A smartly turned out junior member who is capable and skilled in the hunt field makes any hunt proud. The Tennessee Valley Hunt loves it when a hunior grows up foxhunting with us. There are several adults who are hunting with us now that started out years ago as juniors. They are now valuable members of our hunt, ready to teach or encourage any young or old new member.
TVH Junior Maggie Vick. Photo by Gretchen Pelham.
Foxhunting has a long tradition with Pony Club. Many of the skills learned in Pony Club are the exact riding skills needed to ride in a hunt safely with maximum fun. The local pony clubs are encouraged to hunt with TVH as often as they can.
We would like to encourage as many juniors to come try hunting as much as possible. I have jotted down a few tips to help the parents of any new juniors we will have to come try our most beloved sport. Each hunt has its own traditions and requirements, so be sure to contact the master of your hunt to go over details before heading out.
Hunt season will start in the middle of September. The TVH “Cubbing” season is the informal season and will be from the middle of September to the middle of October (specific dates will be announced). It is called cubbing because traditionally the early fall is the time of year that the fox cubs are ready to venture out on their own and stake their own territories. The hunt benefits from encouraging the fox cubs to spread out early in the season, as this means more foxes over a wider area to chase. During cubbing the hunts will be shorter due to the heat, start very early in the morning and “capping fees” (money due from adult guests) are waived. Hunting days will be on Thursdays and Saturdays, with a few extra or “by days” thrown in as is needed.
Formal season will begin in the middle of October and go until March (again, specific dates will be announced). TVH requires formal attire for every hunt during the Formal season (not every hunt requires this). Hunts will begin promptly at 10 am, so arrive with plenty of time to be mounted up by 9:50 am. Hunting days will be on Thursdays and Saturdays with a few Sundays thrown in as needed.
Attire is a big deal in the hunt field. A properly turned out “Field” (a group of riders) shows respect for the landowners who graciously allow us to hunt on their property. The correct attire is also a safety protocol as it reduces the confusion of differentiating between who is a staff member and who is a field member. Or more simply: figuring out who is supposed to be by themselves and who is lost in need of rescuing.
A properly turned out field honors the tradition of our centuries-old sport, as the clothes we wear haven’t changed much in a few hundred years. And finally, many of the clothes we wear have a safety or comfort purpose. For example, a stock tie and pin can double as a sling or a tourniquet for horse or rider when disaster strikes. And anyone who has tried to ride several hours over cross-country in an English saddle knows that breeches are the way to prevent rubs and blisters!
There is no need to stress out over obtaining the appropriate attire for juniors. The main thing to remember is one doesn’t have to spend a lot of money, and the rules for attire are more relaxed for Juniors than Adults. However, every junior will be expected to arrive tidy, clean and polished. Even if the boots are brown instead of black, make sure they are clean and polished for every hunt!
And make every effort to contain all flowing tresses, i.e. loose hair. It should be slicked back so no strands are free to bounce around on their own. Nothing looks so disrespectful than sloppy hair escaping from underneath a helmet. Hair is to be encased in a hair net and/or a show bow, or put into pig tails if the Junior is young enough.
Brown or black boots - polished and clean for every hunt. Short paddock boots with garters are appropriate forthose younger Juniors. Juniors in or near their teenage years can wear either tall boots or paddock boots with matching leggings. Tall boots are always appropriate, so once the Junior has maxed out their growing and intends to stick with hunting, considering investing in a pair of tall boots.
Belt – leather is great, but anything neutral will do.
A shirt with a collar (polo, button-down oxford, etc) - with either short or long sleeve in any neutral color will do (but no pink or red).
Black or dark blue helmet - can be a hard surfaced, schooling helmet or a velvet show helmet. Hair pinned up - use a hair net and/or a show bow, or pig tails.
Riding Gloves, summer weight - if needed, but they are not required.
Crop, plain - nothing that looks like a Katy Perry sparkler, please.
Black boots - polished and clean every hunt. Tall boots, paddock boots with leggings or paddock boots with garters are appropriate for Juniors, depending on their age.
Socks – don’t overdo the thick socks when it’s cold. Sometimes thicker means colder feet if you get them too tight inside the boot. Leave some air pockets, or wear silk liners / wool hiking socks meant to wick the moisture away.
Tan breeches - leave room for long johns or tights when needed.
Belt – leather is great, but anything neutral will do.
White show shirt with a “ratcatcher” collar (looks kinda like a priest’s collar) or a white turtle neck (a tight neck, not saggy). Leave room for layering when cold.
Stock Tie – If the junior is using a ratcatcher shirt or turtleneck then a stock tie around the neck is not needed. However, if you wish to buy one, then buy white, long and untied. The pre-tied stock ties are more trouble than learning to tie the knot, and they defeat the safety purpose of having a long piece of fabric. A stock tie in children’s short length will not be long enough when tied to stay neatly under the coat lapels. So get adult length or even men’s length and safety pin the long ends down under the coat. Don’t panic, there is always someone around who can help you tie it the morning of a hunt.
Stock Pin – the stainless steel shank safety pin is tradition, but anything not too fancy will work. Place the pin in the middle of the ratcatcher collar or turtle neck.
Solid Black or solid Dark Blue coat, three buttons – Show coats are easy to find on consignment, or look for a boy’s blazer at Goodwill. The warmer fabric the better, but leave room for layering.
Black or dark blue velvet helmet – You can buy a velveteen cover for your schooling helmet much cheaper than buying a velvet show helmet. Hair pined up - use a hair net and/or a show bow, or pig tails.
Riding Gloves, insulated - if needed.
Ear protection – flat, thin head bands designed to go over ears are cheap and warm. Or you can buy ear protection made to fit into or over a helmet.
Crop, plain - all riders need to carry one even if you swear you’ll never need it for your rocket-powered pony.
Always be prepared for the unexpected. Have everything packed and ready to go the night before to prevent a disaster zone in the early, pre-dawn mornings of a hunt. Leave your home with more time than it will take to actually get to the hunt in case there is traffic, a flat tire, or the directions were written in Greek and actually take you to Greece.
All riders must be mounted 10 minutes before the start of the “Meet”, or hunt. So if the start time says 10:00 am, that really means 9:50 am. Also, many kid’s high metabolism is not their friend in the hunt field. So send them out with granola bars or something they will actually eat that can be put into a pocket of their riding clothes. A small water container that will fit into a hunt coat pocket is also a great idea.
If you are responsible for the pony your junior is riding, then you must ensure that everything from the pony to the bit is clean, tidy and safe. Ponies must arrive clean, brushed out, with manes pulled and in good weight. Hunting in 20 degree weather can be done with a clean pony even if you don’t have access to hot water or a barn; just ask for tips. Use a clean, white saddle pad with clean tack. Try to avoid any flashy colors in your tack – black or brown leather with a white pad is best.
Again, being clean and tidy is more important for a junior than wearing the best fashion.
All juniors must be accompanied by an adult “Mentor” (someone who is willing to be responsible for the junior) for the entire time that a parent cannot be with them. It is highly recommended that all juniors take riding lessons from an experienced hunt member in order to be sure that they are properly schooled on the protocol, rules, expectations and riding shills required during a hunt.
Juniors are expected to be unfailingly polite and respectful to all members of the hunt. Juniors will be expected to get off their ponies to open gates, retrieve dropped gloves for other hunt members, etc. They will also be expected to help with the food for the Hunt Breakfasts when asked. If the parents routinely participate in the Hunt Breakfasts or other social events yet do not ride, then the parents will be expected to join the hunt as a Patron Member.
The hunt will not stop for juniors, so they must also be prepared to stay out longer than they would wish if their mentor cannot bring them back to the trailers. They must be able to ride cross-county confidently at a trot if they are riding in a walk-trot field, cantering in hilltoppers or galloping over 3 foot plus fences if they are to ride in first flight. They should have already practiced ditches, banks, logs, hard stops, etc to the skill level required for each field on their pony before coming out to hunt.
To have the opportunity to foxhunt is a privilege. We are the only foxhunt in East Tennessee; therefore the opportunity to be invited to a hunt on a trained hunt horse/pony is a rare one. Not every trail or show horse is safe in the hunt field. It takes a lot of training to turn a pony into a safe hunt horse, and it takes a lot of effort by the hunt staff and members to run every meet. Juniors should think of hunting as a special treat and be thankful that they are able to participate in this ancient sport. Not every kid with a pony or who takes lessons has the access or ability to foxhunt, so those that get to do it should count their lucky stars. And kiss their safe hunt ponies.
Kick on, Juniors! Let’s go hunting!
Gretchen Pelham is Master of Foxhounds for Tennessee Valley Hunt.