It’s official – Badminton Horse Trials has been a horsey calendar highlight for 70 years this May. Kicking off for the first time in 1949, Badminton was the brainchild of 10th Duke of Beaufort, Henry Somerset, to give British riders the chance to train for future international events. With just 22 starters from two countries – Britain and Ireland – whether the event would grow to the large-scale phenomenon of today was anyone’s guess. Nowadays, it’s the pinnacle of eventing, hotly contested by the world’s best riders, drawing crowds in excess of a quarter of a million every year and many more tuning in to listen and watch worldwide.
Badminton: the legacy
It all began at the 1948 London Olympics. The 10th Duke of Beaufort, Henry Somerset, was watching competitors thunder round the cross-country phase of their three-day event. There’d been high hopes for the British riders – particularly following their bronze medal in Berlin in 1936 – but in the end, the highest-placed Brit finished 17th and the team was eliminated.
It was here the Duke had a light bulb moment. Why not run an annual competition like this at his Badminton estate in Gloucestershire? That way, British team hopefuls could have a couple of practice runs before the next Olympics. The Duke roped in friend Colonel Trevor Horn to help, and set about crafting the very first Badminton Horse Trials.
Trial and error
Having boldly emblazoned ‘the most important horse event in Great Britain’ on the inaugural posters, the Duke and the Colonel – who was now Badminton’s first director, despite only two weeks’ spectating experience – started building a cross-country course in the 1,500 acre grounds. Colonel Horn would build the fences and the Duke, atop a quality hunting horse, would jump them to check their suitability for competition. Then, any adjustments would be made before moving on to the next.
Watch the action at home
Can’t make it to Badminton Horse Trials this year? Fear not. You can enjoy coverage from the comfort of your own home via…
Badminton Livestream Head over to the Badminton website to watch the whole event unfold as it happens. Watch anywhere for free – all you need is an internet connection
Badminton Radio Badminton’s popular radio coverage is available locally on 106.1 FM or on badminton-horse.co.uk/badminton-radio/. It’ll bring you top commentary from all three phases, as well as rider interviews and more
BBC Coverage will be available both live via the Red Button and highlights shows. Check television scheduling for details
Don’t miss out!
Wednesday 1 May
9am – 4.15pm – Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse class
4.30pm – First horse inspection
Thursday 2 May
9am – 5pm – Dressage
12pm – Dressage display
Friday 3 May
9am – 5pm – Dressage
5pm – Stallion display
Saturday 4 May
10.30am – Shetland Pony Grand National
11.30am – 5pm –
Sunday 5 May
8.30am – Final horse inspection
11am – 3.05pm – Showjumping
3.15pm – Parade of prizewinners
For tickets and more information, visit badminton-horse.co.uk
Visit The World of the Horse
Where can you find all the latest innovations in the equestrian industry, from saddles to safety gear? The World of the Horse, of course! Situated on Hinnegar Way in the shopping village, simply head to your right as you come in through the main entrance and you’ll find it. The World of the Horse is home to industry experts and all the latest gadgets for you to discover – as well as discounts and show offers to enjoy. Just a short walk from the cross-country, you’ll never be too far from the action.
New for this year, explore The World of Food and Drink Garden to satisty your cravings for gin, champagne and other culinary delights.
You’ll also find Team Horse&Rider there on our stand. We’ll have the very latest issue on sale, plus exclusive show subscription offers you won’t want to miss. Plus, you’ll be able to browse our fantastic merchandise, from books and DVDs to gorgeous hoodies and T-shirts.
For the list of exhibitors, visit worldofthehorse.co.uk
Eric Smiley will be at the Horse&Rider stand from 4.30pm on Saturday 4 May. He’ll be signing copies of his new book, Two Brains, One Aim. Find us in the World of the Horse tent.