Riders have been participating in the sport of fox hunting for hundreds of years. Fox hunting has always been a social event with particular rules of etiquette, behavior, and dress. For beginners, the rules of fox hunting can seem a bit daunting, but we think that’s part of the fun. In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about fox hunting attire and etiquette to get you ready for your first event.

What is Fox Hunting?

Fox hunting is a lively equestrian sport that’s steeped in tradition. During fox hunting events, a horse and rider follow a hound as it tracks a real or artificial scent through various rough terrain. Traditionally, fox hunting parties would indeed track and kill an actual fox during these events, though nowadays, the hounds are either called off once the pack catches up with the fox or a dummy fox is used instead of a live one.  Fox hunting events are typically held in the fall through the spring, from the end of September until March. Since fox hunting is typically a more intensive sport, riders and horses are both expected to be experienced and in decent shape. Like all equestrian disciplines, fox hunting follows strict guidelines when it comes to rules as well as attire. 

Standard Fox Hunting Attire

Riders are expected to adhere to a specific dress code, even for informal or beginner fox hunting events. Though individual clubs may have their own dress requirements for fox hunting events, these are the most common requirements for fox hunting attire.

Breeches

Light-colored breeches, like white or tan, are typical for fox hunting events. Breeches should have a generous stretch and athletic fit for maximum comfort in the saddle. Depending on the intensity of the terrain, you’ll want to choose either knee-patch or full-seat breeches.

Show Shirt

A white or light-colored show shirt with a collar is traditional for fox hunting events. The shirt should fit snugly and have an athletic stretch since it’ll be worn under a vest and coat. Learn more: Equestrian Show Shirts: Size, Fit, and Style Guide

Vest

A vest is optional for informal fox hunting events, although it is traditional to wear one, especially during colder months. Vests can be canary yellow, tattersall, or plaid. Vests should be well-fitted since they’ll be worn underneath your hunting coat.

Stock Tie

For informal events, white or solid-color stock ties are acceptable, as are plaid or patterned, fastened with a horizontal stock pin. White is by far the most traditional color for stock ties during fox hunting events. 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.

Learn more: How to Tie a Stock Tie

Hunting Coat

A hunting coat is required for fox hunting events and is usually much appreciated since the hunts are held in winter. For beginners, a tweed hunting coat is common, though black and navy are perfectly acceptable as well. Fox hunting coats are made from thicker wool, this adds a layer of protection from branches while in the field.

Learn more: How to Buy Equestrian Show Coats: Size, Fit, and Stye Guide

Riding Helmet

ASTM-approved riding helmets are always encouraged when engaging in any equestrian discipline, but they are required when competing in sanctioned fox hunting events. Black or brown helmets are acceptable during informal events. If you have long hair, it should be tied in a bun or held back in a hair net under the helmet. 

Riding Boots

Riders should wear tall field or dress riding boots over their breeches. The boots should always have a distinguishable heel, as all good riding boots should. Black or brown are standard for fox hunting events.

Formal Fox Hunting Attire

Though they follow similar rules, formal fox hunting events have even stricter dress codes than informal and beginner events. Once you’ve gained some experience and received an invitation to a formal fox hunt, these are the clothing guidelines you should adhere to.

Breeches

Beige, tan, canary, or rust-colored breeches are customary for formal fox hunting events. Hunt masters or hunt members who have received their colors may wear white breeches with their scarlet or pinque coats. 

Show Shirt

During formal fox hunting events, shirts should be white or canary yellow. Again, make sure your shirt fits snugly and has an athletic fit so you can ride comfortably.

Vest

As with informal events, riders can wear vests during formal fox hunting events though they’re considered optional if the weather is warm. Vests should be canary yellow, plaid, or tattersall. 

Stock Tie

Stock ties should be white and held with a horizontal tie pin. Many riders also pin the ends of their ties to the inside of their hunting coat to prevent them from flying loosely around.

Hunting Coat

Black hunting coats should be worn during formal hunts, though navy is also common. Some clubs may also specify other colors, though redcoats are reserved only for hunt masters or staff.

Riding Helmet

ASTM riding helmets or hunt caps should be black during formal fox hunting events. Hunt masters and officials traditionally wear black velvet hunt caps, though some clubs may allow all riders to wear them.

Riding Boots

During formal fox hunting events, riders should wear tall riding boots in black unless they’ve been awarded their hunt colors. 

What is the Significance of a Red Coat in Fox Hunting?

Though clearly a vibrant red, the coats of hunt masters, officials, and staff members are called pinques or hunt liveries. They seem to have been inspired by the British military, as most equestrian attire has. These red coats signify distinguished, experienced riders and indicate that they have the right-of-way on a hunt. Riders should only wear red when they’ve been granted the right to do so by an official, and even then only with discretion.

Fox Hunting Etiquette

Along with a strict dress code, the sport of fox hunting also has a particular etiquette style. Here are some of the most important rules of etiquette during a fox hunt.

  1. Keep noise to a minimum. The hounds need to focus on the scent, so you don’t want to distract them. Sound can also alert foxes that you’re in the area, so it’s best to keep it down.
  2. Use fox hunting lingo. Since the sport has been around for hundreds of years, it has an established vocabulary. Brush up on terms like “cubbing,” “capping fee,” “quarry,” and “tally-ho” before heading out on your hunt.
  3. Never pass the hunt master. You’re supposed to give deference to the hunt master, so passing them while on the hunt is considered improper.
  4. Staff members, officials, and hounds have the right of way. Since these are the ones leading the hunt, you should always concede the right-of-way to staff members and hounds.
  5. Warn the rider behind you of potential hazards. Fox hunts can be fast-paced and intense, especially over rough terrain. Be considerate of your fellow riders and warn them of any hazards in the path.
  6. Don’t let your horse kick a hound. Fox hunts wouldn’t be possible without the fox hounds. Make sure your horse is calm around the hounds so they don’t kick and injur them during the hunt.
  7. Junior riders always get the gate for the rest of the party. This one is more of a tradition than a rule, though many clubs still adhere to this one.
  8. You owe the hunt master a bottle of wine if you fall off your horse. Again, another fun tradition instead of a strict rule. Some clubs may joke about this one but not actually enforce it.

Tally-ho!

Fox hunting is a wonderful equestrian sport full of tradition. But that doesn’t mean it should be gate-kept! At R.J. Classics, we’re passionate about providing young and aspiring equestrians with high-quality riding attire to help them look and ride their best, no matter their background or experience level. If this resonates with you, browse through our product offerings to find the perfect fox hunting attire today.   You might also like: