12 things you absolutely must know before heading to a hunt ball

Opening meets are upon us – and that means it is now hunt ball season as well. Here are some “dos” and “don’ts” to help you get through your hunt’s biggest annual party without disgracing yourself… And don’t forget to pick up the latest issue of Horse & Hound magazine (out now, dated 25 October), which features the hunting special

Do: take a table and invite as many non-hunting friends as possible – it definitely improves the chat during supper, as long as you ban any discussion of Brexit. If you surround yourself with all your normal hunting mates, hunting is all you will talk about, and don’t we get a bit bored of that?

Do: check the dress code. One or two hunt balls stipulate white tie, instead of the more normal black tie, and that pelmet-length sequinny number won’t cut it. Go long (but slinky) if you are in any doubt. Don’t wear your most expensive suede heels – they will get wrecked and you will regret it. And I’d be pretty careful about wearing Great-Aunt Edith’s full-length vintage mink – it might be wonderfully warm (and glamorous), but if it gets nicked from the coat rack, you will have a lot of explaining to do.

Do: pace yourself. You are bound to have been hunting, rushed home and done your horse and your tack, put the children to bed and briefed the babysitter. You will not have eaten since that single sausage roll at the meet, and necking a bottle of wine on an empty stomach has never yet ended well.

Don’t: try to pull a master, the huntsman, the whipper-in or any hunt official or member of staff. Everyone will know (whether you succeed or fail) and they will never, ever forget or let you live it down.

Do: have a Jagerbomb. Just the one – it will pep you up marvellously when you are flagging a bit after dinner. But, we repeat, just the one…

Don’t: buy that horse a charming young Irishman is trying to sell you unseen. Tonight is not the night for decisions like that.

Do: pre-book your taxi, tell him not to allow anyone else in it and do go when it arrives. Another half an hour of dancing with those National Hunt jockeys might seem like a brilliant idea, but when you are left outside the marquee, shivering and feeling a bit sick, you won’t be able to get another taxi for love nor vast amounts of money.

Do: head for the disco tent. Leave the ‘grown up’ dancing to the band on the over-lit dance floor to the grown ups, watched by all those still sitting at their tables and relive your Pony Club youth in a darker, sweatier atmosphere.

Don’t: bid on auction lots if you can’t afford to pay for them — even if you are under serious peer pressure. You won’t look cool when you admit you don’t have the funds to pay for it and you will have a black mark next to your name for eternity.

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Do: join the naughty smokers outside for a bit of a cool-down. That’s where all the best gossip is happening.

Do: dance with your husband/wife/partner. It’s only polite, even if the second whipper-in is way better at it.

Don’t: sleep in your car. You are not 17 (unless you actually are 17, when it is fine and perfectly normal). You will be really cold and incredibly uncomfortable. Remember to book that taxi and climb into your own lovely bed.

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