Exclusive interview with Badminton contender Laura Collett

"The atmosphere at this event is electric" - We speak to one of the rising stars of International eventing as she vies for honours at this year's Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

At 27 years old, Laura Collett is one of the rising stars on the International Eventing circuit. She has represented Great Britain on numerous occasions and will be vying for honours at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials this week.

Eventing is like a triathlon for horses and riders. They must complete three phases of the competition. They begin with dressage and this involves performing a set routine (a little bit like dancing), which is marked by judges. The cross country follows and riders have to tackle a series of enormous fences on a track that runs through the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort’s famous Gloucestershire estate. The water jump is often a hotspot for people to watch as the horses and riders have to jump in to the Lake in front of Badminton House. The final phase of the competition is the showjumping, which tests the accuracy of the horses following the previous day of endurance. The aim is to finish on the lowest score possible and not add any jumping or time faults to the dressage mark that is awarded by the judges.

The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is the premier three-day event in the world. It promises thrilling competition and is also a leading social event on the Sloaney Season calendar. The Duchess of Cambridge has attended in the past, as well as a host of celebrities and members of high society. It attracts thousands of spectators and only the best compete here.

We spoke to Laura in the lead up to this major sporting and social occasion to find out more about her performance hopes and to get some insider tips for spectators and Badminton first-timers.

Laura pictured with Grand Manoeuvre and his owner (Photo credit: Margie Gibb)

Sloaney Season: Tell us about the horse that you are riding this year at Badminton Horse Trials…

Laura Collett: I’m riding a horse called Grand Manoeuvre, who is a 13 year old chestnut gelding. This will be our third time competing together at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. We previously represented Great Britain at the European Championships and finished in 13th position.

Sloaney Season: What are your expectations for this year’s event?

Laura Collett: Grand Manoeuvre is capable of doing a nice dressage test and scoring well. However, last year he was a little bit over-excited because the hounds that are based on the estate were being exercised at the same time as we were doing our warm up for the dressage. Hopefully, this won’t happen again this year and ideally I am aiming for a top 20 finish.

Sloaney Season: What makes the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials such a special event?

Laura Collett: There is no event in the world that is quite like Badminton. The atmosphere is spine-tingling! As a rider, you know you are at the biggest event in the world when you cross the finish line after cross country. There is no better feeling and the crowds are fantastic!

Sloaney Season: Why should people come to Badminton who have never been before?

Laura Collett: The atmosphere at this event is electric, which makes it brilliant for spectators. Cross country day is incredible. This takes place on the Saturday and you are able to witness the best riders in the world tackling one of the most demanding cross country courses in the world.  Away from the action and alongside the competition there are plenty of shops and bars to keep everyone entertained throughout the week, so it is also a great social occasion.

Sloaney Season: Do you have any insider tips for spectators?

Laura Collett: The Lakeside Bar is a great place to socialise whilst watching the water fence. You are really close to the action here and in a bustling hotspot. One of the other best viewing places for cross country day is by the big screen as you can see the whole course televised from one spot. Also, people should watch some of the action from the main arena and this is where you will get the best feel of the atmosphere because it is here that the riders start and finish. You can watch the nerves build before they begin and then witness the elation of those completing the tough endurance test.

Read more about the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials

What’s next in May? Royal Windsor Horse Trials, RHS Chelsea Flower Show and Glyndebourne!