There are lots of reasons to come to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials every year, which is why it is one Britain’s most attended sporting events. Here are few things you should always do while you are there.
1. Watch a horse inspection
Vets inspections, trot-ups, or jogs, whatever your personal preference for title, are an essential part of all international eventing competitions. They take place before the competition starts and then again before the final day of show jumping.
Most of the stately home horse trials make use of the scenery when choosing a site for the inspections and Badminton is no exception. The riders present their horses to the jury on the gravel right in front of the house and most take the opportunity to dress to impress! There is seating provided for the public on a first come first served basis.
If you choose to watch the first of the inspections on Wednesday afternoon (4.30pm) then you also have the chance to watch some of the cross country phase of the Grassroots Championship or even walk the main event’s cross country course…
2. Walk the cross country course
This is the second year that Giuseppe Della Chiesa has designed the cross country course at Badminton and, as is the tradition, the course is being jumped in the opposite direction this year.
If you can, try to find time to walk the length of the course (outside the ropes) so that you can properly appreciate the challenges which face this year’s competitors.
If you are also here for the cross country phase itself, this is a good opportunity to pick your spots to watch on Saturday. There are seated areas down in the Vicarage Fields, as well as at the head of the lake and in the arena itself. Elsewhere it is standing room only.
Keep your eyes peeled while you walk and you will probably see some of the riders themselves as they prepare their lines and their timings for the highlight of the competition. If you walk the course backwards you will maximise your chances of seeing your hero or heroine on the course.
3. Visit the Outside Chance
The Outside Chance is a pub in Marlborough, Wiltshire but for this week of the year it travels to Badminton and adopts its now familiar position at the top end of the lake.
Since its arrival it has become the hub of the competition’s social life with its massive bar (look out for the huge photograph which adorns the wall above the bar), VIP area, food and dancing. If you want to find anyone after the day’s serious business is over, the chances are they may well be in the Chance!
4. Do some shopping
No guide to Badminton would be complete without some mention of the shopping. Indeed, for some, it is the only reason they come; the horse trials is less important than bagging a great bargain in one of the hundreds of trade stands which form the shopping village.
Outdoor clothing, accessories, designer fashion, works of art, equestrian equipment and footwear are all there in abundance, as well as every imaginable form of food and drink, smoked salmon to toffee vodka.
Look out for two of my commercial photography clients as you browse. Apatchy make fabulous accessories which can be personalised to your personal taste – apatchy.co.uk for more information. Peachy Belts will also be there, selling their wonderful range of different belts and buckles. New products from them include the Cartridge buckle and the Bit buckle, both of which will be worn by several of the riders you see in the trot-ups! peachybelts.co.uk for more information.
Look out for famous riders who often visit their sponsors stands and will be available for signing your programme or posing for the inevitable selfie.
5. Play Fantasy Badminton
New this year! Ross Millar has come up with a brilliant version of the popular fantasy sports genre – Fantasy Badminton.
Anyone can enter (see the link below) by picking a team of five horse and rider combinations from the different groups provided. Points are then awarded after each phase of the competition based on the position of the competitors, with special marks being awarded for double clears, getting inside the XC time and so on.
The winner stands to win a £400 bundle of goodies put together by Ross’s sponsors. Go and enter now!