A guide to safety and hunting etiquette with the Banwen Miners' Hunt

There is nothing worse than joining a new club or organisation and turning up in the wrong kit!

Welcome:

The aim of this guide is to ensure that everyone hunting with us has an enjoyable day and is given the opportunity become involved in the day's sport. Most important is to return home at the end of the day safe and sound. At the same time it is part and parcel of a day's hunting to ensure that the highest standards and traditions of the hunting day are upheld so that future generations will be able to enjoy the same sport and spectacle that is associated with modern day hunting.

Risk:

Riding to hounds is a fast and potentially dangerous sport; we try to do as much as possible to reduce the risk of injury to all those taking part, not only the riders, but also the foot and car followers, and the cyclists and other walkers in the countryside.

Riding to hounds is not risk-free. It never has been. If you choose to put your horse at a jump and you come a cropper, it is no-one's fault but your own. You can expect minor injuries just as you would if you were playing rugby, hockey or any other contact sport. In riding to hounds you are moving fast across country negotiating natural obstacles; that is the nature of the game. Make sure that you and your horse are both fit and sufficiently well-trained to do that.

Insurance:

Riders are encouraged to become members of the Countryside Alliance and to make sure they have adequate insurance cover for themselves and their horse, including third-party liability. More information can be found at www.countryside-alliance.org.

Respect for the Farmers:

The first and most important rule of hunting - and one that is strictly enforced - is show the utmost respect for the farmers and landowners whose land you are crossing. The farmer depends on his land for his living and it is only by his generosity that we can hunt. This privilege must never be abused and is only given to the mounted field through the Hunt Masters on pre-arranged hunting days. Hunt routes must never be construed as a public bridleways or footpaths outside hunting days. We hunt BY PERMISSION.

Manners:

Always thank anyone who holds a gate open for you and always thank drivers for waiting on the road for you to pass. Holding up traffic gives hunting a bad name and appears arrogant. The car driver will not be able to tell the difference between arrogance and nervousness on your part but will assume the worst!

Gates:

Gates that need shutting MUST be shut by the last person passing through; the person who is next-to-last must remain with the gate shutter until they are safely re-mounted. That assumes that the gate was not deliberately left open in the first place, of course. The Field-Master will make this clear.

Watching the Hounds:

The Field Master will also try to keep you close enough to hounds to watch them work, but far enough away that you do not interfere with their efforts. Please be quiet when asked, keeping noise levels to a minimum when hounds are on the scent. Foxhounds follow a scent with their noses, which requires concentration; if you make a noise hounds may be distracted and lose the scent. Don't scream, even if you are seriously injured (joke).

Always stay with your Field Master; do try not to pass him unless given permission to take your own line. Always listen for his instructions and keep with the flow of the field. Don't get left behind chatting or sightseeing. There is nothing worse for a Field Master, up in front, having to yell over three or four fields at stragglers; you are not out for a hack; you are expected to keep up.

Jumping:

When jumping, follow the Field Masters lead; fences should be jumped leaving plenty of room between yourself and the rider in front . If your horse refuses, join the back of the queue and have another go.

Hounds' Safety:

When at the meet or on the hunting field and hounds are nearby, always keep your horse facing hounds to avoid them being kicked. The quietest horse can kick if it is unused to hounds running behind. Always make way for oncoming hunt staff, listen for the cry 'Whip please, whip' and get out of the way. Face the oncoming rider. Remember while you are having fun, the huntsman and his whippers-in are working. Always be aware of the whereabouts of hounds and never be so close that you risk galloping on to them.

RIDERS

The Banwen Miners' Hunt - like most registered hunting packs - has a dress code meaning that correct clothing should be worn on every occasion.

Ratcatcher:

You cannot go far wrong with a tweed jacket, shirt and tie and breeches (don't forget the breeches) plus long boots. This is called "ratcatcher" and is perfectly acceptable on any occasion. Before the Opening Meet or after the Cheltenham festival ALL riders except hunt staff wear ratcatcher dress anyway.

Formal Hunt Attire:

As you progress in hunting you should move up to a black or blue hunting jackets. Normally ladies wear blue and gentlemen wear black, but that is not set in stone. It has been argued that married ladies should wear black and unmarried ones, blue but that is taking matters to an extreme.

Buttons and Colours:

Whatever colour your jacket you will wear THREE buttons. Masters wear four and hunt staff wear five on their uniform coats. To complicate matters further, some hunts have a scarlet uniform; others have green, blue or mustard. Don't worry too much about that; all will be revealed as you gain experience. All hunts have their own distinct buttons and most have a distinctive collar. You may be asked to wear both one day!

Safety Hats:

BMH would advise all riders to wear an approved, kite marked safety hat or hunting cap. It is up to you to ensure the hat is up to the job. We have no way of checking the kite mark on hats; anyway, it is YOUR head, so look after it.

Hunt Ties (aka "stocks"):

With a black or blue coat, you should wear a hunting tie, commonly (but wrongly) often called a "stock". DO NOT buy one of those "ready-tied" things! For one thing they are NOT ready tied at all and for another they look dreadful. The use of a so-called ready tied tie screams "I have no idea what I'm doing",

Get a proper hunting tie and learn how to tie it. Practice at home. The preferred colour is white, but no-one will shout at you for wearing a coloured version, provided it is not so bright that it will frighten the children. White ties need tons of starch; they should not hang round your neck like a dishcloth. Christmassy hunt ties are often seen these days during the holidays, but make sure they are tidy and not OTT.

For those in hunt uniform, properly tied hunt ties are expected. White hunt ties should be properly cleaned, heavily starched and secured in place with a stock pin (yes, I know!) and with plenty of safety pins to keep it in place. The correct hunt tie is a useful thing; it can be removed to make an emergency tourniquet or sling if needed. The "ready tied" variety cannot be used in that way; another reason they are regarded as useless!

Stock pins should be worn vertically for men and horizontally for ladies, though some men think it is safer to wear them horizontally. Strictly, they should be plain, but I wear a "fox head" pin, so there! For ladies, (and men increasingly) stud earrings are fine, and a hair net should strictly always be worn if hair is long.

Bling, however, is absolutely not permitted. There is nothing that gives the impression of hunting ignorance than inappropriate jewellery.

BREECHES:

Breeches or jodhpurs should be beige or brown with ratcatcher and ALWAYS white with hunt uniform. With a black or blue hunt jacket you can wear either colour. Make sure they are sufficiently water-resistant to withstand the rain we have in the Welsh valleys and hills. You can always wear a waterproof hunting apron over if the day is especially bad.

BOOTS:

Boots should be full-length, leather or strong rubber and should be polished to an extreme degree to reflect the sun! I know they will be filthy in five minutes but there we go. Spurs should be worn as a matter of proper turnout, but if you think you cannot wear them without inadvertently hurting your horse, leave them at home.

Boots with tops should only ever be worn with hunt uniform; brown or champagne for most of us but patent tops can be worn with a cutaway black coat; a sight seldom seen these days. Ladies should never wear tops.

FOUL-WEATHER GEAR:

Wax coats are acceptable only in extreme weather conditions, but we do have a lot of those! You should still be properly dressed underneath them!

Bright coloured riding jackets of any description are not acceptable at any time, even if it's pelting down with rain.

Body protectors are advisable, especially for children, and you certainly won't get into trouble for wearing one.

COMMON SENSE APPROACH:

Remember that no safety equipment compensates for a lack of common sense. Parents of small children and inexperienced riders should satisfy themselves that they are competent enough to participate in the days' sport, to keep out of trouble and follow at a reasonably fast pace.

Whips: Strictly, you should carry a hunting whip (never a "crop"!) with a thong, but you should never use it except to dangle down behind your horse when necessary to keep hounds away from his rear end. If you don't feel competent to handle a hunting whip, don't worry. No-one will mind. It's a bit like spurs; safety and comfort is paramount.

Gloves; some turnout freaks get neurotic about the colour of your gloves. Some US hunts will tell you never to wear black. The UK attitude is that you should wear gloves, but the colour is up to you as long as they are not industrial pink ones.

HORSES

Horses should be turned out to the best of your ability. Traditionally, horses are un-plaited for Autumn Hunting and plaited for opening meet, and thereafter. Tack should be clean, safe and of good condition. Get a girth that fits and bear in mind that your horse may go home a lot less round that he went out!

The horse needs to be clean at the beginning of the day. It won't stay that way for long; nor will you!

Ribbons:

Inexperienced horses should wear a green ribbon in the tail and horses known to kick should wear a red ribbon in the tail; both types must always be kept to the back of the field. Please notify your field master if you are riding a stallion. You will also have to keep a safe distance from everyone else.

Point to Point Qualifiers:

As per the Point to Point Authority Guidelines 

Plaiting:

A word on plaits; there should be an uneven number, but no-one is going to count! You can always hog and save yourself an hour in the morning, but if you do then invest in a strap to hang onto.

Tack:

Like the rules on "bling", coloured browbands are not regarded as acceptable on the hunting field.

Sidesaddle Riding:

There is no chance that the hunt will lay down rules for sidesaddle followers; they have enough self-imposed rules of their own. The hunt does, however, encourage sidesaddle riders to hunt with us at any and every opportunity.

Strange Rules:

These little quirks have developed over centuries. Observing them will give the impression that you know more than you do.

· Always say "good morning" to the masters. If you can't find them all, one will do.

· Have the correct "cap" ready to hand over when asked. Please don't say "my Mum will pay later"; it's a pain and the cap taker may not know you or your mum. Hounds need feeding, so YOU need to organise this.

· Hounds are counted in couples. If you hear the whipper-in tell the huntsman that "ten and a half couple are on" it doesn't mean that one hound has suffered an accident; it just means 21.

· Its "whipper-in"; not "whip". A whip is the thing he or she carries (and so should you).

· Always address the masters as "Master" on a hunting day. Back in the pub it can be Mike or Max or Clive or Charlotte but out hunting it's "Master". Always, no exceptions.

· At the end of the hunting day, and especially if you decide to go home early, always wish the master and field master if different "good night". That is true even if it's not yet 12 noon and the sun is beating down!

· When talking or writing about hounds it's always "hounds" not "the hounds". Heaven knows the reason but if you say "the hounds" you will sound like a twit.