RECOMMENDATIONS that hunt staff can continue to choose to wear a “traditional” Patey hat or a “modern” hat with a chinstrap are being well received.

This summer, the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) carried out a review of headgear, prompted by concerns from some masters over the safety of traditional strapless hats worn by most hunt staff (H&H news, 1 May).

MFHA chairman Stephen Lambert said: “I’m very pleased we can continue to give people the choice. We wanted to, but only if it was safe to do so.

“We’ve been responsible, undertaken research and advice and are able to give people the choice.”

In the first industry consultation of its kind in 17 years, the MFHA surveyed hunt staff, conducted safety tests on Patey hats, analysed accident records and consulted with insurance, legal and health and safety experts.

It concluded that hunt staff should be allowed to choose between wearing a modern hat (with attached chinstrap) or a traditional one. But, should staff plump for the traditional hat, they must wear a Patey and comply with set recommendations (see details below).

“The crucial thing is that if staff decide to wear a traditional hat, they are not asked to sign a disclaimer,” added Mr Lambert.

Following tests on the Patey by the Transport Research Laboratory, the MFHA said the lack of padding in the sides of the hat is a “significant area of weakness and would increase the risk of injury to the side of the head”. But it concluded the Patey had “performed competently” according to accident records from the past 10 years.

The MFHA said a “modern” hat had been described as uncomfortably hot on warmer hunting days, and posed a risk of neck injuries in undergrowth or branches, being unlikely to come off if struck by a branch.

NFHA hat recommendations

‘Traditional’ hats must be:

  • Made by Patey and correctly fitted
  • Checked by Patey at least every three seasons and after any fall
  • Allowed to dry naturally for 36 hours before being worn again, so any huntsman hunting three or more days a week should be provided with a second hat
  • Paid for by employers
  • Staff should not be asked to sign a disclaimer

‘Modern’ hats must:

  • Carry British Standards Institute Kitemark BSEN1384 PAS015 or American Kitemark ASTMF1163

Read this story in full, plus the thoughts of huntsmen and masters from around the country, in today’s Horse & Hound (23 October, ’08). This week’s issue is a hunting special with a guide to the best sport in Britain, plus a complete UK hunt directory.