The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is the premier three day event in the world and the best horses and riders battle to win the trophy. It is held in the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort’s estate and draws huge crowds who watch the competition and browse the expansive shopping village.
What to expect at Badminton Horse Trials
Badminton Horse Trials begins with the trot up on Wednesday. Many people arrive to watch the horses being presented in front of Badminton House, which provides a stunning backdrop to the proceedings. The competition has three key phases that every horse and rider must complete. The first is the Dressage and this takes place on the Thursday and Friday and lasts throughout each day from dawn until dusk. It is very technical and the horses have to perform a set routine, which is marked by judges. Cross country day at Badminton Horse Trials is on Saturday and this is the most exhilarating part of the event, which is like a triathlon for horses. It involves galloping around the estate, jumping huge fences and is the ultimate endurance test. The conclusion of the event is the showjumping and this takes place on the Sunday.
The goal is for horses and riders to clock up no time or jumping penalties and to make their dressage score count. The best combination will win, with the lowest score at the end the event. Gates are open in the early morning until evening throughout the week. There is a huge shopping village, plenty of bars and other attractions.
William Fox-Pitt, Mary King, Michael Jung and Andrew Nicholson are among the leading riders who often compete and are considered to be among the stars of the Eventing world. In the crowds you will spot members of the Royal Family (Zara Tindall often rides and the Duchess of Cambridge has attended in previous years), as well as a number of famous sporting figures such as Seb Coe.
Event hotspots and hospitality
On cross country day, the marquee by The Lake is the place to be if you want to watch competitors jump into the water with their horses. Everyone can access the course throughout the day and – a bit like golf – spectators will walk the course and watch the riders as they navigate each jump. There are normally big crowds at the water jump and seating is provided in some areas. It is one of the most dramatic fences on the course. The Skinny Lager bar is by the lakeside and has brilliant viewing.
Other hotspots include the Members’ Enclosure that backs on to the main area and this is great for the dressage and showjumping days because it is where the action takes place. The Shopping Village is huge and includes many luxury country lifestyle brands. There is also an arts and crafts area, alongside a popular food tent. The main screen in the shopping village streams live action throughout the event and there are a number of delicious mobile catering offerings also located here.
For those who want to enjoy a luxury experience at this event, we recommend looking at some of the Badminton Horse Trials hospitality packages that are available. These include fully catered Hospitality Packages at The Portcullis Club, which overlooks the Main Arena and is particularly good for the dressage and showjumping days. For Cross Country Day, we recommend the Lakeside Pavilions, which adjoin the famous Badminton Lake and include a view of Badminton House. These are especially suitable for companies or private individuals wishing to bring or buy picnics. You can also reserve a table in the Badminton Members’ Enclosure.
Did you know
Last year it was German Eventing maestro Michael Jung who lifted the title when riding his famous horse La Biosthetique Sam. He previously made eventing history by winning Olympic, World and European championship titles at the same time. Another German rider finished in second place last year, namely Andreas Ostholt, and Gemma Tattersall put in a stellar performance for Great Britain to come third on Arctic Soul.
Armada Dishes are awarded to riders for completing the competition at Badminton five times. They have been presented since 1964.
Badminton is one of three major competitions to form part of the Rolex Grand Slam, along with Kentucky and Burghley. Winning just one of these legendary eventing competitions represents the pinnacle of achievement; winning all three consecutively represents perfection. Rolex created the Grand Slam of Eventing to inspire the world’s finest riders and horses to new heights. Since its inception, only two riders have risen to the challenge and achieved this exceptional feat in 2003 (Pippa Funnell) and in 2016 (Michael Jung).
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When you are planning what to wear to this event you need to think country-chic and also pay attention to the weather. You should be comfortable throughout the day. Wellington boots will be needed in the rain and deck shoes are suitable for sunshine. Tweeds, tailored jackets, smart knits and chinos are favoured. Trilby hats are also a popular accessory.
Badminton Horse Trials, Badminton, Gloucestershire, GL9 1DF UK
There is a large car park. However, you should be aware that the roads can get very clogged, especially on Cross Country Day. Chippenham train station is only about 20 minutes away and you can taxi from there. It provides a good link to Paddington Station in London. Due to the setting of this event and it being in the countryside, most people drive. View location
Where to stay and dine
Local B&Bs are within easy reach, as well as a number of luxury hotels such as Whatley Manor and Lucknam Park. These are popular during the week of Badminton Horse Trials and you will need to book in advance. The Old House at Home is a lovely pub that is situated in Burton, which is a pretty village that is a short drive from the estate. This is a great place to enjoy a pub supper if you want to try somewhere off-site during an overnight visit to this part of the world. Take a look at our top recommendations for hotels and pubs our guide for where to stay and dine.