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Advice for a New Field Master?

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    Advice for a New Field Master?

    For reasons entirely unclear to me, our masters have decided that I am competent enough to lead 3rd field this coming season.

    I do know our territory pretty well (though I'll admit to being confused when masters/staff call the same hill different things!) and I have a great, tolerant, and brave mare who is up for the job but I'm considering filling my flask with Pepto because I have a life-long history of over-estimating the ability of people I am riding with and figuring that if I can do it, so can they.

    How do I bring them all home alive??

    #2
    Have the courage to send in the ones you think might die !
    Develop a steely and withering stare. Say little, but when you do - make it count.

    Some guy called Maurice Flanagan borrowed this from Shakespeare;

    "Some are born leaders, some achieve leadership, and some have leadership thrust upon them. Which of these are you, or would you rather not bother?"

    ... _. ._ .._. .._

    Comment


      #3
      My advice to you is to have a good long chat with the present field master about what they do and their experiences.
      "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." -- George Bernard Shaw

      Comment


        #4
        It can be hard to have eyes in the back of your head, so I'd ask a couple of 3rd flight regulars to help be your eyes and let you know when things are beginning to go sideways.

        At the beginning of each meet ask what the field is comfortable doing, Walk only? trotting OK? maybe a short canter to test the water? Jumping logs? This will help you to know how slow and careful you will need to be.

        Good Luck

        Comment


          #5
          Please, please, please look behind you. When I rode in the fields, I was usually training horses and rode in the back. Two of the field masters just got on and rode, and never once looked back (unless the field yelled that someone had fallen off, for example). They'd both creep through bad footing and then take off once they got to good ground, so the back half of the field had to cross the same bad ground on horses who were hysterical over being left behind. I also had one hunt in front of a guest who was behaving very, very badly (should have been excused from ever hunting again) and could not get the FM's attention without literally shouting at the top of my lungs (I didn't).

          As staff, the two things I deeply appreciate are FMs who can (and will!) get their fields to make way, and who keep them from loud chit-chat.

          Comment


            #6
            Some great advice already regarding keeping the field together. Keep in mind that you are out there for the field, not for you. The goal is to show people good sport and to educate when possible. I'll disagree with the "say little" advice. Most people riding third flight don't know much about hunting. It is always a good idea to explain what is going on. Why the field is positioned where it is. Give them things to look for so they don't miss the action, etc.
            A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

            Comment


              #7
              It's a great idea to talk to your field and help them learn/be engaged in what it going on. That said, I'd encourage you to huddle with them beforehand (great advice to see what that day's group is comfortable doing!) and then follow up after the hunt as much as possible, as opposed to trying to play tour guide during the hunt. Basic hand signals work well, too.

              I'm saying this for a few reasons. One is that people get distracted quickly once their horse starts moving, so you're really not going to have their attention during the hunt. More importantly, it's difficult to impossible to talk to a group of people on horseback--even clustered together--without speaking pretty loudly and not paying attention to what is going on around you.

              Voices carry amazingly long distances. If I can hear every word the field master is saying from across the valley, every fox and coyote in that part of the country can hear them, too. (When I brought it up privately, the FM thought they were being very quiet and unobtrusive...until I repeated their conversation back and told them where I was at the time.) And it's flat-out dangerous to have a group of riders sitting around talking in the middle of a hunt fixture. If the riders aren't paying attention, the horses probably aren't, either. I've seen more than one unobservant hilltopper go flying when a speeding horse, hound, or flushed animal "sneaks up" on their horse, and the carnage can be significant when the entire group is caught napping.

              Comment


                #8
                I lead our third field when the regular field Master is not out hunting. I follow her protocol.
                1. No chatter when the hounds are hunting.
                2. Go only as fast as the weakest rider/horse combo can handle. This presumes the field is at least somewhat prepared. Some days we will be right behind second field but not jumping. Other days we will truly ride the hilltop at a walk/strong trot viewing the action from a distance.
                3. Have a trusted & knowledgeable member ride sweep at the back of the field so they can be the eyes in the back of your head. Lots and lots of issues can be nipped in the bud if the sweep rider makes you aware of a need.
                4. Stay out of the Huntsman way.
                5. When appropriate and if needed, share what is unfolding in front of you to newbies.
                6. Before you head out remind the field to keep a SAFE distance between horses. If they need to make a small circle, where there is room, to settle an angst horse then remind them that is okay.
                7. Remind them that this if for fun, not a competition and we won't judge you unless you ride up another horse's butt and then we will come down hard on you. :
                8. Remind them that you move over for staff with the order "Ware staff". DItto hazards on the trail "Ware hole" and point.

                Comment


                  #9
                  All flights at my hunt club have a solid rider. generally a long time member, who knows the country well ride at the back. He/she can help a fallen rider, take someone in who is unable to continue, and make sure the FM is aware of any problems. Other than that, make sure you have fun --I lasted 5 years as FM then burned out --the responsibility of the field, lovely people though they were, and the requirement to be at every hunt took too much of the fun out of hunting. I quit for 10 years or so and did some showing, then joined another hunt where I am now, quite content just to be a good member. I did like whipping in when I was younger --but no longer want to be any kind of staff.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Not everybody in third flight is inexperienced. But that doesn't mean you need to take directions from everyone. Wink.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I echo what SLW and others have said.
                      I've led our third field since its inception about 10 years ago. As stated above, first and second field riders must ride to the level of the leader; third field the leader lowers to the least level of competency. If the only safe way to cross the country is at a walk, then you walk. We cover more ground and see infinitely more (infinitely) than anyone else besides the huntsman.

                      * Be conspiratorial with your riders - they love that stuff - when we're standing in a quiet cluster on a hilltop and get to see the fox, the hounds, hte work, the staff and, at long last, the huffing and puffing first and second fields pound up to us, I whisper to everyone "don't gloat" and they just lap it up. We have sooooo much fun - and so will you.
                      * Here's my biggest advice - DO NOT RELY ON TECHNOLOGY. We don't use radios (we hunt strictly red foxes), so all staff must rely on spidey sense -- develop this. It's a little scary the first few times, but learn how your game runs (and you will, if you don't talk on the damned radio). It's a little like using/not-using friggin' GPS to navigate what used to be a simply stated "take your 2nd left past the country store into the stone pillars." People are so friggin' reliant on tech.
                      IT TURNS YOUR BRAIN INTO COOKED OATMEAL. Use your brain, your knowledge, and your 6th sense. Most times you'll be dead right.
                      * I do occasionally text another pro in first or second field to confirm a compass direction if we're left fully left out (happens 1 time out of 20) but, remember, game (all game) runs a circle - smaller for a fox, bigger for a coyote - and they'll come back to you. Pay attention to the wind direction (stay downwind when possible when moving around,) and scenting (tighter circle if better conditions) and the lay of the land (game trails, courses along stream banks, etc.)
                      * Sit up high if possible, well off your coverts and likely game trails to allow game to choose their route rather than risking turning them.
                      * Remember, your field will worship you. It is soooo much fun. Y, but you are taking on a huge responsibility -- treat field members, even new ones/noisy ones/cranky ones/scared ones, like they're part of the greatest secret. They'll love it - everyone likes to feel 'part of the gang' - develop your own fun language ('don't gloat') that will make them feel like they have it all over first and second field.
                      Which, in fact, you do.
                      * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.

                      Comment

                        Original Poster

                        #12
                        Thank you, everyone! My first outing as a FM will be this Thursday, so I'll be sure to report back.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          IMO a good field master knows the country and educates informs the field about their position (we're in the Cabin Field, heading north) as well as the hounds and what they're doing (they're on a line moving west, so we're going to cut across this trail to stay up) and the quarry. They somewhat put on a show - especially if we have guests out. They should reinforce etiquette as necessary, but not be a stick in the mud either.

                          They should be attuned to what the field is experiencing and I agree that if the field is a large, someone should be planted at the back to keep an eye on things.

                          FM's should be bold, confident riders but it's not a total dictatorship either. We have one 1st FM who once missed a cut through, refused to turn around and go back (despite many tenured riders urging him to) and ran us around unnecessarily, throwing us completely off the hounds, and exhausting the horses because his ego wouldn't step aside for common sense. He's bold and confident and a consummate horseman though, just doesn't always collaborate with the field.

                          We have another 1st FM who doesn't know the country (and needs a member to help her), is a bit timid about some of the jumps, has no intuition about the hounds and then proceeds to give everyone a riding lesson "eyes up and heels down over the coop everyone" at every single jump. These coops are smaller than 3' and we can all ride circles around her. She's in the position because of politics and not ability. We don't remotely worship her as Hunter's Rest suggests.

                          Our 2nd FM is a freaking wildlife wizard. She knows the country intimately, has incredible intuition and instincts, and really can anticipate where the hounds will go. When I ride with her, I view every single time. We often joke that she can conjure up just about anything. Same for our 3rd FM. She's tenured and a pleasure to ride with. You always come away smarter for riding with those two. We all worship these two for sure.

                          Comment

                            Original Poster

                            #14
                            Well. I'd call my first time out as a field master a qualified success.

                            I had two goals:

                            1. Bring everyone back alive
                            2. DON'T FOUL THE LINE.

                            Both were accomplished.

                            I did get us lost(ish*) in a place that always baffles me because there are paths that look like trails, but then trickle out into mostly impassible woods. This place routinely confounded me when I was whipping--but at least as a whip I could just push through in the direction I needed to go and not worry about bringing the field along behind me.

                            And we did lose the huntsman and pack--but so did everyone else. We do hunt with radios because of the nature of our territory and there are known dead zones because of the terrain; I think she must have decided to pack up and re-cast in a new location while in one of those dead zones and it left us patiently waiting on the pipeline for about 15 minutes while she was briskly hacking to the new location.

                            I took Hunters Rest's advice about being conspiratorial and made sure to tell the field where we were and what my thinking was when I made decisions and I think it gave me some equity to leverage during the unfortunate wanderings in the deep woods...very much "this is my bad, but we're in it together!". I also made it a point to call things by the hunt names--pointing out locations as we passed or went through them. That's a personal beef of mine--folks have always been happy to tell me when I asked about them, but no one was ever willing to say "This is The Spinney" without prompting.

                            It was a mostly blank day, which I was actually grateful for, as it gave me breathing room.


                            * I say "ish" because I did know where we were in space and time and I could have gotten us to where I wanted to be, but it might have come at the expense of my first goal.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Wonderful update ecileh on your first time as Field Master, congrats! Not fouling the line is a big deal. Keeping riders on top depends on their skill.

                              We start hound exercises on horseback tomorrow. Fall hunting is 6 weeks away for us and if this darn drought doesn't let up hunting will be tough for the hounds.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                Originally posted by jawa View Post
                                It can be hard to have eyes in the back of your head, so I'd ask a couple of 3rd flight regulars to help be your eyes and let you know when things are beginning to go sideways.

                                At the beginning of each meet ask what the field is comfortable doing, Walk only? trotting OK? maybe a short canter to test the water? Jumping logs? This will help you to know how slow and careful you will need to be.

                                Good Luck
                                THIS!!! Be nice to the field members....this is supposed to be FUN!! Smile a lot. The field members are not your enemies!! It's only supposed to be a pleasant ride in the country....following hunts is a bonus!!
                                www.crosscreeksporthorses.com
                                Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by crosscreeksh View Post

                                  THIS!!! Be nice to the field members....this is supposed to be FUN!! Smile a lot. The field members are not your enemies!! It's only supposed to be a pleasant ride in the country....following hunts is a bonus!!
                                  Following, and hopefully progressing in knowledge and enjoyment of the hunt, is the purpose, not a "bonus". There are many other options for those who are only interested in a "pleasant ride in the country". If hunting is your only option for hacking out in company, you still need to learn what is what.

                                  It goes without saying that the field should be treated kindly, and not thought of as "enemies" however they are not on a trail ride, they are hunting, and hopefully interested in learning about the hunt, how to enjoy it, and how to keep from interfering with the sport that most people that hunt are there to enjoy.

                                  Good luck OP, I'm sure you'll rise to the occasion and teach them well.

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    I think everyone else has covered it. Here's what I DON'T mind when I am back in third field: I really don't care if we get lost--lost-ish or fully lost. We'll figure it out and find the other fields and get home, it's all part of the adventure and the sport. I don't care if we sometimes go too slow because we are waiting on an older or less fit horse/rider. In fact, I love it if everyone has a patient moment after crossing a trappy spot to make sure everyone is ok so we don't teach my green horse that we always bolt off after we cross something trappy, or so I'm not left behind taking care of a struggling horse/rider by myself. I love it when the field master sets a group dynamic where we are all watching out for each other. It is totally possible to enjoy the sport while also watching out for your fellow riders.

                                    Here's what I don't like: I don't like traveling at speeds that cause a "crack the whip" effect or put people awkwardly in between walk/trot or trot/canter. I prefer a master that travels at a steady, moderate pace. I hate it when the field master zips off after crossing a trappy spot, encouraging everyone else to do the same, and causing the people at the back to struggle with horses that think they are being left behind.

                                    OK, and my least favorite thing--deliberately riding through nasty thickets, or crossing through barely passable trappy spots in order to shave off a few minutes in getting where we are going. I'd MUCH rather take a nice trot around the pleasant, surefire path around the edge of a field. It's one thing to accidentally lose a trail as you go and need to do a little trailblazing on occasion, quite another to deliberately choose to drag your field into a dense thicket, quagmire or prickerpatch. Just NO. These "shortcuts" are a poor economy and I've seen horses get tangled in hidden wire, horses fall into holes, riders get knocked off by trees, horses get cut by hidden garbage, etc. Even a few pointlessly ripped off shoes or snagged/torn breeches isn't worth it. For heaven's sake, when possible please stick to tried and true routes.

                                    I believe it is possible to take the hunting part of the sport seriously while still looking out for fellow riders and enjoying camaraderie, and helping people bring along their young mounts.

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by BeeHoney View Post

                                      Here's what I don't like: I don't like traveling at speeds that cause a "crack the whip" effect or put people awkwardly in between walk/trot or trot/canter. I prefer a master that travels at a steady, moderate pace. I hate it when the field master zips off after crossing a trappy spot, encouraging everyone else to do the same, and causing the people at the back to struggle with horses that think they are being left behind.

                                      OK, and my least favorite thing--deliberately riding through nasty thickets, or crossing through barely passable trappy spots in order to shave off a few minutes in getting where we are going. I'd MUCH rather take a nice trot around the pleasant, surefire path around the edge of a field. It's one thing to accidentally lose a trail as you go and need to do a little trailblazing on occasion, quite another to deliberately choose to drag your field into a dense thicket, quagmire or prickerpatch. Just NO. These "shortcuts" are a poor economy and I've seen horses get tangled in hidden wire, horses fall into holes, riders get knocked off by trees, horses get cut by hidden garbage, etc. Even a few pointlessly ripped off shoes or snagged/torn breeches isn't worth it. For heaven's sake, when possible please stick to tried and true routes.

                                      I believe it is possible to take the hunting part of the sport seriously while still looking out for fellow riders and enjoying camaraderie, and helping people bring along their young mounts.
                                      Brilliant!

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by ecileh View Post
                                        For reasons entirely unclear to me, our masters have decided that I am competent enough to lead 3rd field this coming season.

                                        I do know our territory pretty well (though I'll admit to being confused when masters/staff call the same hill different things!) and I have a great, tolerant, and brave mare who is up for the job but I'm considering filling my flask with Pepto because I have a life-long history of over-estimating the ability of people I am riding with and figuring that if I can do it, so can they.

                                        How do I bring them all home alive??
                                        I don't think it's your job to bring them all home alive, but it's part of your responsibility to help make sure that everyone behaves and follows the few rules that are in place that will them stay alive. I myself like to have fun and enjoy myself without having to take on a role that forces me to parent people. I feel I do that enough at work during the day, to have to do that during my me time on the weekend.
                                        They are obviously re-assured that you are a responsible and trust worthy team member and it's a big compliment to you!

                                        http://www.akcanadianhorses.ca/blog

                                        Comment

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