The ultimate guide to Badminton Horse Trials
Published by The Grooms List/ Caroline Carter Recruitment
Author Becky Parker
The Team at The Grooms List by Caroline Carter Recruitment is always very excited when every Wednesday 1st May sees Badminton Estate in South Gloucestershire opens its gates to hordes of eager horse lovers, shoppers, foodies, canine companions, screaming children and long-suffering family members for its annual event, the Badminton Horse Trials!
With what seems like every second groom we speak to about to really go AWOL as they all ship out to go and watch the impressive spectacle and everyone else scheduling their work plans around watching the highlights on TV. We thought rather than bemoaning our bad luck at not getting to go ourselves we would take a look at what all the fuss is really about! Turns out memory doesn’t fail us; Badminton really is that good. With over 170,000 visitors scheduled to flock through the gates, it seems we are not alone in that thought! Here is our ultimate guide to the who, what, where and most importantly WHY of Badminton Horse Trials.
What is “Badminton Horse Trials?”
Badminton is the Spring, some would say the yearly highlight of the season for professional event riders. Badminton is one of only 2 four star events held in the UK (the other being Burghley) and 1 of only 6 held worldwide (the other 4 are Kentucky, Luhmehlen, Pau and Adelaide). The event is held over 5 days with:
- the initial ‘horse inspection’ AKA trot up on Wednesday
- Dressage on the Thursday/Friday
- Cross Country on Saturday
- Showjumping on Sunday
For those of you keen on specifics, the dressage test is roughly equivalent to a British Dressage Advanced Medium test but includes some more advanced moves such as two-time changes. The cross-country is 1m 20 but with very wide spreads, brush fences up to a max of 1m 45 (the brush is not counted in the measurement) and extreme technicality e.g skinnies, combinations, angles, ditches. The showjumping, which is the final test of tired horses and probably riders too, is 1.30m.
What do riders have to do to qualify for Badminton Horse Trials?
To me this seems to be an exceptionally complicated and confusing table of points that the FEI provide of the specifics of this. I feel for the poor elite readers that have to decipher it vs being out on the back of a horse, but maybe the capacity to understand it comes with experience and tutoring on the matter.
Evidently, it depends on the classification of the rider how tough the entry requirements are. Essentially, and please don’t quote me here, the rider and horse combination have to have successfully completed either one other 4* or at least 1 CCI 3* and 2 CIC 3*. The number of completions goes up as the rider ranking goes down.
As a professional rider, what does Badminton Horse Trials lead to?
The press coverage and prestige a rider gains just from appearing at Badminton Horse Trials will do wonders for their career. A completion can be a CV game changer will move them to the prestigious class of elite riders. It’s almost like a doctorate that other professionals add to their title!
Appearing at Badminton Horse Trials brings young riders to the greater attention of sponsors, owners and team selectors. Not to mention the huge value it adds to their rides worth gaining them huge brownie points with current owners securing their future support. Though I’m sure they highlight the prize value, kudos and fun of the day out a whole lot more than the horse’s sale value!
In 2017 the prize fund for the winner of Badminton Horse Trials rose to a whopping £100,000! Well done 2017 winner Andrew Nicholson! Especially as we understand this was only 18 months after suffering a life-threatening fall, and 33 years after his first attempt at the title!
Why visit Badminton Horse Trials?
As a rider/groom working in the industry presuming you are not lucky enough to be working for one of the competing professionals, you might wonder why you would choose to spend some of your hard-earned time off surrounded by the very creatures you already spend all your time with?!
As a non-horsey family member, you might wonder why you would want to accompany your horse obsessed partner/friend to an event that is seemingly built around these creatures you know and probably care not a jot about?
I have one word for you people………. FOOOOODD! I jest. There is more to Badminton Horse Trials than just food, or so they tell me! 😉
The highlights of Badminton Horse Trials for Riders/Grooms/Spectators
A chance to see TOP riders perform!!! See the very crème de le crème of the elite eventing world battle it out. Household names galore!
- A chance for grassroot riders to step up competing in the Mitsibushi Motors Cup on the very same hallowed turf as their idols ride upon.
- Make the most of the dedicated Badminton Horse Trials radio station! Cheap/Free transmitters are readily available on entry!
- Grooming at “Badders” is a MASSIVE CV addition for any groom (grassroots or pro).
- Rubbing shoulders with down to earth Royals and top riders (even as a spectator).
- More shops/stalls than you know what to do with (500 +) and bargains galore come the end of the show.
- Fab, FAB junk food! (Crepe stalls!! #thatisall).
- As a groom or rider, bombing about the showground on a quad bike, like a boss.
- Stallion parade.
- Hound parade.
- Shetland Grand National – never gets old, it is just HILARIOUS!
- See the stars of the future perform in the Young Horse classes.
The lows of Badminton Horse Trials for Riders/Grooms/Spectators
- The perils of the British weather!
- Horses CAN have bad accidents, particularly on Cross country day! ☹
- Cross country day is manic and unless you start out crazy early and then do not under any circumstances move all day the chances of you getting anywhere near the ‘main attraction’ fences are slim.
- Parking is generally MILES from the showground – disabled access is provided, but DO make plans ahead time and energy-wise for lots of walking.
- Expect to spend some time parked on local roads as you creep your way into the showground (BIG STYLE!) – make the most of the BHS radio station and think ahead, a la Royal Birth, Royal Marriage, new Apple product release – plan for it to take AGES to even get close to it!
- Portaloos – need I say more???
How much are tickets to Badminton Horse Trials and where can I buy them?
The deadline for pre-booking tickets has now passed and Grandstand tickets for the Showjumping are now sold out. Pre-booking tickets will be on sale for next year’s event in January.
Never fear you can still go this year, tickets can be bought by cash only on the gate.
Wednesday – £10
Thursday and Friday £18
Saturday – £32
Sunday – £16
Under 12 = Free
Car pass £12
For future reference – https://www.badminton-horse.co.uk/tickets/
What is the best day to go to Badminton Horse Trials?
That, good people, is entirely a matter of opinion and will vary greatly depending on your preferred discipline and aptitude for coping with hordes of people. Below is a basic run through of what’s on when with a touch of opinion thrown up for some not so helpful hints.
Wednesday: Mitsibushi Motors Cup day (some horses compete at Dressage on the Tuesday but this is not open to the public) and Dubarry Burghley young event horse class. Trot up for Elite horses. Dressage display at 12.30pm
Possibly only really appeals if you have a friend competing in either or are a Young producer yourself/work in the Stud World/are a dealer.
Thursday: Dressage with an additional Dressage display 12.30 pm
Dressage only day, fewer crowds and early shopping deals to be had for the eagle-eyed amongst us.
Friday: Dressage and Stallion Parade
Again, fewer crowds and added appeal for those working in the Stud world/with deep pockets and a notion to breed their mare.
Saturday: Cross Country day and the all-important Shetland pony Grand National 10.30 am main ring
MANIC! But good spectator entertainment – probably for most people this is the highlight of the event.
Sunday: Show Jumping, Hound parade, prize giving,
The deciding factor of the whole competition. Expect to see an array of emotions both before and after the showjumping section of the competition – fatalistic, resigned, got-it-in-the-bag, full-on depression. Added bonus of the day? CHEAP STUFF ON A LOT OF THE STALLS!
Infomation on TV Listings and Broadcast times can be found via this link.
What is ‘Mitsubishi Motors Cup’ (also known as “Badminton Grassroots”)?
The Mitsibushi Motors Cup is an Amateur championship with 2 classes – BE 90 and BE100. It allows lower level roots the chance to compete on the very same hallowed turf as their idols in the pinnacle of the sport at this level. The judging is tough and the course bang up to height and with some far greater technical questions than normally found at this level. Despite this there is always tight competition for the top spot. This is a truly great initiative that always produces some great riding and heart-warming stories of partnerships showing how far and hard the amateur rider will go to get the very best from themselves and their horses in order to succeed in the sport they love.
Who can qualify for “Mitsubishi Motors Cup?”
Any rider who has not competed at Intermediate or above in the past 10 seasons. Any horse who is graded at Level 4 at the ballot date for regional entry e.g has Nil points. In order to qualify you must finish in the top 10% of a BE 90 or 20% of a BE 100 for a place in the regional finals which are held in the Autumn. At the regionals riders must finish in the top 20% to qualify for Badminton.
Visit the Badminton Horse Trials website to see full details of the competition.
Are you grooming at Badminton Horse Trials?!
Now in its 63rd year I think it’s safe to safe that Badminton has created a recipe for success when it comes to providing an excellent event for riders, grooms and spectators alike. Incredibly the event has been running since 1949 and has in that time only been cancelled 6 times (5 due to bad weather, 1 due to foot and mouth disease.) It is an incredibly inclusive event that really brings together all disciplines, social classes, rider levels and age groups to provide something appealing and enjoyable for everyone. It is a fantastic showcase for eventing demonstrating the incredible ability of the horses and riders at the very pinnacle of their game, no matter your preference you cannot fail to be impressed! I for one shall be pencilling it into my diary for next year!