Foxhunting is steeped in traditions, some of which may seem outdated or arbitrary to today’s riders. But yet, at some point or another, every hunt tradition, rule, or guideline we see today started for a reason. We hope you’ll enjoy learning more about our sport in general and the Rocky Fork-Headley Hunt, in particular.
What’s so important about upholding the tradition of fox-chasing attire?
To quote Norman Fine, a well-respected authority on all things foxhunting-related, “Respect…for three hundred years of sport, art, literature, and the men and women who had the passion, energy, and intellect to formulate and leave us one of the most exhilarating activities known to man.”
Why is our informal attire called “ratcatcher”?
The “ratcatcher” term came about years ago in England, back when rats were a nuisance. A farmer would frequently hire a person to rid his terrain of rats, and that person typically wore a tweed jacket (and hunted with rat terriers, or feists), so tweed jackets became to be called “ratcatchers.” Today that term is also used to describe the shirts worn with a tweed jacket.
Why do we wear stock ties?
It is a carryover from the traditional dress of early foxhunters, but also has a practical purpose. According to Wikipedia, “Traditionally, the stock tie is used in the hunt field as a safety measure: in case of injury, the tie may be used as a temporary bandage for a horse’s leg or a sling for a rider’s arm. It also is useful in keeping rain or wind out of the rider’s collar.”
Why are we discouraged from wearing brightly colored stock ties (or other pieces of clothing) during fall foxhunting season?
Primarily, because the sport itself, and the hounds driving the sport, should be the center of attention, not the riders who follow the sport.
This preference for muted colors is probably also a carryover from the men who followed the sport ages ago. According to the Gentleman’s Gazette, “Once Queen Victoria was on the throne, the middle class became stronger and wealthier and in the following a neckwear hierarchy evolved in the sense that it proclaimed one’s current position in society. The further a man had climbed the social scale, the quieter and more subtle his neckwear was, whereas the lower he was placed, the brighter and more varied his neckwear became.” So it may be that the foxhunters in the past century either were already wealthy or strived to become so, and thereby chose to dress the part by eschewing lace, ruffles and bright colors.
Hunt attire seems like a minefield of “do”s and “don’t”s. I just saw a discussion about how to turn helmet ribbons upside-down, and someone else told me I really should have a plain, solid velvet helmet at RFHH. What is the actual ‘rule’ here?
First, it helps to consider a little of the history. Top hats were the original safety helmets since the tall crown and stiff brim provided a little protection in a fall. However, they were easily knocked off by stray branches during the course of a hunt.
So, some riders began wearing the bowler (derby to us Americans), with its shorter, more streamlined profile and putting a drawstring inside the crown to help hold it tightly to the wearer’s head. These became very popular in the hunt field. However, the fashion traditionalists of the day decreed that the bowler could only be worn during informal season with tweed or during formal season with a plain coat. Frock coats and tails were to be worn with the more stylish and historic top hat.
Eventually, true safety helmets for horseback riding were developed and evolved into the current low-profile padded shell with a safety harness. However, you can still see the influence of the bowler, particularly in downplaying the safety harness and the tradition of the velvet covering that mimics the texture of early hats.
The ribbon on the back of modern-day velvet riding helmets has a practical origin. A ribbon was attached to the back of early riding hats to direct rainwater from the brim of the hat down the back of the wearer’s coat, rather than spilling down the back for the rider’s neck. Since the huntsman and staff have to ride in all weather, rather than being able to retire mid-hunt, ribbons with functional tails (pointed down) became reserved for staff. To this day, field members leave the tails of their ribbon up out of respect for this tradition, although some helmets come from the manufacturer with the ribbons pointed downwar, and they can’t be easily modified.
RFHH turnout guidance merely specifies that all riders wear a black or brown velvet hunting cap. We believe that safety is the best tradition, so strongly encourage all riders to choose a hunt cap that is also a properly-fitted ASTM/SEI certified safety helmet with a harness.
Why do MFHs and men who are awarded their colors wear scarlet jackets?
Traditions vary from hunt to hunt, but typically scarlet jackets are used to distinguish position and/or hunt staff within the hunt. There are many hunts who only allow staff to wear scarlet jackets and there are other hunts where only the huntsman wears scarlet. RFHH is more liberal in our approach, where we abide by decisions made many years ago and award scarlet jackets to MFHs and men who have been awarded their colors. (Women who have been awarded their colors are allowed to add our hunt’s colors to their collars.)
Why are they sometimes called “Pinks”?
According to the widely-accepted, but unproven opinion, once upon a time there used to be a London tailor named Mr. Samuel Pink. After the Revolutionary War, he got ahold of an abundance of scarlet cloth left over from making British army officers’ uniforms and convinced his foxhunting clients that they would look dapper riding in red jackets. They apparently agreed, wore Mr. Pink’s scarlet jackets and sometimes referred to them as “Pinks,” after their tailor. Today, the term “scarlet” is more widely accepted. But why not “red” instead of scarlet? It is generally accepted that red is a darker color than scarlet, with scarlet being the color of fire hydrants.
What about the number of buttons allowed to be on a jacket?
Ratcatcher (tweed) jackets should have three. For formal jackets, although respected authorities sometimes disagree, it’s widely accepted that members of the field wear four, Masters wear five and Huntsmen wear six.
Why are some jackets cut differently than others?
A regular (black or tweed) jacket is less formal than a frock coat. Frock coats should only be worn by hunt members who have earned their colors. Additionally, frock coats worn by members of the field should have rounded skirts, not square.
For a full description of what’s proper, or not, please refer to the Riding Attire Page on our website.
A tidbit of trivia: The “Whip’s Office” and the “Chief Whip” in Parliament come from the job of “Whipper-in” to the hounds.
The Thrills, Chills and Champagne Chills party, held every year at the close of the Hunt season, is one of Rocky Fork Headley Hunt’s most popular events. The event showcases year end awards for Best Hunt Horse, Most Courteous Rider, Best Whipper-in and Volunteers of the Year. This season’s Best Hunt Horse award went to Midnight, owned and ridden by Mark Masters. The most courteous rider was Mara Lewis. The Best Whipper-in award went to Charles Dougan. Along with Anne Kennedy (who can forget the Tally Hoedown?), Charles was also awarded Volunteer of the Year.
And then, the party moved on to the tales of woe! Everyone who had an unplanned dismount got to put their own spin on the hapless episode. It is not a requirement to speak, but our members can turn equivocation into an art form, to the delight of the nearly 50 in attendance. The Elite Eight were: Susie Preston, Mark Masters, Dennis Brandon, Rosalind Mercier, Diane McMullen, Lorraine Teets, Sally Crane Cox, and Bruce Mandeville.
In a touching tribute to all our hunt mounts, Charles proclaimed his horse, Remington, a saint for taking care of him after a dizzying encounter with a tree at Gibson Custer …and for keeping the truth of that day under his saddle. Charles played the starring role in the premier of the indie film production “Knocked Out Cold”to track down the dastardly Tree Who Done It to him.
The season ending party is a tribute to the good humor and camaraderie of our members. We are again grateful to end our season without serious injury to hound, horse or rider in the hunt field. And we can’t wait to see what the upcoming hunt season will bring!
Membership and Subscription Fees for 2019 – 2020 Foxhunting Season
Guest Capping Fees
Guests or their sponsor should contact the hunt masters prior to the hunt. There is a limit of three caps per season, other than juniors or by pre-arranged dispensation from the MFH, such as guests who are members of distant hunts.
Adult: $40 (limit 3 rides)
Juniors $10 (unlimited rides)
Hunting Family, Adult & Young Adult
Unlimited Hunting, voting rights for adults, right to sponsor new members, right to invite guests to hunt (with Master’s prior permission), newsletter, social events for free except those noted ** below.
Capping Adult Hunter
Three hunts with capping fee, newsletter, social events for free except those noted **below.
Adult & Young Adult Social Member
Newsletter, social events for free except those noted **below.
Capping Junior Hunter
Unlimited hunting with $10 cap per hunt, newsletter, social events for free except those noted **below.
Associate Family Member
Newsletter, social events for free except those noted ** below
** Attendance at Opening Breakfast, Blessing Brunch and Hunt Ball will be for fixed fee for all members and guests.
It was perfect weather for the first Rocky Fork Headley Hunter Pace held on June 9 at Spring Hill Farm in Granville. Thanks to those who rode and got to enjoy this lovely territory. Congratulations to our winners!
Mark your calendar for the July 14 Pace at the Park at Infirmary Mound. The July pace is run by Licking County Parks with assistance from Rocky Fork Headley Hunt and Miami Vally Hunt clubs, so does not count as part of the Rocky Fork Headley Hunt pace series. It is, however, a very beginner-friendly hunter pace that supports a great cause, so we hope you can join us.
The next Rocky Fork Headley Hunt pace is at Timber Run on August 11 and will return to the usual hills, cross country jumps, and water crossings. Check out our pace page for details and see all the results from the June 9 pace.
Participating in mounted hound exercise is a good way to accustom your horse to some of the sights and sounds of fox hunting. However, due to the slow, stop-and-go nature of mounted hound training and exercise, even experienced hunt horses can easily become stressed, frustrated, and overwhelmed if a rider attempts to literally follow the hounds without providing their horse with the physical and mental changes of pace that tend to occur in an actual hunt. It should not be a surprise, then, that more horse-assisted unplanned dismounts (aka getting bucked off) occur during mounted hound exercise than hunting.
In order to keep mounted hound exercise fun and—especially—safe for all involved, we’ve compiled a few tips and some reminders of hunt protocol.
First, a quick refresher on hunt protocol:
Hounds, huntsmen, and staff always have right-of-way. Stay alert, be prepared to make way, and try to never get between staff and hounds.
If a hound or staff member enters the trail near you, move your horse as far away as possible and keep your horse’s rear pointed away. It is your responsibility to prevent your horse from scaring, trampling, or kicking a hound, even when they unexpectedly pop out of the woods near your horse.
Refrain from speaking to the hounds while they are working unless asked to do so.
Good trail etiquette always applies: maintain a safe riding distance, be polite, and pay attention to the needs and safety of the riders around you.
And some tips for a more enjoyable outing:
Ride with a buddy and a plan. Pick one thing to work on together, and then arrange your ride accordingly.
Pick and choose where and how you interact with the hounds and other riders. There are a number of wide areas along the normal exercise route that are good places to let your horse observe the hounds, staff, and other riders without getting trapped among them.
Take a break. Between the activity and wide-open spaces, it’s not hard to end up with a death grip on the bit and a horse that’s ready to explode. Riding to hounds is supposed to be fun for you and your horse, so a wise rider realizes when it’s time to take a quiet hack and unwind. Patience makes a mannerly hunt horse.
And, finally, we hope you’ll stay and socialize after your ride. We’d like to meet you!
It was a really fun evening April 21 at the Thrills Chills and Spills Party celebrating the Rocky Fork hunt riders who unintentionally parted from their mount the past hunt season. Each of the “fallen” shared their story about how their particular contact with the ground took place.
Of course, few stories could be substantiated but sometimes you cannot hide the evidence…..
Also recognized at our end of season annual event was several of our hunt members and their mounts. Not shown are our star pace volunteers Brian and Becca, Brianne and Doug,
Thirty-three riders braved the damp weather on Saturday, November 4, to participate in the Blessing of the Hounds ceremony. The ensuing two-hour hunt was fast and furious, with the hounds giving voice through much of it. Huntsman Sally Crane Cox and her crew were able to lead the hounds to the picnic shelter where spectators were awaiting their arrival. After the hounds were loaded safely into the hound truck, the riders were served libations and the spectators happily mingled with the smiling, exhilarated riders. Afterwards, more than 90 riders and friends—including many Pony Clubbers–enjoyed a delicious brunch at the Rocky Fork Hunt and Country Club, arranged by Melissa Will.
The Reverend Maggie Leidheiser-Stoddard, assisting Priest at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington was our officiant at the Blessing. Our bagpiper, who led the procession of riders into the semi-circle, was Scott Caputo, the Pipe Major of the Capital City Pipes and Drums.
Our official photographer was Chuck Miele, whose photographs can be found at chuckm.exposuremanager.com. There are some wonderful photos; please take a look. John McKean, another professional photographer who rode in the Blessing, took many lovely candid photographs and has posted them on the Rocky Fork Headley Hunt Facebook page.
And if you want to experience he Blessing Hunt from the comfort of your chair, be sure, check out John McKean’s video of the whole ride. Maybe next year you can join in the fun!
A particular thank-you to all the volunteers who made the Blessing of the Hounds the smoothest-run Blessing to date.