officers, and staff endeavor to honor both the traditions of the sport
and the practical considerations that help promote a safe and enjoyable day
in the hunt field. Horse Country is presenting the traditional turnout for
rider and horse. Each hunt’s traditions may vary from these paragraphs. If
you have a question regarding turnout, etiquette, or other hunt-related
considerations, please do not hesitate to ask one of the masters or the
honorary secretary for a clarification.
A Suitable Hunt Horse:
The most important quality in a hunter is safety. The
horse should go quietly in a group, stop without a fight, stand patiently at
checks, wait its turn at jumps, and jump without refusals. The surest way to
avoid a kicking incident is to allow sufficient distance between horses to
assure contact will not be made if a horse kicks out. A horse known to exhibit
kicking behavior should be kept to the rear. Always point your horse’s head
toward hounds, never the rear end.
The horse should arrive at the meet
clean, neatly trimmed, and properly tacked up. As cold weather approaches,
the horse’s shoes should be either fitted with studs or treated with borium
to assure adequate traction on slick surfaces.
Hunting tack is not fancy. Bridles should be flat without
embellished stitching. A standing martingale and breastplate is appropriate
if needed but neither is required. Running martingales, however, are not
proper in the hunt field. The bit should
assure sufficient braking power. Some horses stop nicely in a snaffle, even
when the hunting action has the adrenalin pumping, but many need something
stronger. Relying on the circling technique to stop a horse creates a
distraction and, more significantly, poses a danger to others. Only fitted
white cloth or natural wool (sheepskin) saddle pads should be used. Square
pads or sheets, colors, and decorative elements such as initials are
incorrect. The saddle should be brown leather (English style, of course).
Synthetic materials or black leather saddles are not suitable. Bits, D’s and
hardware should all be nickel or stainless steel.
Attire varies according to three main variables—gender, colors, and cub
versus formal season. (There are also distinctions between adult members of
the field, masters, huntsmen, and juniors but we are only addressing the
turnout etiquette for adult field members here.)
During cub hunting season in September and October, there is no distinction in
attire between members who have been awarded colors and those who have not
(or, for that matter, between the field, masters, and staff). There is also
very little difference regarding the attire of gentlemen and lady members.
• Hacking jackets are worn by both ladies and gentlemen, preferably wool
tweed or a linen material and in an earth tone color such as shades of brown
or green. Subtle plaids, checks, herringbones and houndstooth patterns are
correct. Jackets should have three buttons, all of which are kept buttoned
during the hunt. The jacket should be tailored specifically for riding with
a single vent; a conventional sports coat is not an acceptable substitute.
The weight of the jacket cloth depends on one’s locale.
• Shirts and blouses should be a pastel color and muted striping or subtle
patterns are allowed. Both men and women may simply wear a dress shirt and
tie, either bow tie or long tie. Ladies may wear ratcatcher collars, either
plain or with a stock tie. If a stock tie is worn, it should be colored
and/or patterned but not a plain white or ecru formal stock. Gentlemen may
also choose to wear a hunting shirt and stock tie. The ends of a stock tie
should be secured to the shirt with safety pins to hold the tie in place.
Gentlemen wear a 3” plain gold colored stock pin, ladies a 2 1/2” gold
colored stock pin. Modern dress: In some hunts turtlenecks may be
permissible and stock pins with embellishments are seen.
• Breeches may be beige, buff, rust, or canary. White breeches and dark
colors, such as forest green or navy blue, are not correct. Modern dress: A
darker beige and a khaki colored breech is allowed.
• Brown field boots are the most appropriate footwear for cub hunting,
followed by black dress boots (without brown leather or black patent leather
tops). Paddock boots with gaiters or any variation thereof are never proper
in the hunt field for adult riders during either cub hunting or formal season.
Modern dress: Some hunts allow black field boots.
• Regular hunt-style helmets should be worn (more about headgear under
Formal Season). Bowlers with hat cords are also acceptable. Modern dress:
Approved safety helmets are used.
• Gloves may be shades of light or dark brown, either full leather or with
crochet backs. Pigskin, deerskin and leather are used. Modern dress: Black
gloves are sometimes seen, but they tend to bleed and may stain the hands.
Season: Once formal season begins,
more distinctions apply based on the member’s gender and whether or not he
or she has been awarded colors. There are, however, four elements of proper
turnout that are universal—headwear, neckwear, gloves, and vests—and we will
consider these first.
• Headwear: All members of the field should wear a hunt-style helmet which
is defined as a brimmed cap with a black velvet covering. Safety harnesses
are recommended and, if the helmet is so equipped, the harness should be
kept latched at all times during the hunt. Ribbons at the back of the helmet
should point up. (Masters and professional staff signify their positions by
turning the ribbons to point down.) Top hats and bowlers are proper under
certain conditions as will be noted below. Modern dress: Approved safety
helmets are allowed.
• Neckwear: The only appropriate neckwear during formal season is a white or
cream stock tie, properly tied and secured with a plain (i.e., no emblems,
ornaments, initials, etc.) gold pin. The pin should be placed horizontally;
only professional staff may place the pin vertically. Although faux stock
ties are permissible, a full length, four fold stock is preferable both for
the sake of appearance and, more significantly, in the event it is needed as
a bandage or sling. It is also recommended that the ends of the stock tie be
secured to the shirt or blouse with safety pins to assure the ends of the
tie do not work out from beneath the coat and flap loosely in the wind.
Again, men wear a 3” stock pin, ladies a 2 1/2” stock pin in gold. Modern
dress: Embellished stock pins are sometimes seen.
• Gloves: Gloves worn during formal season may be brown, either dark or
lighter shades such as tan or buff, full leather. White or buff string
gloves or chamois gloves are suitable for rainy conditions. Modern dress:
Black gloves are sometimes seen, but they tend to bleed and may stain the
• Vests: Appropriate vests are canary or tattersal (in various color
combinations). A vest made from material matching the hunt’s official color
is also acceptable in that hunt field only. Canary is the most formal color.
Other elements of formal turnout vary
according to gender and whether or not the member has been awarded his or
her colors. These distinctions run as follows:
Member Without Colors
Coat: Plain black, oxford, or dark navy hunting jacket with a single vent or
frock coat, with plain black buttons.
Breeches: Beige or buff with black jacket, white with frock coat.
Boots: Plain (i.e., without brown leather tops) black dress boots with
garters. Laced field boots are not proper. Modern dress: Rubber boots are
sometimes seen, particularly under inclement weather conditions, provided
they adequately replicate the appearance of conventional hunt-style boots.
Garters are optional.
Member With Colors
Coat: Black, oxford or dark navy hunting jacket or frock coat with black
buttons displaying the hunt’s emblem. A gentleman with his colors is
entitled (although not required) to wear a scarlet coat with the hunt’s
color on the collar and with gold buttons embossed with the hunt’s emblem. A
gentlemen member of the field should wear a single vented jacket with three
buttons. Masters signify their position by wearing four buttons and a
huntsman, or a master who also hunts hounds, wears five buttons. (To get
very technical, a field member’s coat should feature rounded skirts while
masters and huntsmen wear coats with squared skirts. This arcane practice is
rarely observed today. However, when selecting a new scarlet coat, if there
is a choice between rounded or squared skirts, choose rounded.) Scarlet is
appropriate for special days such as Opening Meet, Blessing of the Hounds,
and New Years Day. It is also proper to wear scarlet for a joint meet where
one’s hunt is the host hunt. However, scarlet should not be worn to a joint
meet where you are the guest of another hunt unless the host hunt has
extended the invitation for guests to wear their colors.
Breeches: Beige or buff is proper with a regular hunting jacket. White
should be worn with scarlet or a black frock coat.
Boots: Black dress boots with brown leather tops are correct with both black
and scarlet coats. Plain black dress boots are also acceptable with black
jackets but not with scarlet or frock coats. Black garters are worn when
wearing a black jacket. White garters are worn when wearing white breeches.
Laced field boots are not correct. Modern dress: Rubber boots, as described
above, are acceptable on inclement days.
Headwear: A standard hunt-style helmet (as described above) is proper with
any attire. However, a top hat may be worn with a scarlet coat or black
frock coat, especially on formal days such as Opening Meet and Blessing of
the Hounds. A bowler is also correct with a regular black hunting coat. A
black hat cord is worn with a black jacket when wearing a bowler or top hat
and a red hat cord is used when a top hat is worn with a scarlet coat.
Coat: Plain black, oxford, or dark navy blue jacket with plain black
buttons. A lady without her colors may also wear a black shadbelly (with
plain black buttons). Modern dress: Ladies may wear a frock coat.
Breeches: Beige, buff, or canary.
Boots: Plain black dress boots (i.e, without black patent leather tops).
Laced field boots are not correct. Rubber boots, as described above, may be
Headwear: Standard hunt-style helmet. A bowler may also be worn with a
regular hunting coat. A top hat is correct with a shadbelly.
Coat: Black, oxford, or dark navy blue jacket or frock coat with black
buttons imprinted with the hunt’s emblem in white and with the hunt’s color
on the collar. A black, oxford, or dark navy blue shadbelly may also be
worn, with the hunt’s color on the collar and black buttons with the hunt’s
emblem, and is particularly suitable for formal days such as Opening Meet
and Blessing of the Hounds. (A lady only wears scarlet if she is a master or
huntsman, both of which are gender-neutral titles.)
Breeches: Beige, buff, or canary.
Boots: Black dress boots with black patent leather tops and black patent
garters. Laced field boots are not correct. Modern dress: Ladies with their
colors may wear plain black dress boots. Rubber boots, as described above,
may also be worn.
Headwear: Standard hunt-style helmet. A bowler with a hat cord may also be
worn with a regular hunting coat. A top hat with a hat cord is correct with
a shadbelly. Modern dress: An approved safety helmet may be worn.
Here are a few other general considerations regarding proper turnout and
• Ladies’ Hair: Long or short hair should be restrained within a hairnet
(preferably matched to hair color). If a lady’s hair is long enough to be
braided and can then be tucked down into the back of her coat, this is also
acceptable. However, long hair hanging out loosely from beneath the helmet,
braids, pigtails, or ponytails are not proper. Hair clips and ribbons are
also not appropriate but, then, there should be no hair showing to which
such embellishments could be attached. Some masters require gentlemen with
hair below the collar to wear a hair net.
• Ladies’ Jewelry: Only a minimal amount of jewelry, if any, should be worn
in the hunt field and what is worn should be plain. Dangling earrings or
loose bracelets that could catch on tree branches or other objects should
not be worn.
• Perfume/Cologne: Fragrances, particularly heavy applications thereof,
should not be used on a hunting day. This applies to both ladies and
• Sunglasses: Modern dress: There is no hard and fast rule regarding
sunglasses but the more ardent proponents of proper turnout argue against
their use as it is felt they detract from the classic hunter look.
• Flasks: Ladies may carry a pocket flask in a coat pocket or in a leather
sandwich case secured to the D-rings along the back right side of the
saddle. Gentlemen may carry either a pocket flask or a bayonet-style flask
in a holster case affixed to the front of the saddle. Gentlemen may carry a
sandwich box affixed to the back right side of the saddle. Modern dress:
Sandwich cases may hold medicine for bee stings and a cell phone for
• Rain Gear: Although the hunt is likely to be cancelled if heavy rain is
falling, there are occasional days when the sport goes forth even if some
precipitation is coming down. On such days, the masters may choose to allow
hunting coats to be replaced by rain jackets. If so, the jacket should be a
rubber lined MacIntosh with leg straps, a Barbour, or similar style,
preferably in a tan, green or brown color, and should not have loose pieces
that flap in the wind. All other elements of attire remain the same as on
any other hunting day.
• Braiding Manes: It is correct to braid manes for formal days such as
Opening Meet and Blessing of the Hounds. It is also proper, although not
required, to braid for joint meets. If a horse’s mane is braided, it should
be done neatly. An unbraided mane that is nicely trimmed is preferable to a
poorly done braiding job.
• Juniors: A junior is defined as anyone under the age of 16. Juniors wear
tweed jackets, paddock boots, and jodhpurs during both cub hunting and formal
season. For those aged 16 and above, the adult rules of proper turnout
• Upon Arrival: It is proper to greet the masters before the start of the
hunt and to announce your presence to the field secretary. If you have
brought a guest, the secretary must be informed, the guest introduced, and
the cap paid.
• Order In The Field: The generally observed custom is that members with
their colors (or buttons) are entitled to ride in front of the field behind
the master. This may be referred to as the right of colors or a privilege
awarded to those members who have not only been consistent and knowledgeable
foxhunters but who have worked diligently in the interest of the hunt for
some time (see Awarding of Colors). This is not to say that a hunting member
who has not yet been awarded colors cannot ride in the front with those who
have but suggests that in the case of a chase the regular hunting member
should give way to a member wearing colors. However, if the member with
colors does not keep up with the pack during a chase, then the regular
member has the right to pass in an open field and move to the front behind
the master provided he or she does not interfere with or impede the member
with colors or, for that matter, any other rider. Courtesy and safety to all
other riders should be foremost in our thinking.
• Refusals: If a horse refuses a jump, the rider should move to the back of
the line before making another attempt.
• Chatting: Given the social nature of this sport, there is always a
temptation to engage in conversation, a practice referred to as “coffeehousing.”
It should, however, be avoided at most times. The correct prosecution of a
hunt depends on good communication between hounds, huntsman, and field
master. Chatting among the field can distract the huntsman and masters, thus
detracting from the integrity of the sport. This does not mean absolute
silence must be observed at all times but attention should be paid to the
focus of the day’s activity—i.e., hound work—and socializing should be kept
to a minimum. Attempts to engage the field master in conversation,
particularly when he or she is trying to monitor hound work, should be
• Withdrawing Early: Ideally, everyone should come out with the intention of
remaining for the duration of the hunt, no matter how long the day lasts.
However, situations do arise—lost shoe, lame horse, rider injury, illness,
etc.—that necessitates heading back in while the hunt is still in progress.
When such a situation occurs, word should be passed to the master or field
secretary so that he or she is aware of the departure. The withdrawing
member should also ask the master or secretary for directions back to the
meet, even if he or she knows the territory, to avoid interfering with the
work of hounds. Where possible, the return route should use hard-surfaced
• Arriving On Time: The hunt waits for no one. Hounds move off at the
appointed time and hunting begins immediately. Certainly, the unforeseen
impediment befalls us all eventually but every effort should be made to
arrive at the meet with sufficient time to be mounted and ready to move off
with the field. Not only is it simply rude to arrive late when everyone else
has made the effort to be there on time, but riding through the hunting
territory to catch up with the field can cause problems for the hunt. The
line of scent may be crossed, hounds may be distracted, and a collision
could occur if the field is riding hard in one direction and suddenly comes
upon a tardy member riding the other way. If something has occurred to cause
sufficient delay, if may simply be best to forego the day’s sport rather
than risk ruining it for others. Repeated tardiness simply shows a lack of
consideration for the hunt as a whole and will not be tolerated. If you do
arrive late and the hunt has begun, do not ride into the country to find the
field. Wait at the meet and, if the hunt comes back that way, you may join
in. Alternatively, if hard-surfaced roads are available, ride forth but stay
to the roads until you have located the field and then approach with
caution. Once you have joined up with the field, the first obligation is to
apologize to the master for your tardiness.
• Excusing A Member From The Field: It should be noted that the masters and
honorary secretary are empowered to excuse riders from the field if a
sufficiently egregious transgression has been committed. Riding with the
hunt is a privilege, not a right. Although rarely exercised, the authority
does rest with masters and field secretary to send a rider home if he or she
deems such action is necessary. A faithful observance of proper etiquette is
the surest way to avoid such an unpleasant occurrence.
Does it is really matter what we wear when
riding to hounds? Absolutely! For one, it is only through the graciousness
of the landowners over whose property we ride that we are able to engage in
this sport. A properly turned-out field honors the landowners, shows them we
take our sport seriously, and displays the appropriate spirit of tradition
as they watch us ride by. (And don’t forget to wave or tip your hat and
greet the land owner in an appropriately cordial manner.)
In a more subtle sense, it is an
appreciation for that tradition that has led most of us to take up this
sport. The preservation of the centuries-old foxhunting spirit depends, more
than anything else, on the continued observance of the rules of etiquette
that distinguish this activity from simply riding casually around through
Besides the landowners, we also depend on
masters and huntsman for the enjoyment derived from a long season of
hunting. The leaders of the hunt work hard to provide members the
opportunities to follow hounds and nothing cheers the heart of a huntsman or
master more than to gaze upon a well turned-out field of riders who conduct
themselves properly. This demonstrates the members’ recognition of their
efforts on behalf of the field, especially the huntsman who devotes long,
hard days of work to give members a few hours of sport.
The requirements for awarding colors vary from one hunt to another,
particularly regarding the minimum length of time before a member is
eligible for consideration. However, the following policy statement,
borrowed from a representative Virginia hunt, is fairly typical of what is
The award of
colors is made by the masters at their sole discretion to hunting members
who have made an ongoing significant contribution to the continuation of the
hunt’s tradition of sportsmanship.
are typically members who have hunted regularly at least three years and
hunted primarily with the jumping field; who have been exemplary, well
turned-out and on a groomed horse; who have participated in and contributed
to the success of the hunt’s activities; and who are a credit to the hunt’s