Young and newly appointed masters and whippers-in will get a higher level of training in the future.

The Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) is running one-day training courses in April and May to give younger hunt staff guidance in handling the field and hounds under present legislation. A government-funded NVQ is also being piloted.

“Staff do not move up the ladder like they used to, as there are far fewer people employed full-time in hunting,” explained MFHA director Alastair Jackson. “It’s up to us to put regulations and training in place to make hunting acceptable to the modern world.”

The courses are part of a new directive to make hunting more professional.
Previously, a huntsman would have been in the profession of whipper-in for some years before moving up, but now the progression is much quicker. It is the same for masters.

“In years past, masters tended to have a wider knowledge of hunting than is sometimes the case now. There’s not as much knowledge being passed down as people move up the ranks,” said Stephen Lambert, chairman of the Council of Hunting Associations (CHA).

“The training courses are a taste of what’s to come. In time, the courses will become more structured and will take place over several days. They will be module-based and have some kind of accreditation,” added Mr Jackson.

As well as the MFHA’s own courses, a national vocational qualification (NVQ) for hunt staff, funded by the government through the Learning and Skills Council, is being piloted.

The “Animal Care General Route” course is run by Haddon Training Ltd in Marlborough and can be undertaken by hunt staff as they carry out their jobs. Qualification is gained on a continual assessment basis by teachers with a background in hunting.

The MFHA’s one-day whippers-in courses take place 19 May at the Bedale hunt kennels and 20 May at the Worcestershire kennels.

The one-day masters’ courses will be held on 28 April at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, and 29 April at the Golden Fleece Hotel, Thirsk.

For more information, contact the MFHA (tel: 01285 831470).

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (5 April, ’07)