Rules of the Road


These guidelines for conduct in the field provide quick reference to basic foxhunting etiquette.  The intended spirit behind them is to promote high quality sport; to help ensure each hunting day proceeds as smoothly as possible; and also to promote the goodwill of landowners and the public, who inevitably encounter our pack of hounds each hunting day.  Promoting this support builds a firm foundation for foxhunting in our community.  Many excellent books fully address the sport of foxhunting and can promote an advanced appreciation and enjoyment of our sport.  Suggested reading lists can be attained by contacting the masters.

Before you arrive at the Meet:

  • Make sure you’re neatly and correctly turned out, with a clean horse and tack.
  • Stay on the road when hacking to meets, so as not to disturb the day’s draw. 
  • Wear gloves (string gloves for wet weather).
  • Consider using a stronger bit on your horse, and perhaps a martingale. 
  • Horses that kick must have a red ribbon in their tails and must be kept at the back of the field. 

The Meet:

  • If trailering/vanning to the meet, do not park within 200 feet of any crossroad, or on driveway edges, or in locations which might cause inconvenience or create safety hazards.  All vehicles should park on the same side of the road to ensure adequate room for other vehicles using the road.  Do not drive on private roads or driveways unless specifically invited. 
  • Arrive early enough to be mounted and ready at the appointed time, and remember that hounds customarily move off promptly at the advertised hour.  Therefore, it is important to arrive in plenty of time to briefly greet the masters, hunt staff, members of the field, car followers, the public, and, especially, landowners. 
  • Well-turned-out horses and riders are a compliment to and show respect for landowners of the hunting country. 
  • Please be alert to the Masters’/Field Master’s instructions given at the meet and throughout the day.  

Riding in the Field:

  • At all times, stay behind the Field Master and together as a Field to avoid distracting hounds or turning a fox.  
  • Stay quiet!  It’s important for the huntsman and staff, as they are listening for hounds. It’s also important for the Field Master, as he/she is listening for where hounds and the Huntsman are, and polite to those who are interested in watching hounds work.
  • Keep a safe distance behind the horse in front of you, but keep the field “closed up”.  Stragglers can often interfere with the work of hounds and/or staff.
  • If your horse refuses a fence, let the Field pass before attempting to jump again. 
  • Always give hounds and the Huntsman, and the Masters and staff the right of way, making sure your horse is facing them.
  • Stay in the back of the Field if your horse is being unruly, or if you’re feeling uncertain about your ability to keep up.
  • Do not disturb or excite horses, cows, or sheep, or other livestock turned out in fields.  If necessary, be prepared to pass livestock at a walk and possibly to stay out of sight to avoid exciting them. 
  • Stay off all lawns and crops, close all gates, fix all downed rails and report any damage or other problems to the nearest staff member (e.g., the Masters, Field Master, Honorary Secretary, Huntsman, or Whippers-in), as soon as possible. 
  • When motor vehicles approach hounds/horses on a public road, if possible, use a gentle hand signal to indicate to the driver to come through slowly, remembering always to thank them as they pass.
  • Avoid smoking on dry days and anytime hounds are running. 
  • Keep cell phones turned off, except in an emergency.  If there is an emergency in the hunting field, Jim Gordon, our road whipper-in, can be reached at 908 337-2546. 
  • Should you not be able to finish a day’s hunting, please let someone know you are leaving for the day. 
  • If possible, stay on the road when leaving early, and make every effort to avoid crossing (and disturbing) the day’s draw.
  • Organizing and carrying out each day’s hunting can be a formidable task.  Finding an opportunity to express the traditional “thank you” to Masters, Field Master, Huntsman and Whippers-in as well as car followers at the end of the day’s hunting is therefore both appropriate and most appreciated.
  • Please remember that permission to cross the countryside is extended by landowners only on hunting days.  All other access to private land is by individual permission only.
  • Whether hunting, boxing/unboxing, hacking to the meet, or returning home, you are viewed by the public as an ambassador for the Essex Fox Hounds.  Therefore, be generous greeting, thanking, apologizing, or complimenting, as appropriate, everyone with whom you come in contact.
  • Hunt with caution and have fun!


  • Guests of subscribing members and sustaining members should inform the Honorary Secretary, Constance Silverman (908) 337-0665 the night before the meet.  
  • All other visitors should call one of the Joint Masters, Jazz Merton (908)268-9087 or Karen Murphy (908) 727-0222 in advance, as well as inform the Honorary Secretary the night before the meet.  
  • Please present capping fees to the Honorary Secretary or a Master at the meet prior to the hounds moving off.  
  • Sustaining members, visitors, and guests are limited to capping four times per season.


The following brief guidelines for hunting attire provide quick reference to widely- accepted hunting attire.  For a more thorough description and understanding of traditional hunting attire, please refer to Mr. William P. Wadsworth’s pamphlet, RIDING TO HOUNDS IN AMERICA, AN INTRODUCTION FOR FOXHUNTERS.

Following the guidelines below will insure that you are acceptably dressed not only in our home country, but also when visiting other packs of hounds.  Prior to investing in hunting clothes, inquiries regarding attire are welcomed and can be addressed to experienced Field members as well as to the Masters.  

The following guidelines only address basic hunting attire; those aspiring to sartorial splendor may seek further guidance through the masters for additional information on, for example, “shadbelly” coats and side-saddle habits, and variations of the hunting waistcoat.

In General:  Hunting clothing is neat, tidy and workmanlike.  In keeping with long-held foxhunting tradition, well-aged hunting attire, including skillfully performed repairs and patches to tack, boots, and hunting clothing, is encouraged.  Similarly, clean, supple tack reflects due regard to the importance of strong, safe equipment; it further reflects good care and appropriate respect for fine craftsmanship—hallmarks of foxhunting tradition.

Ratcatcher: Early Morning Hunting Attire

Headgear:  Only Masters, ex-Masters and Hunt Staff are permitted to wear hunting caps.  ASTM/GPA approved helmets without decoration are recommended.  Hat covers should always be black. Plastic rain covers on hats are not permitted.  Traditional bowler hats are also permitted.  Ladies’ long hair should be secured in a hairnet.

Coats:  Men and Women: tweed, cotton, or linen hacking jacket.  Green coats with “Essex Orange” collar are for Masters and Hunt Staff only.

Neckwear:  Ties, “women’s ratcatcher shirt” or turtle necks.  Colored stock ties secured with a plain stock pin are also acceptable prior to opening meet.

Gloves:  Gloves are optional--string gloves perform best in wet conditions.  In cold weather, practicality governs.

Breeches:  Beige, brown, tan or rust.

Boots:  Black or Brown field boots, or black dress boots.  Men serving as staff members may also wear black boots with brown tops if serving as staff.  Leggings, though not half chaps, are permitted.

Formal Hunting Attire

Headgear:  As with Early Morning Hunting, ASTM/GPA approved hats are recommended for men, women and children.  Only Masters, ex-Masters and Hunt Staff are permitted to wear hunting caps.  Hat covers should always be black.  Top hats (for gentleman wearing scarlet); and bowlers (for ladies wearing black or navy blue coats and gentlemen wearing black coats) are traditionally permitted.  Hunting staff (masters, field masters, huntsman and whippers-in) may wear the ribbons at the back of their hats in the down position.

Buttons:  In general, the awarding of the “hunt’s buttons” is an honor bestowed on enthusiasts that have hunted regularly for a minimum of two seasons, learned the hunting country, and developed an understanding of the art of venery.  EFH engraved buttons, once awarded, are worn by women on their black/navy coats; and by men on their scarlet/black coats.  The awarding of buttons also invites the subscriber to wear the distinctive Essex Orange, velvet collar on their coat, as described below.

Coats:  Black or navy blue for women.  Black or scarlet for men (scarlet only for those awarded their EFH Buttons).  If awarded EFH buttons, the Essex orange velvet collar is worn on men’s scarlet coats and on women’s black/navy coats.  Men wearing black coats do not wear a colored collar. Masters’ coats have four front buttons, subscribers, three; huntsmen and whippers-in, five. 

[NOTES:  1. When hunting as a visitor, a plain, black coat is correct unless specifically invited to wear your home hunt’s buttons, colors, scarlet – for example, at a  joint meet;  2. Huntsman/Masters’ coats are cut differently (square corners at front of skirt) than member coats (slightly rounded corners at front of skirt), so if buying a used coat be sure to purchase the correct cut of coat.]

Neckwear:  A white or ivory stock is appropriate.  It should be tied as flat as possible and secured with a plain, horizontally fastened stock pin.

Gloves:  Optional-- string gloves perform best in wet conditions.  In cold weather, practicality governs.

Breeches:  Ladies:  beige, or brown britches with a black or navy coat.  Canary britches can also be worn with a navy coat.  Men:  white/ivory with a scarlet coat; beige, brown, or rust with a black coat.

Boots:  Black dress boots are correct for both men and women.  Men may wear brown tops with a scarlet coat, and either black dress boats or black boots with brown tops with a black coat.

Attire for Junior Riders

Because of the impracticality and cost of maintaining well-fitting hunting attire for growing children, many hunts, including the Essex, follow the tradition of allowing juniors to wear traditional Ratcatcher, or “informal” attire throughout the hunting year for children.  Therefore, after the Opening Meet, both boys and girls under the age of 18 may continue to wear tweed coats in muted colors; either jodhpurs and jodhpur boots (with knee garters); or boots and britches; and, for neck wear, either a necktie, turtle neck, or stock tie fastened with a plain horizontal stock pin.

Attire For Your Horse

Tack for your horse should be as workmanlike and as simple as possible.  Ideally, when you purchase hunting tack, your hunting bridle should be made of “flat” leather, avoiding fancy stitching and raised brow- and nose-bands.  

Also, under the theme of "workmanlike”, hunting tack (bridle, breast plates, stirrup leathers) is “heavy duty” and wider than tack commonly used in the show ring.  Ideally, the bridle and reins are sewn to the bit or, equally acceptable, secured with a stud attachment (i.e., not with buckles).  

Saddle pads should be either white or of a dark color, always avoiding brightly-colored saddle pads.  Saddle-shaped saddle pads are preferred to square pads, which are discouraged. 

For safety, horses are not hunted in exercise bandages; however, galloping boots and bell boots are acceptable if your horse requires them.  

The tails of horses that kick should have as a warning to others a small, red ribbon attached; similarly, some people attach a green ribbon to the tails of “green” horses.