Field Etiquette

FIELD RULES of Foxhunting

Off to the hunting field though ‘tis September.
The wind’s in the South; but a word ere we start.
Though keenly excited, I bid you remember
That hunting’s a science, and riding an art.

The order of march and the due regulation
That guides us in warfare, we need in the Chase—
Huntsman and Whip, each in his station,
Horse, hound, and fox, each his own proper place.

The fox, paramount, precedes all from the cover,
The horse is an animal purposely bred
After the pack to be ridden, not over,
Good hounds are not rear’d to be knocked on the head.’

Warburton, E.R.E.

Poems, essays, and books have been written about hunting etiquette.

We insist that no one come hunting who has not carefully read William Wadsworth’ s concise, inexpensive, and easily obtainable booklet on the subject.

Most sports have rules and numerous officials to enforce them; in fox hunting our safety and enjoyment of the sport depend on individual willingness to learn and do the correct thing. We list some of the things we think are especially important.

1. Extend the utmost courtesy to all landowners, their tenants, and employees– don’t ride past anyone on a farm or ‘farmette’ without a smile, a quiet greeting, a lifted hat.

2. You must have prior permission to bring a guest and prior means, at least the evening before. We limit the number on any given day. It greatly facilitates the work of the Hon. Sec. if guests put a check or cash in an envelope with name and address on outside–please tell your guests to do so.

3. Old Dominion has ONE FIELD and on Saturdays and Highdays a hilltopper group. Each group has a Field Master-you must stay in one group or the other and obey the directions of the Field Master. You must not take your own line.  To leave early request permission of the Field Master.

4. We try to move off promptly at the scheduled time. Be punctual and allow sufficient time to unload, ready tack, and mount up. Late arrivals often disrupt hunting.

5. Remember that when you come out you represent Old Dominion and the sport of foxhunting. Take the time to turn yourself and your horse out neatly and cleanly. Correct is the best tack you can afford and the least of it that your horse will go in–no need to buy everything they sell for eventing.

6. It is proper to greet the Master at the meet; conversation is best reserved for after hunting. A word of thanks after hunting is appreciated by the Staff.

7. Do not hack to meets through coverts likely to be drawn as you may cause the resident fox to vacate the premises and thereby lessen chances for good sport. A few subscribers are consistently guilty.

8. Proper ‘Ratcatcher’ attire is expected for cub-hunting days. For the month of September jackets may be omitted, however if a chilly day comes along then a correct coat is in order, not a windbreaker, denim jacket, etc. T-shirts are not de rigueur.

9. Be quiet when hounds are drawing for a fox or working to recover the scent after a check. In fact, usually be quiet; our fields are often too noisy. It is expected that conversation will occur at times but if you don’t know what sotto voce means, look it up.

10. Give huntsman, hounds and staff the right of way at all times. When hounds and staff pass by on a trail turn your horse’s head towards them. Teach your horse to back off the trail or spur the bloody beast off into the forest but don’ t crowd the bounds and don’ t give the staff the thrill of passing close by all those borium-clad hooves.

11. Considerate foxhunters don’t hog the front of the field all day but spend some time near the middle and some at the back. They also occasionally get gates and go to the aid of the rider who has lost his horse or needs help replacing a rail.

12. Horses prone to kick should wear a red ribbon, remember however that a red ribbon does not absolve the rider of responsibility. Keep green horses to the rear and leave unruly ones at home. If you have a refusal, move aside quickly and go to the rear—don’t hold up the Field.

13. Stay off the tail of the horse in front of you-leave room to avoid that horse and rider if they should stumble, fall, or refuse.  Your horse may be hard to hold but you must be in control — get another bit.

14. If you view a fox restrain the urge to shout at once.  A startled fox gives off so little scent that hounds may be unable to pick up the line. Instead watch it carefully, note its route, exactly, then holloa just loud enough for the Field Master to hear. When the huntsman returns with the pack be able to tell him the last spot you saw the fox. Also remember that often the viewed fox is not the hunted fox and much ado about your ‘view’ is distracting.

15. Sometimes we overdo the ‘Ware’ business resulting in much noise and little edification about the danger. While it is certainly important to warn others of imminent peril, please just loud enough for the next couple of riders, then they put the word on to those just behind them. We’ve been known to ‘Ware hole’ loud enough to cause the Orange County hounds to lift their heads.

16. Repair, at least temporarily, any damaged jumps or gates. Do not lower rails without restoring them to their original condition. Close, and securely latch all gates–we know you are behind and anxious to catch up but a gate improperly closed can end our permission to hunt across a farm. Be sure all damage is reported.

17. It is not true that you have to wear rust-colored breeches if you hunt with Old Dominion—it is true that if you have been awarded the OD hunt buttons and are wearing them then you wear rust—colored breeches. It is part of the livery and not optional. It is very nice when our gentlemen who’ve been awarded colors elect to wear scarlet, but the scarlet coat certainly demands shined boots, bits, and buckles, and a perfect stock, not to mention a well-groomed horse.


Almost all of this long list is unnecessary for most of you—you’ve been doing this sport properly for years. But if these reminders help a few then we’ll all enjoy better sport in greater safety.

Good Hunting!

Gus, Douglas, and Scott, the Masters