Whether you’re an eventing junkie or just fancy a day out surrounded by fellow horse-lovers, Badminton is the place to be. One of the highest attended sporting events in the world, last year it attracted over 179,000 spectators on cross-country day alone. With so much on offer for visitors, getting the most of your visit is top priority, so here are H&R’s tips for a great day…
- The tricksy British weather is at its most indecisive at the moment. To ensure you’re able to enjoy your day without getting soaked through or cooked by the sun, prepare for every eventuality. Pack plenty of layers, including a lightweight waterproof jacket you can shove in your bag if the sun comes out, plus some easily accessible sun cream for regular applications. Comfortable, waterproof shoes – no matter how unfashionable – are an essential, particularly if you’re planning on trekking the whole way round the 4.25 miles of cross-country course.
- Badminton is accessed by a network of narrow country lanes and although there’s traffic control in place, they can get very congested, particularly on cross-country day. To avoid spending the majority of your day stuck in a traffic jam, set out early to try to beat the crowds. Between the shopping village, Shetland Pony Grand National and arena displays, there’s plenty to keep you occupied until the main event begins.
- Get there early enough and you might find some of your favourite horses being grazed in front of Badminton House. Not only does this make a fab photo, if you catch them at the right moment you may even get an introduction or a chance to chat with their groom. Somebody else you might find loitering around the house, if you’re lucky, is Clare Balding filming segments for the BBC.
- Print out a running order before you leave home or pop into the Box Office to grab a copy. This makes it much easier to identify which combination are flying over the fence in front of you, plus you can plan the best times to pop into the shopping village or visit the bar for a glass of champers without the risk of missing any of your favourite riders.
- If you’re going on a dressage or showjumping day, find time to walk the cross-country course. It’s a chance to get up-close-and-personal with some of the most intimidating fences in modern eventing, including those that have become legends in their own right – Vicarage Vee, anybody? Plus, on dressage days you may find some of the riders walking their lines, which is a great insight into how they plan to tackle the fences.
- There’s nothing worse than getting the mid-morning munchies when you’re at the far end of the cross-country course, so stuff a couple of cereal bars and a bottle of water in your pocket to see you through until you find a food van that serves chips or bacon butties.
- When it comes to walking the course on cross-country day, try doing it backwards. Not only are you moving in the opposite direction to most of the crowds, but the horses will be jumping and galloping towards you. This makes it much less likely that the only glimpse you’ll get of your favourite combination is them disappearing into the distance as they overtake you.
- One of the fab things about Badminton is that the warm-up arena is right next to the cross-country course. If you stake out a spot on the slope above the warm-up, you’ll be able to watch riders preparing without missing any of the action on course. The warm-up is a fab place to learn from the best in the business – consider it a free training clinic!
- Head down Food Avenue in the shopping village to try some of the amazing food and drink that’s on offer. Sampling will inevitably turn to buying, so factor this into your lunchtime plans. There are also some delicious offerings to be found in The World of Food & Drink pavilion.
- If you’re planning a spending spree – and with so many amazing trade stands to choose from, how could you resist? – make use of the Shop & Drop facilities to avoid having to carry heavy bags around with you all day. Alternatively, plan your shopping before or after the action takes place so you’ve got time to take it back to your car.
- Keep your eyes peeled for brand ambassador signings on some of the trade stands. They usually happen on dressage and showjumping days, and are a great chance to meet your heroes and even grab a quick selfie, too!
- This year, the Badminton press conferences are open to the public. They’ll take place once the day’s excitement is done and dusted, near the scoreboard by the media centre and main arena. If you want to find out what the top three riders made of the day, it’s the place to be. You may even get the chance to ask them your burning questions.
Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials runs from Wednesday 2 – Sunday 6 May. You can visit the Horse&Rider stand in the World of the Horse pavilion, plus check our website and social media for event updates and reports.