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Hunt Organization

A hunt can be organized in several different ways. It may be a private pack owned and supported by an individual, or it can be a subscription pack where members pay a fee to hunt and the hounds are owned by a club or a hunt committee. In the later case, the hunt committee appoints a Master or Masters. The majority of American hunts are subscription or membership packs. Their organization is similar to many golf clubs. One pays a fee to be a member and hunt. This money is used to feed and care for hounds and for hunt associated expenses. The season for foxhunting is from when the crops are harvested in the fall until the spring when they are planted. Since no one knows where a wild fox may take them, large areas of land are required to have a successful hunt.

Running Hounds Photo by Jim Meads The members either elect a Master or elect a hunt committee which then appoints the Master. Masters serve for designated periods and are responsible to the members or hunt committee. It is the Master who is responsible for the days sport and he makes the decisions. The proper care and handling of hounds is his or her responsibility. He or she makes every effort to maintain a cordial relationship with the owners over whose lands the hunt rides. He supervises the hound breeding program, schedules the hunt meet locations and appoints the hunt staff who work for him or her. If he or she does not hunt the hounds, he or she appoints a huntsman who is sometimes a professional. Most hunts have more than one Master.

The Joint Masters share responsibilities. If a Master doesn't lead the field, he or she appoints a Field Master who is responsible for the riders who follow the Field Master. The Field Master's job is to keep the field of riders close enough to enjoy watching the hounds yet not so close as to interfere with the huntsman hunting his or her hounds.

Whippers-in assist the huntsman in hunting the hounds. They are an extension of the huntsman, usually far out on the flanks, and are used to help assure that the hounds do the huntsman's bidding. They act as safety valves to prevent hounds from running onto roads or land not open to hunting and they assist the huntsman with a myriad of tasks related to the hunt. Other help is often needed in the hunting field. A designated person is responsible for closing gates and someone else supervises juniors and hilltoppers (those individuals who follow more slowly in the rear). Some hilltoppers follow in cars along roads. Lastly, there is the hunt secretary who collects capping fees (non-member riders that are guests of members who are out for a day's hunting pay a small fee to ride with the hunt). The secretary takes care of the many administrative requirements of the hunt such as checking to see that horses have current Coggins tests.

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