Apparently I am a half-whip now, that according to one of our Masters. (I thought he said half whit at first) so while I am being trained and loving it I need to "get up to speed and learn fast", seem to be the first two job requirements. If there are any experienced whips who are willing to share some tips I would greatly appreciate it.
Talk early and often with your huntsman- you need to 'do things' the way the huntsman wants them done! I needed to be able to tell the huntsman which hounds were on top on a run, how many, etc, needed to know to go back and send hounds forward, needed to be psychic because just because the huntsman says 'I'm going to hunt north, then east' doesn't mean huntsman won't change mind and go 'north, then west.'
You need to know the country like the back of your hand for several reasons. First is not getting lost. You also need to know which land you should NOT cross (either permanently or that day), need to be ready to stop whipping in at any point if you encounter a landowner who needs your help, need to know when to stop hounds (rioting) or stay with them til the huntsman gets there, need to go with a split if huntsman stays with the main pack, and get that split stopped and back to huntsman. Lots of things.
And you need a thick hide, it's not a question of IF you'll mess up, just WHEN. As you gain knowledge and experience, you don't necessarily mess up less, you just perceive more quickly that you have messed up! And of course, when you DO mess up, the entire universe will know it instantly, but when you do the dozens of 'little things' right that make or break the day of sport, no one will know except you and sometimes the huntsman. But, of course, that's why you're out there, to do your part in providing good sport, and that is IMMENSELY fun and rewarding!
Your whole purpose is to make the huntsman's job easier and make him/her look good and provide good sport. Ask lots of questions at an appropriate time. Read Foster and discuss with other staff. Go out with a foot pack some if you can ( great way to learn about staff work). Respect more experienced staff, watch and learn from them. Learn the hounds, the country, and the compass directions. Try to get a more experienced staff member or the huntsman to go over the day's action with you at the end of the day. Learn the game trails. And never quit learning. I've been at it over 15 years and am still learning every single hunt.
I agree with much already stated.
Knowing the territories thoroughly and where you are not allowed is very important. You will be responsible to keep those hounds within those parameters as well. Knowing each hound as an individual is key. They need to know/trust you and recognize your voice. You may be called upon to lead one lost hound a very long distance back to the kennel truck or encourage them forward to the huntsman. Remember it's a lot about gut feeling and common sense.
You will want to read and re-read Dennis Foster's book Whipping-in.
I often find myself glued to my fellow whips and huntsman at the hunt breakfast reviewing the day. Sometimes I leave last and realize I didn't eat anything because I was so absorbed in reviewing the day's hunt. It's important to bounce things off one another so we continue to learn and improve.
Always carry vet wrap, baling twine, and wire cutters. Never forget to wear a watch and your belt. It's amazing the things you can do with a length of baling twine.
Trust your horse and let him do some of the talking. A good whip horse can stop a hound more efficiently than his screaming whip cracking passenger.
Plan to arrive early and leave late. Never make plans for after the hunt because the day you think you can make the dentist by 2pm is the day you'll be out until dark rounding up hounds. It comes with the job so you are not allowed to complain about it!
It's a wonderful priviledge but it also carries a great deal of responsibility. You will be the one protecting hounds from roads and other hazards.
Many wonderful moments and eyewitness accounts are in your future...so enjoy!
Get a copy of Col. Dennis Foster's book "Whipper In' and wear the hide off of it.
It's a great book, he may not always agree with your huntsman (who's word is final) and there may be some procedural differences,but it's a great book.
Get to know the hounds. Well. Know their names, also get to know their personalities. If you rate the wrong hound in the field you can totally shut down the whole day. Some hounds are hardheaded and you need to be more emphatic, others again if you are too harsh or too quick on them will shut down. You also need to know the sneaky ones who like to go larking.
Learn to think ahead of the hounds if you need to. There may be a road or a railroad track or a landowner who doesn't want you on his land coming up ahead of you. Be prepared to get up ahead of them and turn them.
And yes, you will get screamed at sometimes. It comes with the territory. Some huntsman are more diplomatic than others, there will be times when you don't deserve it and get reamed in front of everyone, and there will be times when you do but no one saw so you don't. It all comes out in the wash.
But as other said, STAY WITH THEM. If you know where they are you don't have to go looking for them later (and are less likely to encounter the wrath).
Your job is to be the "bad guy" and to make the huntsman the place they want to be, and their job what they want to be doing. Your most important job is the safety and well being of the hounds.
As my huntsman once said, "They aren't deaf". You really shouldn't be yelling and screaming and whip popping every five minutes. (again, some hounds are hard headed and you gotta do what you gotta do, but be a minimalist when you can). Too much of all that loses it's effect, and looks like crap. Most professional whips seem as though they never make a sound. they speak quietly to the hound. If it's across the field from you you don't need to be talking to it anyway. Your horse has feet, either get over there or let another whip handle it.
And the hounds will watch your eyes to see if you are watching and then try to sneak off if they can, so you have to always be paying attention.
"Perhaps the final test of anybody's love of dogs is their willingness to permit them to make a camping ground of the bed" -Henry T. Merwin
I am thrilled with all the tips, THANK YOU! Sometimes I think I am in way over my head but then the adrenalin kicks in and I'm off galloping down the RR bed or road and flying over the jumps with the hounds (bless my horse's heart) and I don't worry about it until later. Last time out I was sent on alone with them as hunstman remounted and the fox bolted, hounds followed so I get the STAY WITH THEM. I will check back for any other helpful posts.
There have been some great tips posted already but I just wanted to add a couple of my thoughts. #1 on my list is Know The Hounds really well - so you can treat each one as needed (i.e. know which ones you can/must yell at and or use the whip to get their attention, vs. those that need a gentle voice); #2 Listen to your horse as other posters have said (my old whip horse was not fast but she was smart and ALWAYS knew where the hounds were); #3 be prepared for ups and downs - some days you will be right where you need to be and on top of your game; other days nothing will go right and you'll feel left out of it - that just happens. I still think it's the best job in the hunt. Best of luck!
What a great read! I hope I never top that day! Though I did earn the slippery saddle award last season. In my defense I was trying to convert a show jumper into a field hunter and couldn't quite stick the turns before and after fences. Thankfully, he is making a very capable whip horse now and our synchronization has improved drastically.