The focus of riders in the field should be on the progress and conduct of the hunt while the hounds are hunting. There are proper conventions and etiquette that participants are expected to follow, most of which are for the safety as well as the pleasure of all involved.
Before the Hunt
Arrive at the meet on time. Meet one half hour before the scheduled time so that you are tacked and mounted before the hunt moves off. If you hack to the meet, do not ride through any coverts or across any country that is going to be hunted that day. Park your van or trailer in a spot so as not to damage fields, lawns, trees, plantings, etc. If in doubt, ask a Master or member of the staff. Always greet your host landowner, his or her family or farm manager and thank them for their generosity. Do not much out your trailer or leave any other trash on anyone's fields or at the kennels. Greet your Masters with "Good Morning, Master," regardless of the time of day. Introduce any guests and locate the Field Secretary to sign waivers and pay capping fees. You must obtain permission from a Master to bring guests no later then the day before the meet. It is your responsibility to inform your guests of proper etiquette and to ride with them. A person may cap a maximum of 3 times in a hunting season.
During the Hunt
Once you move off, be quiet. Listen for instructions and pass them on to he person behind you, don't try to yell it to the rear of the field. Generally, if you are warning of a danger, say "Ware Hole" or "Ware Wire." If you are requesting a courtesy such as allowing staff or hounds to pass say "Staff Please" or "Hounds Please." When the Huntsman or another staff member passes you or especially a hound, turn your horse's head to face the oncoming traffic. If you are on a trail, move off to the side and allow then to pass. The same holds true if the field reverses.
If you see a fox, don't say "Tally-Ho," that fox might not be the hunted fox, and even if it is you might scare him and turn him. Get word to your Field Master, quietly, and after making sure the fox is safely on his way. The field Master will signal the Huntsman by pointing their horse's head and cap at the spot the fox was last seen and if necessary calling "Tally-Ho." Watch the hounds work, that is the fun part. Some are best in a covert, some are best when running a line in the open field, some are good with a cold line, and others are great with a hot one, some go on their own and others need the encouragement of the Huntsman.
Never Speak to a hound. Never use your whip on a hound in any manner, dropping your lash to discourage a hound from going near or underneath your horse is acceptable. Keep your horse's head pointed toward passing hounds. Let the hounds proceed over coops before you jump, do not ride or jump into hounds. Never let your horse kick a hound, it is a sure way to draw the ire of the Huntsman and Masters.
Watch the horse in front of you. Do not crowd other horses. If you cannot see the heels of the horse in front, you are too close. Be particularly careful at jumps, give the rider in front "room to fall." At a check, stand still. Horses pawing or walking about make it very difficult for the Huntsman to hear his hounds. If your horse is green, ride to the rear of the field. If you suspect that your horse might kick, put a red ribbon in his tail. If he is a confirmed kicker, find another horse. Keep up! If your horse is unfit or too green, you may want to join the second field. It is unfair to the people behind you to allow large gaps to occur and eventually become detached from the main field. If you do, there is an excellent chance that you will find yourself interfering with the hounds and possibly turning the fox. If your horse refuses a jump, go to the back of the line and try again, do not continue to school your horse at the jump and do not prevent others from taking the jump and following the hunt. If you need a lead, ask a friend to stay back to give you one.
If a field is seeded, freshly plowed, or very wet, ride on the edge. When in doubt, never cross a field, always stay on the edge. Never gallop through livestock. Slow down, go around and ride carefully and quietly. Always close a gate if you found it that way and listen carefully if you are at the back of the field so as not to close one that has been left open. Go out of your way to greet and generally be courteous to any farmers, landowners, staff, and hounds. Remember that landowners today, unlike years ago, often do not ride to hounds, so their generosity in allowing us to ride over their land is really quite extraordinary and not to be taken for granted. Avoid confrontations with landowners. Refer questions and issues to one of the Masters. Report any damage the hunt may have caused to a Master and report any problems or landowner complaints to a Master immediately, get the name of the person to whom you are speaking and tell then that a Master will call them. If a jump, gate, or fence is broken and no longer stock-proof, make what repairs you can and report it to a Master as quickly as possible. Never trail ride without personal permission from that landowner of the property over which we hunt.
Do not block roads. Allow traffic to get past as quickly as possible. Thank all drivers that wait or slow down, giving then a smile and perhaps a tip of the cap if you can.
Never smoke while hunting. Not only might it be objectionable to other riders, but it can be very dangerous given the often dry conditions we encounter in the autumn and winter. Keep telephones on vibrate and use as limited as possible.
If you must leave the field, ask permission of the Field Master. You will be given directions so as not to interfere in the direction the hounds are drawing or hunting. Avoid jumps where possible, larking can be dangerous on a tired horse.
After the Hunt
At the end of the day, thank your Masters, Huntsman, and Staff. Remember the Staff have duties from well before the hunt until all hounds and horses are safely returned to the kennels, so please understand if they are unable to socialize at times. It is unacceptable to become your own field or field master. Stay with your field until you are given permission to do otherwise.
Your horse should be well groomed and trimmed with his mane pulled neatly. In the winter, it is a god idea to clip him. If you plan to do anything more them quietly hilltop, you should have him shod either with borium or have his shoes drilled for studs. The paved roads can be extremely slippery, as is the ground when very dry or frozen.
Keep tack clean, simple, and in good repair. Use what you only need. Snaffle, pelham, and double bridles with a simple caveson are traditional, but use whatever it takes to control your horse, figure 8 or drop nosebands, gags, etc. Braided, laced or rubber reins give you a better grip when you horse sweats or it rains. Colored or ornamental brow bands are not acceptable. Use a martingale, breast plate or breast collar if necessary.
Jumping, all-purpose and cross-country saddles are well suited for the type of country over which we ride. Dressage saddles are too constrictive. Make sure the saddle fits the horse, several hours of hunting in an ill-fitting saddle are certain to produce a sore back. Saddle pads may be contour or square and should be conservative in color, white (preferable) or black. Please no bright colors, jungle motifs, etc. If you need extra leg protection, use leather or neoprene boots with either buckles or Velcro closings. If you use bell boots, use the ribbed pull-on boots. The ones with the Velcro closings don't stay on very well for hunting. No polo wraps, they are extremely dangerous if they come loose while galloping across country. Fly hoods and ear and muzzle covers are not appropriate in the hunt field. For the best and most complete simplified do's and don'ts of fox chasing, please refer to "Riding to the Hounds."
Rate - To verbally correct a hound, as in "Leave it"
Ware - Short for "beware," used to warn following riders of some danger. When said you should do so in a voice loud enough to be heard by whomever is behind you, but not at the top of your lungs. Point to the hole, wire, etc. as you speak.
Whipper-In - Commonly called "Whip." A staff member who assists the huntsman in hunting hounds. There can be any number of them.