!

Notify others of dangerous conditions by shouting “ware hole,” “ware glass,” etc. and pointing, if possible, to the danger.

At checks, ask the Fieldmaster’s permission prior to dismounting, checking tack, making a “pit-stop” and the like.

A member of the field should stay with a rider who is closing a gate or the last one in line to jump a fence. No-one should be left behind alone. Word should be passed up to the Fieldmaster of any significant problems at the back of the field.

Duck under branches. Do not hold branches out of the way with your hand, as it is dangerous for those behind you.

If you have a refusal at a jump, move out of the way so as not to interfere with those behind you. Re-circle, and try again. Leave enough space between you and the horse in front of you to allow circling or pulling-up if he has a fall or refusal. Do not cut in front of a horse already making his approach to a fence.

If your horse runs away, circle him, making the circle gradually smaller until you regain control.

Please refrain from wearing strong-smelling perfumes, colognes, or other fragrances, as the strange scent can confuse and distract hounds from their work. Smoking is not permitted on our hunt countries for the same reason as well as for the risk of fire.

DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED AT MEETS, even if they are kept in the car or on leash. We understand your love of canines, but DO NOT BRING THEM HUNTING. They pose a major distraction to the hounds as well presenting a potentially dangerous situation.

We recommend keeping identification and a copy of your insurance card tucked into your coat pocket and/or attached to your saddle in a luggage tag, in case of emergency.

BE PROMPT! Riders need to be mounted by the appointed time. Latecomers will not be allowed to “catch-up” to the hunt. Just as you would not expect to enter a class at a show after it had already begun, we ask that you stay with the group from beginning to end unless permission is given otherwise by the Master or Fieldmaster.

FOXHUNTING IN A NUTSHELL

Hunting is a very organized sport. Your understanding of what is happening will greatly increase your appreciation of the sport. You would be surprised at how many people hunt for years without really knowing what is actually going-on.

In America, the goal in drag hunting is to watch hounds work. In actual fox hunting, the goal is to view the fox and cry the “Tally-ho”. With animal welfare at the forefront, few hunts pursue a fox to kill. They prefer to have them around to hunt another day.

The people at the hunt will be divided into “Staff” (the people that control the hounds and people) and “Fields” (the groups of people that follow the hounds). The Staff will wear red coats. The Field members will wear black coats.

“Staff” consists of the Master of the Foxhounds (MFH) (who organizes the Hunt), the Huntsman (who is in charge of the hounds and tries to stay with them at all times), the various Fieldmasters (who have total authority over the people in their respective Fields), the Whippers-In (who assist the Huntsman with the hounds), and the Honorary Hunt Secretary (who collects fees, handles paperwork, and keeps records in order).

“Fields” refers to the group of riding followers with which you are to ride. Sometimes, depending on the number of riders attending a meet, there may be several Fields, or Fields may be combined in the case of fewer riders. The “First Field” is generally the jumping field. In the “Second Field” (also known as “Hilltoppers”), jumps are optional, but a good clip is often met to make-up for time to go around jumps. “Third Field” would most probably be a slower field than the first two, and may have Western riders, people trying-out hunting for the first time, and children on ponies.

“Charter members” were original founding members of the hunt in the first 1995-96 season and are identified by their wearing of a special monogrammed Hunt Medallion. After some time (usually a couple of seasons), they have the opportunity to earn their “colors”. Current members with colors will don the teal hunt collar on their coats.

If members drop out of the hunt for one or several seasons, they must re-earn colors when they re-join. Charter Members will be privy to the advantages of current charter membership when they rejoin, even if they drop-out for a season.

A brief note about HUNT COLORS. Hunt colors refer to the colored material affixed to the hunt coat collar. Our hunt colors are a teal suedecloth. The hunt colors are awarded to subscription members after several seasons by the Master of the Hounds (after consultation with the Hunt Staff. The colors denote a member who has displayed enthusiasm and dedication to the Hunt over time, as well as set an example to others of proper hunt etiquette. Awarding of the colors also allows the member to wear the hunt buttons. For the moment, our buttons are 7/8″ bright brass. The people wearing “colors” are, indeed, treasured members of our Hunt.

Dress codes vary somewhat from hunt to hunt around the country. If a currently subscribed member of another hunt has his/her colours with that hunt, they will be allowed to wear those colours, or their red coat, if permitted at their home hunt, at our meets. Out of courtesy, however, they should always ask permission of the Master prior to doing so.

PROCEDURE:

After checking in with the Hunt Secretary, you will locate your Field (the group of riders with which you will ride, or in the case of a Haywagon, the vehicle in which you will ride).

Prior to moving-out, you will notice a silence and tenseness as hounds are let out, let to relieve themselves, and move past the Fields in the company of Huntsman and Whippers-in. Turn horses to face hounds and stay quiet and still as they move past.

Fall-in behind your Fieldmaster as she moves out.

Hounds will be taken to a “covert” (a thicket, woods, etc.) where they will be “cast” (put in to hunt for the scent) by the Huntsman. Whippers-in will be stationed in appropriate areas to control hounds. Always stop and turn to face Staff when they approach.

Hounds will somewhat pack and/or scatter to hunt the scent. When one strikes the “line” (a strong scent), they should “speak, give voice, open, give tongue” (bark/bay), and the others should “honour” the finding hound (go to him, also speak, and take-off on the line as a pack). This is the point known as being “in full cry”. It is common, however, in drag hunting that hounds may run mute (not baying). Hereafter, the chase ensues, with the field following behind the Staff; to be more precise, staying behind their own Fieldmaster.

When hounds “lose” (lost track of the scent), things come to a halt, which is known as a “check”, while hounds try to “find” (search for the scent) again. Sometimes they are gathered by the Huntsman, moved and re-cast elsewhere. Just stay with your Fieldmaster throughout all these goings-on.

Communications within the Hunt Staff is necessary to let each other know location, directions, status of the hounds, and many other things . This is done with the hunting horn, blow-type whistles, “halloa” (a yell, sometimes a blood-curdling scream), and in some cases, short wave radios. It is not necessary in the beginning to know these communications, but it is very important to stay quiet enough that Staff, including your Fieldmaster, can hear them.

If successful, hounds will follow the line, find, and “kill”. In our case, this means following an accurate track and finding the brown bag of meat scraps and dog food soaked in the scent at the end. It is a real treat the day the Field gets to witness this accomplishment of many months and years of work.

Upon returning to trailers, do not dismount until dismissed by the Fieldmaster. He/she will first check with the Master. Traditionally, no-one dismounts until all hounds are kenneled-up.

The camaraderie of friends and acquaintances is one of the most compelling elements of hunting. Captured in art, poetry, and song, the strong bond of fox hunting has been the source of inspiration for many throughout history. Days in the hunt field are definitely the time to set any personal differences aside and simply bask in the glory of the scene. It is a truly privileged soul that gets to experience this historic sport in our modern age.

Obviously, much more goes into the making of the hunt than these single days of pursuit, such as finding territory, training of hounds, formulation of Staff and members, laying the drag line, “paneling territory” (building jumps), and much more. But, those are all things that come to be appreciated as one becomes further indoctrinated into the Hunt.

Copyright 1996, Alexis L. Macaulay,MFH

ATTENDANCE AND MEMBERSHIP PROCEDURES

Misty Morning Hounds is a private pack. Hunting is by invitation only. If someone is interested in hunting, he/she needs to speak personally with the Master prior to the hunt day. Receipt of the hunt packet stands as an invitation to hunt, however non members should  contact the Master or Hunt Secretary prior to each meet. We would like to keep track of how many plan to attend each meet, so we know how to organize the Fields (the different groups of riders) and hunt breakfasts. Phone Tue. prior to Wed. meets, and on Thurs. prior to the weekend meets. Everyone should call the hunt hotline (352) 374-1921 on the evening or morning prior to meets for updates as to time and location or in case of cancellations due to weather or other unforeseeable situations

Membership this season is $750 per person. This is called a subscription fee. Season begins with October cubbing. If you plan to join, please do so by Opening Meet or shortly thereafter. Individuals may attend meets without joining, for a Capping Fee of $50, ($40 for Wednesday), ($25 Junior) per meet for a maximum of 3 meets, not including Opening or Closing Meets. Capping fees are not applied towards membership for  experienced foxhunters. Children are invited to hunt, either by capping or joining, but must be supervised at all times by their parent or a guardian. Family memberships can be discussed with the Master. If special payment arrangements are needed, contact the Master or the Hunt Secretary.

Occasionally, a vehicle will carry spectators to follow the hunt and go to panoramic stops most likely to view the workings of the hunt and hounds. Motorcycles and ATVs are not permitted because of noise and damage to terrain. Ask the Hunt Secretary if a haywagon is going out prior to the meet.

Some people enjoy following the Hunt on foot for the excitement and exercise. These are called “Foot Followers” and they are often Hunt Supporters. There is no charge for Foot Followers, but please contact the Hunt Secretary to sign a liability waiver and to let her know you are present at meets.

You may pay by cash or check. Make checks payable to Misty Morning Hounds, Inc. Payment of the capping fee and signing of the liability waiver must be made PRIOR TO THE START OF THE MEET, to the Master or Hunt Secretary. Every person attending the hunt MUST sign a liability waiver, whether or not they are riding.

Supporting memberships in the form of contributions are WELCOMED. Supporting members will be recognized in our newsletter, and any donation of time, as well as money, is greatly appreciated. We can never have too much manpower!

Throughout the season there will be several meets honoring specific organizations such as Pony Club and the University of Florida Equestrian Team.

We hope to see you on many mornings this season out with Misty Morning Hounds. It is a very exciting time for us and we hope it will be for you!