A Newcomers Guide to Hunting…

Ahead of the much anticipated Lycetts Festival of Hunting, the event’s title sponsor Lycetts offer an introduction to hunting. 

Lycetts Festival of Hunting, which takes place at the East of England Showground on Wednesday 18th July, is an annual showcase for the world of hunting and the countryside community, boasting the greatest gathering of hounds in the UK. The prestigious event also includes the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show, which celebrates its 130th anniversary this year.

For many, the day marks the highlight of the summer social calendar and provides the ideal opportunity for newcomers to immerse themselves in the world of hunting. As many a seasoned Lycetts Festival of Hunting visitor will tell you, the hunting community welcome newcomers with open arms and relish the opportunity to share their enjoyment in the sport with others. The following guide offers tips and tricks for newcomers looking for a valuable insight into the world of hunting ahead of the landmark event:


A first outing with a pack of hounds can be a daunting experience yet taking note of a few key things will help newcomers quickly feel at home. The following may prove useful:

  1. At Least One of You Should Know What You Are Doing! – A novice rider on a novice horse is frequently going to find the day a challenge. The happy hacker who has never put a foot wrong may become so excited by the day that they behave entirely differently to normal: pulling like a proverbial train or barging and pushing. It is often best to hire an experienced hunter for the first few days until the rider knows the form.
  2. Be A Gracious Guest – Meets are not provided by the hunt but by individuals. The often lavish provision of drinks and food is due to the generosity of the host and it is therefore always polite to thank them when leaving the meet.
  1. Listen Out for Calls of ‘Whip on The Left’ or ‘Huntsman on The Right’ – This is a signal that hunt staff will need to pass and should be given priority. Make sure one’s horse is facing them and the hounds as they pass. Never allow the horse’s rear end to be facing the hounds.
  1. Volume Control – While chatting with other riders is key part of the day, there will be times when the Huntsman and Field Master need to listen carefully to what is going on. They will not appreciate loud conversations at these times and so it is always worth being attentive.



Like any sport, hunting has its own vocabulary. Picking up the hunting lingo by knowing these terms and using them correctly will help newcomers become a dab hand at hunting in no time. Top terms to know are:

  • Jump – In hunting circles the word ‘jump’ is a verb and not a noun. Those in the know will talk about ‘jumping fences’, not ‘doing jumps’, despite fences often being referred to as hunt jumps.
  • Hunt – A ‘hunt’ is the collective noun for the institution. It is also the period of time the hunt is actively following a trail. It does not refer to the day (which is called a ‘day’s hunting’).
  • Run – The active period of following hounds as they follow a trail across country is referred to as a ‘run’.
  • Country – The word ‘country’ is used by hunting people to describe the geographical area over which a hunt operates with two distinct meanings. It can refer to the type of ground a specific hunt usually crosses or it can refer to the actual geographical reach over which they hunt. Each hunt has a clearly defined country within which its meets are held.
  • Good Morning / Good Night – Hunting people will greet each other at the beginning of the day with ‘good morning’ and, whatever time they go home, they will say ‘good night’. This is just the way it is and does not mean they have lost their marbles.


It is easy to be impressed by beautiful horses and immaculately turned out riders. However, one thing hunting teaches is never to judge by first appearances. Here are a few examples:

  1. The man in scruffy tweed and wellies who holds open a gate is quite probably the owner of the farm or estate on which the hunt is taking place. Greet every person on this basis and novices won’t go wrong.
  1. Not every good hunter would fare well in a showing class. Not judging by appearances also applies to horses. Sometimes the ugliest of animals will be a spectacular hunter. Amateur hunters can usually spot these horses by the warm greeting other riders give them, often referring to them by name.
  1. Follow the elderly fellow in the faded coat. When crossing difficult country, do not follow the dashing man on the fine steed, but rather the elderly fellow in a faded coat who knows every inch of the country and will know the safest crossing places. He or she will neither waste time nor energy, preserving these for a serious run and they will invariably be right up there at the end.


There are many people involved in hunting and it is often very tricky to tell the key members apart. When it comes to the mounted field, there are a few types to look out for:

  1. Masters and Officials – Once the day begins, everyone is equal. But some are more equal than others! These are the Masters and Officials who run the day. The Huntsman, Whippers In and the Field Master should be easy to spot. The next most important person is the Hunt Secretary who will welcome hunters as they arrive and collect the cap. This is the money hunters pay at the beginning of the day, which goes towards the management of the hunt, including looking after the hounds.
  1. Thrusters – These are the people who ride at the very front of the field, usually as close to the Field Master as they can get. They will dazzle with their courage and impress with their tenacity. Many of them will be very experienced and skilled riders. However, they may not be the best people to emulate. Newcomers to hunting will learn a great deal more if they observe more modest riders who watch hounds and conserve their horse’s energy.
  1. Children – Younger hunters on small ponies may appear sweet, yet never underestimate them. Many will have been hunting since they were toddlers and will out-gallop and out-jump the best adult riders. They are easy to spot by the determined glint in their eyes and their quiet manner. Follow them at your peril!
  2. Pilot – Newcomers will quickly learn that some people never refuse at fences. Outward appearances may not make this obvious. For those wanting to follow someone over a fence who is going to give ones horse a good lead, be attentive and work out who is a good pilot and, if possible, slot in behind them. A good indicator is a quiet rider on a happy-looking horse.
  3. The rest – Old hunting prints would have us believe that almost everyone dazzles and jumps their way across country. In fact, there are often more who don’t do this than those that do. Surtees once said: “Happy are they who hunt for their own pleasure – and not to astonish others”. Within every hunt, there are those who simply ride at their own pace, go through the gates and avoid difficult situations. They may not astonish others, but they will certainly be enjoying themselves.


 Lycetts Festival of Hunting is organised by The East of England Agricultural Society, in association with Addo Events. The event takes place on Wednesday 18th July, at the East of England Showground, Peterborough.

 To book tickets, which are now on sale, and for more information, visit: www.festivalofhunting.com