General Information for Hunt Followers
Foxhunting is a highly regulated and organised sport that depends entirely upon the goodwill of the farmers over whose land we hunt. There are 41 packs of hounds fully registered with the Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association (IMFHA). Each registered pack of foxhounds has its own defined territory or hunt country and the hunt kennels are usually situated in the heart of that country. Organised foxhunting plays an important part in rural life not only as a recreation but it also plays a critical role in habitat management and preservation. Through foxhunting may small bogs, coverts and hedgerows, which provide habitats for foxes, small mammals, birds and insects, are protected and preserved. This voluntary conservation role goes largely unrecognised as most of the coverts, bogs and hedgerows that are preserved belong to farmers and supporters of the hunt. Foxhunting also contributes enormously to the local economy. Amongst the many trades and professions that earn some of their income through hunting are the farmers and feed merchants who sell hay, straw, haylage and oats to local horse owners, equestrian centres who provide hirelings, livery or who sell horses, farriers, saddlers, vets, hoteliers and publicans. To some degree each of these trades depend upon the activities of the Hunt Club as part of their income. Masters of Foxhounds or their appointed agents are solely responsible for conducting the day’s hunting and are bound by the strict rules and instructions of the Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association. Their authority and responsibility is absolute and their instructions must always be cheerfully obeyed. The field should remember that the hunt staff is accountable only to the Master on the day or his appointee. At no time should a member of the Field instruct or interfere with the job of either a Professional or Honorary member of the Hunt Staff in the hunting field, in kennels or in the hunt country. Prior to each hunting day the farmers or landowners within the area to be hunted will be notified. Such canvassing ensures the minimum of disruption to farm livestock or the normal activities on a farm.
The Duties of the Field
Because the hunt meets by arrangement and is recognisable and therefore accountable, mounted followers enjoy access to large areas of countryside denied to other people. When following hounds mounted, you must:
(a) Conform to local standards of behaviour. Make yourself familiar with whatever local conventions or traditions need to be observed by hunt followers.
(b) Have a brush and shovel in your horsebox to tidy up any dung or straw when unboxing.
(c) Ensure that your personal turnout is neat, clean and safe and that your tack and horse are clean and presentable.
(d) Have your subscription paid before you go hunting. “Cap” must also be paid on each hunting day. Have the correct “cap” ready for the Hunt Secretary.
(e) Ensure that you are not causing an obstruction to roads, gateways or public amenity areas. When parking your horsebox, ensure that you have permission to park there. Be sensitive to the fact that not everyone enjoys the presence of a hunt nor the evidence it may leave behind.
(f) It is important to be punctual at the meet. If you are late, under no circumstances try and follow hounds across country and join the hunt on the road at the next available opportunity.
(g) Make a sincere attempt not to cause damage to farm boundaries or hunt fences. If you break a fence or cause or notice damage of any kind, report it immediately to the Master on the day or the Hunt repair crew.
(h) Leave gates the way you find them. If in doubt close any and all gates behind you. If there is any doubt contact the farmer or farm manager to find out the correct disposition.
(i) Go slowly through or around livestock to prevent disturbing them. Never cross a planted field. Go around the headland.
(j) Above all, obey the Master and the Field Master.
(k) Keep QUIET when hounds are drawing a covert or hunting. Learn to watch and listen so that you can understand what is going on.
(l) Exercise due care and courtesy to all road users. When on the road keep to the left and do not hold up traffic.
(m) Always turn your horse’s head towards hounds and in this way your horse is less likely to kick one!
The Duties of Car Followers
Car followers are welcome but they must also obey the rules.
(a) Do not interrupt the flow of traffic. Courtesy must be shown to every road user and pedestrian.
(b) Do not obstruct gateways or driveways or enter into private residences, farmland or open country unless you are sure that proper permission has been obtained.
(c) Be careful not to obstruct a farm gateway where the hounds or field might emerge onto a road.
(d) Avoid turning at the driveway into a private residence.
(e) Keep together as much as possible and try to avoid heading the fox or getting between hounds and their line.
(f) Exercise due care and courtesy to all other road users. Do not double park or hold up traffic.
(g) If hounds or horses are nearby, stop in a safe, legal place and SWITCH OFF your engine, exhaust fumes mask scent and irritate hounds’ noses.
(h) Please do all you can to help the hunt. When you leave your vehicle, follow the code for foot followers.
Many people use the countryside, some of which have no interest in hunting. We must make every effort not to offend these people in any way. Common courtesy, in the form of a simple ‘please’, ‘thank you,’ or ‘smile’ costs nothing. Politeness and a pleasant manner will go far to ensure the future of foxhunting. Finally but most importantly, please remember at all times that foxhunting depends upon the goodwill and generosity of farmers and landowners. To be invited onto their land is a great privilege and we must never do anything to abuse this great privilege.