If you have been a member or guest in the field you will likely have seen the mounted Whips and heard ‘Whip Please.’ Ever wondered what those lone riders do out there?
There are two types of mounted Whippers-in: Professional and Honorary.
Professional Whippers-in are employees of the Hunt and work directly under the supervision of the Huntsman. On a non hunt day they assist the Huntsman with daily hound exercise, or walking out. Whippers-in will also assist with kennel management including feeding and caring for the hounds and cleaning kennels on a daily basis. They also prepare the Huntsman’s mount for the day leaving them to focus on the hounds. They help ensure that the hounds do the Huntsman’s bidding, especially as the excitement of the impending days work builds.
An Honorary Whipper-in is a subscribing member of the hunt who asks and is invited to “whip-in” rather than ride with the field.
The field usually sees Whippers-in as the hounds approach for the start of the day, flanking the Huntsman, hunt whips ready as a visual deterrent to ensure the hounds excitement is contained until the Huntsman blows the start of the hunt. As the Huntsman approaches the first covert planned for the day, mounted whips are often sent out on the far end of the covert to provide a second set of eyes and ears.
They act as safety valves to prevent hounds from running onto roads or on to land not open to hunting and alert the Huntsman to any game flushed from the covert. They also bring forward any hounds lost or left behind. With plenty of practice they hone their skill to continuously count hounds (no easy feat with a fast moving pack) to ensure no hound gets left behind. A Whip must be a bold rider with a well trained horse, able to stay up with hounds, and if necessary get ahead of them. They must know each hound by name and personality so that they are able to reliably inform the Huntsman which hounds have performed well. They must know the country they cross and where they are and are not allowed, and they must have an inherent sense of direction.
So if you hear ‘Whip Please’, just as you would for the Huntsman, move briskly to get out of their way.
Remember to turn your horses butt away from their direction so they can pass safely.
If they appear to be frowning, don’t take it personally, they are working and concentrating on their job. They are critical to the success of the day.
Whipping-in is hard work, with long hours, often going unnoticed. Their dedication and decisions can often make the difference between a good day and a mediocre one. The chance to witness hounds work close up and to be in the heart of the action or to be out there alone and witness game close up can make the long hours and hard work worthwhile. Whipping-in is both a privilege and commitment not to be taken lightly.
It is a beautiful picture to see a Whipper-in galloping in the distance putting themselves in just the right position to assist the Huntsman in making your day in the field one to remember.