Badminton Horse Trials returns to South Gloucestershire - here's all you need to know

A rider at the Eclipse Cross Pond during Badminton Horse Trials in 2019.
A rider at the Eclipse Cross Pond during Badminton Horse Trials in 2019 Credit: BBC

The Badminton Horse Trials returns to South Gloucestershire for the first time since 2019.

The five-day event is running from May 4 to May 8 and sees top-level competitions held at Badminton House.

Among those taking part is Olympian Laura Tomlinson who is putting on two dressage displays at the event.

More than 180,000 visitors attended three years ago and thousands are expected to return – providing a boost to the local economy.

What is the Badminton Horse Trials?

It aims to showcase the British horse world with a line-up of displays during the competition.

Badminton is recognised as a five-star international event and was founded in 1949.

It takes place on The Duke of Beaufort’s estate in Gloucestershire and is one third of the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing.

What is the timetable?

  • Thursday 5 May: Dressage

  • Friday 6 May: Dressage

  • Saturday 7 May: Cross-Country – SOLD OUT

  • Sunday 8 May: Show Jumping Finale and prize-giving

What to expect

Laura Tomlinson, who won team gold and individual bronze dressage medals at the London Olympic Games in 2012, will put on a dressage display in the main arena on Thursday and Friday at 12.30pm.

Laura, who has been a mainstay of the British Dressage squad since 2006, will be accompanied by a rider from her home team, with the display featuring a freestyle-to-music performance.

There will be a stallion display on Friday evening, presenting the best of British sport horse breeding.

The 11 stallions will include Tomatillo, clone of Finn and Mary Guinness's 2004 Badminton winner Tamarillo, and Britannia's Mail, out of Lucinda Fredericks's 2007 Badminton-winning mare, Headley Britannia.

The Shetland Pony Grand National starts at 10.30am on Saturday - tickets for the cross-country day's events have already sold out.

On Wednesday the shopping village will be open and there will be a chance to view some of the Badminton horses of the future in the Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse qualifier.

What is different from the last competition?

The cross-country course has been redesigned and will undulate more than in previous years.

The course designer, Eric Winter, has decided to create a course that resembles the hills of Pratoni del Vivaro in preparation for the World Championships taking place in Italy this September.

It will also run in an anti-clockwise direction — as it traditionally does in an Olympic or World Championship year — heading from the main arena in the direction of the HorseQuest Quarry (fence 4abc).

The next famous feature is the Voltaire Design Huntsman's Close which is followed by the world-renowned Badminton Lake.

The Vicarage Ditch area also has a new look with a different piece of undulating ground and more space for audience.

Badminton course-designer, Eric Winter Credit: Peter Nixon

Eric said: "It's an attacking course and will suit bold horses with scope and agility, as there are a lot of big fences which befits a 5-star competition.

"Badminton has always traditionally been the best preparation for the international championships and this year will be no exception."

Andrew Nicholson, who has ridden around Badminton more times than anyone else and won in 2017, said Eric has "done a good job."

He said: "There are no surprises or blind corners and horses can see what they have to do, but it is big, intense and will take a bit of jumping.

"It is a case of proper, old-fashioned sitting down and riding, and riders will have to be at their best.

The winner of this year's Badminton Horse Trials will take home a new trophy, created using materials from the Duke of Beaufort's Badminton estate.

The new trophy sculpted by Judy Boyt Credit: Badminton Horse Trials

It’s been made by the award-winning animal sculptor Judy Boyt who was commissioned in September 2019 and worked one-handed as the result of a bout of shingles when the pandemic hit.

She said: "It's been a huge honour and I'm very lucky, I know I am but it has been hard keeping it a secret for two years and I am so pleased that everyone can see it now.

"We very much wanted to keep a link to the previous trophy, so you will see that it is again three horses, performing the three eventing disciplines [of dressage, cross-country and show jumping], but with up-to-date tack and equipment.

"For instance, the dressage and show jumping horses are wearing ear muffs and I have re-created the modern stirrups and boots. I've had to do a lot of research!"