I came home recently to find several AVH’ers sitting around the fireplace, clearly some form of meeting in progress, which I wasn’t invited to. Masters Stephen and Joanne had got our Whips and staff together along with Mr. Farin to chat about things that well, Whips chat about. But it did make me think how lucky we are at Amwell to have volunteers who do their best to make as many meets as possible, put their horses through quite a bit more than ours have to do in the field, and have to know not only the countryside inside out, the landowners, and what still seems impossible to me, the task of learning the names and characters of each of our hounds.
In the UK most hunts have territories that are larger, or more open with less roads so they only have the need for one or maybe two Whips, which are usually employed by their hunt. Their horses, usually two, are donated and their hunt attire provided. Of course when you have full membership of 150 or more and double that number with supporters, have up to 20 capers at a meet and ride out three times a week you can afford to do this. On the down side the whips are not always treated the best, even the term “Hunt Servant” smacks of life downstairs in Downton Abbey to me.
So at Amwell, like most places here in the US we rely on our trusty band of volunteer Whips. Are they less professional or knowledgeable? - God no! But it does take some special skills to do this well, and of course no whips no Fox Hunting for any of us.
One of the things the Whips have to learn is their own language to communicate with our hounds, and the hounds respect their command. That’s why we in the field have to make less noise, and never try to help out with words of encouragement to the straggler in the pack. So if you like me have listened to some of our seasoned pros and wondered what on earth they are saying, here is a brief guide that Lisa and her father put together.
GET ON TO HIM – Hustling tail hounds along.
GET OVER – Pushing hounds over that are drifting to one side.
GET BACK TO HIM – usually in the field when the huntsman is collecting hounds.
It must be remembered though that no member of the fields should ever talk to a hound when hunting, but it is nice to know what they are talking about, more sayings to follow.
So on behalf of everyone lets hear it for our Whips! Well done Lisa, Ralph, Richard, Lauren and Charlie, and thank you to Brooke, Mary Pat and Wendy for being ready to jump in when needed. Cheryl B.