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Equestrian Events

The Complete Guide to Burghley Horse Trials

Last Updated on July 4, 2020 by Rachel Thomson

Say hello to one of the best eventing spectacles in the world – Burghley has celebrated equestrian prowess for over 50 years and we would not want to miss the show! Horse and rider are tested to showcase their abilities, displaying athleticism, speed, agility, obedience and accuracy. As individual riders compete at the top of their game, you can watch the gripping horse trials in the superb setting of Burghley House grounds.

As you soak up the atmosphere, make sure you are dressed in fine country attire and footwear that will let you enjoy your day to the max. Follow our top tips for the event and find out what makes it one of the most anticipated competitions of the year. We hope you enjoy Burghley as much as we do…


Burghley Horse Trials is one of the world’s most renowned equestrian events. It is one of only six Concours Complet International (CCI) five-star rated competitions in the world and one of only two in the UK, along with Badminton. Burghley’s five stars recognise that it is the highest standard of event and the most challenging test for horse and rider.  It is also known as the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials due to Land Rover’s long running sponsorship of the event.

Where is Burghley Horse Trials?

A three-day eventing competition, it is held in the grounds of Burghley House, Lincolnshire.

When is Burghley Horse Trials?

It is an annual event, held at the beginning of September. In 2020 it will be held from the 2nd-6th September.

History of Burghley

Burghley’s first horse trials was run over 50 years ago in 1961, after the Marquess of Exeter, a keen equestrian, heard that the three-day event at Harewood was due to be cancelled because of suspected foot and mouth disease. He invited the British Horse Society to transfer the event to his estate and since then Burghley has continued to hold equestrian events. Burghley is the longest continuously running international horse trials event. It has also staged the most championships of any horse trials, hosting 10 in all, including the first World Championship in 1966. 

The Horse Trials feature dressage, cross-country and show jumping that competitors compete in on different days. It attracts many of the world’s top competitors as well as royalty. Some members of the Royal family have both attended and ridden at the event, including HRH Princess Anne who was crowned the winner in 1971, taking the European Championship title. 


This annual three-day event actually covers more days than three, running over five days. There is a trot up on the Wednesday and then the dressage phase takes place on the Thursday and Friday. 

Day 1, Wednesday:

A ‘trot up’ occurs in the main arena to make sure the horses are fit and well to undertake the competition.

Days 2 and 3, Thursday and Friday:

The competition officially begins on the Thursday and the dressage is run over two days. There are also plenty of smaller classes too.

Day 4, Saturday:

Cross-country phase.

Day 5, Sunday:

Show jumping. Before the show jumping begins, horses are again inspected for fitness to proceed with the final leg of the competition. Once passed as fit, horses can compete in the show jumping. At the end of the day, the Land Rover Burghley Champion is crowned.



Badminton and Burghley are three-day events because the riders and their horses compete over three separate days and each day covers a different discipline of dressage, cross-country or show jumping. On the final competition day, the scores from each phase are combined together to give the overall scores and winner of the event.

Three-day eventing tests the all-round ability of both horse and rider, and the partnership between the two. The sport was originally developed as a military event due to the requirements of cavalry to master several types of riding – steadiness on parade, crossing the country at speed in battle and the fitness needed to carry out duties the following day. Modern international three-day events are overseen by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and are known as Concours Complet International or CCI events.  

To succeed, riders and their horses must be skilled in all three disciplines. Dressage is the first phase which tests the horse’s ability to be graceful and precise, and the harmony and obedience to the rider. The second phase, cross-country, requires extreme fitness, bravery and trust between the rider and their horse. The final show jumping phase tests agility and technical jumping skills, where riders must jump every fence clear, within a time limit. 

Why are three-day events run over more days?

Three-day events at the level  of Burghley and Badminton (CCI five-star), require competitors to show that their horses are fit to compete and this is done in a ‘trot up’. The trot up is a formal affair with well-groomed horses and smartly dressed riders. It allows the horses to be inspected for health and fitness before being ridden in the competition. At Burghley and Badminton, the trot up happens on the Wednesday, the day before the main competition begins. Dressage also tends to take up more time than other disciplines, so it is run over two days instead of one. There is also a second inspection of the horses by vets before the last show jumping phase, ensuring they are fit to compete further.


As Burghley is one of the most prestigious events on the equestrian calendar, you will want to look the part. Think country chic when deciding what to wear – heritage fabrics like tweed, wellingtons, and fedora hats all work well for Burghley. The weather will also impact on what you wear and how cosy your outfit should be. Regardless of the weather though, we have put together some staple pieces that you should consider below. 


Tweed is a fashionable fabric that is synonymous with a country lifestyle. 100% wool tweed gives warmth, texture and durability to any garment. A classic cut hunting jacket or blazer will ensure you fit in with the Burghley crowd. 

At A Hume, you will find an extensive collection of tweed jackets for men and women, made from the finest handwoven tweeds available. Gentlemen, choose from Bladen, Magee and Brook Taverner or one of A Hume’s exclusive tweed designs. Bladen’s Limited Edition Charter House Tweed Hevingham Jacket is ideal for Burghley’s smart-casual style. The cloth of this pure new wool tweed jacket is exclusive to A Hume and has an attractive green and navy check. 

The Greenwood Jacket by Brook Taverner is ideal for Burghley’s smart-casual style, with an olive coloured tweed and modern blue contrast over-check. 

Tweed tailoring is the de-rigueur look for sophisticated style at Burghley. Dubarry offer stylish tweed jackets for ladies including the Willow Jacket. This is a sporty country jacket, featuring a stand up collar, modern two-way zip and button centre fastening, and fleece-lined pockets to warm your hands. It is perfect for chilly days at Burghley, worn with jeans and a relaxed shirt. 

Smart-casual jeans

Wear smart-casual jeans for comfort and style at this all day event. Burghley gives you a good excuse to invest in a quality pair of jeans and upgrade from your everyday pair. For women, RM Williams, Amazing Woman, Schӧffel and Dubarry, all offer jeans that hug you in the right places, while giving you the stretch you need for comfortable all day wear. Wearing white jeans is certainly a Burghley look. The Alice or Kimberley Jeans by RM Williams are made to last from 12oz stretch denim and if you need any alteration to the leg length we can do this for you. However, if you feel that white jeans are a disaster waiting to happen, opt for a darker jean like Schӧffel’s flattering navy Cheltenham Jeans. The stretch material to these jeans makes them very comfortable for walking long distances around the cross-country course. 

Men often wear cords or moleskins as an alternative to denim jeans, such as RM Williams’ Overseer Luxury Moleskin Jean or Schӧffel’s Canterbury Cords that have a traditional country feel. For a dark blue classic jean, the Ramco Jeans are a wardrobe staple. Alternatively, for a lighter weight men’s trouser, try the RM Williams Linesman Denim Jean – available in a classic indigo blue colour, without the weight of traditional jean material. 

Layering is important for Burghley because the seasonal weather can vary from being hot and dry to torrential rain. Think about the layers you need to stay warm, starting with your top or shirt, then a jumper and/or gilet, and a tailored jacket or light waterproof cover up. It is up to you what layers you wear but be aware that the weather can be unpredictable during Burghley week. 

Ensure that each layer works alone and do not judge your outfit on just the top layer. It is likely that you will take some layers off during the course of the day. 

A white shirt and a lightweight jumper, underneath a stylish tweed jacket will allow you to look good no matter what layers you take off. Likewise, a cosy gilet over a relaxed shirt gives you warmth and style, without looking overdone. Burghley is not the place to look like you have tried too hard with your outfit. A classic Schӧffel Oakham Fleece Gilet is an essential for every man’s wardrobe, just as the Lyndon Fleece Gilet is for women, giving you warmth without weight. If you like a padded gilet, Barbour, Schöffel and Dubarry do a good range and some include a down filling. 

The snug luxury of a cashmere sweater also makes seasonal layering effortless. Cashmere jumpers are available in different weights for all seasons – from a 1-ply to 4-ply weight. If you want a fine layer underneath your tweed jacket, choose a 1-ply cashmere jumper for lightweight warmth. 

A waterproof coat

Take a waterproof jacket with you to save yourself from getting soaked. A quality waterproof can be the difference between a day ruined by rain or not. Here are a few features you should look for in a well-made waterproof:

    • Machine washable – enjoy your day at Burghley safe in the knowledge that your jacket can be easily popped in the wash if it gets dirty. 
    • Waterproof design – look for taped seams, waterproof fabric, zipped pockets and an integrated hood that can be adjusted for fit. 
    • Breathable lining – an airy mesh lining and zipped underarm ventilation features can help you stay cool in summer rain showers. 
  • Lightweight design – a waterproof that you can roll up and pack up into your bag, or is lightweight to carry is perfect for Burghley. 

As Burghley happens at the start of September, you should be able to get away with a light raincoat as long as you wear layers underneath. For men, try Dubarry’s Ballycumber Jacket or Barbour’s Foxtrot Jacket. Both are lightweight and give you room for layers underneath. Ladies, try the Shannon Jacket by Dubarry which includes a drawcord waist and hood that can be adjusted for best fit, or the Superlight Ghillie Coat by Schöffel

Practical footwear

You need to wear footwear that can cope with Burghley Park’s uneven terrain and a lot of walking. If you decide to walk the cross-country course, it is about four miles long. There is no point looking super stylish but not actually being able to walk anywhere because your feet ache.

Le Chameau wellingtons are ideal for wet conditions. These quality wellingtons will not let you down as they include high-grip, a supportive sole and a full leather-lining for insulation and breathability. Alternatively, try a shorter leather ankle boot for good support whatever the weather. RM Williams unisex Comfort Craftsman Boots are handcrafted from a single piece of leather, giving them a unique and durable design. They also have a non-slip sole. 

Waterproof footwear does not need to be wellingtons. Dubarry boots are often worn by ladies and men at Burghley. The distinctive leather band design and durability of these boots is well-known in the countryside. The Gore-Tex® lining ensures they are waterproof and breathable to keep your feet dry. Also, the Imperial Explorer Boots from Fairfax & Favor are another Burghley favourite as they combine style with practicality, being water-resistant and made from supple leather. 

If the weather is dry, suede boots or loafers are popular. Fairfax & Favour is a brand that is seen on the feet of some of the most fashionable attendees. The flat Regina Boot in suede has a loyal following among the Burghley crowd and with many colours available, there is sure to be one to suit. Team with a matching Fairfax & Favour Windsor handbag for coordinated style. For an ankle-height and lightweight boot, try RM Williams Adelaide Suede Boots for ladies, featuring a feminine round toe and welted leather sole. For a masculine suede boot, the Suede Comfort Craftsman Boot from RM Williams is ideal. Like the Adelaide, the Comfort Craftsman is a lightweight boot for all day comfort. 

A flat cap or fedora

A tweed baker boy cap looks great on men and women. Country style is everlasting and a tweed cap never goes out of fashion. Choose one made from 100% wool for warmth and durability. 

Otherwise, a trilby hat or fedora style can be worn to many of the country events in your calendar. Hicks & Brown offer smart fedoras that will elevate your outfit from everyday wear to effortless country chic. 

Accessories to complete your look</h4
A fine knit scarf or pashmina can add a splash of colour to your country outfit. Traditional country colours and tweeds are often in muted tones. So, wearing a bright or patterned scarf can liven up your outfit and help keep any wind chill off you. Clare Shaw makes beautifully printed cashmere or silk scarves for ladies with country inspired designs. 

Also, remember to wear a stylish belt to accessorise plain jeans. Leather or suede, plain or patterned, a belt adds the finishing touch to your outfit. Ladies, do not forget to take a stylish handbag. A tote bag is just the right size – not too small that you cannot fit in what you need, not too large for carrying comfortably all day. Fairfax & Favor’s Loxley Tote Bag is a good size for practicality. If you prefer a softer shape, take a look at Dubarry’s Kells Bucket Bag, made from 100% leather with a water-resistant finish.


    • When the cross-country is happening, try to position yourself near Discovery Valley – it is Burghley’s equivalent to Badminton’s famous Water Jump. 
    • Cross-country day on the Saturday is normally the busiest day, so leave plenty of time to get parked up. 
    • The shopping village is huge with over 600 trade stands offering a wide array of country lifestyle products. The shopping is so good in fact, that you could easily spend a day looking at the shops! If you are looking for a specific brand, check the A-Z list of traders.  
    • If you own a Land Rover, you can park in a specially designated Land Rover Owners’ Car Park which is accessible through entrance gate 6. However, spaces are limited and cannot be booked, so arrive as early as possible. You will also be able to enjoy complimentary refreshments in the designated Land Rover tent on all four days. All you need to do, is show your Land Rover key fob to a member of the Land Rover team when you arrive. This is all thanks to Land Rover being the main sponsor for the event. 
    • Burghley is a family friendly event and there are many activities to keep little ones entertained, from face painting to dog agility for kids. If you are going with children, ensure you collect free children’s ID wristbands that are available from the information points, programme kiosks, box office, face painting stand or organiser’s office. If your kids get lost, the ID wristband can help organisers quickly reunite you to your children. 
    • There are giant screens around the showground which display the dressage and show jumping. However, to get a closer view and watch the excitement unfold, it is best to book grandstand tickets. 
    • Planning to take your dog to Burghley? Well-behaved dogs are welcome, but they must be kept on non-extending short leads. Only assistance dogs are allowed in the grandstand and Member’s Enclosure. So, the on-site dog crèche is useful when you want to leave your dog for a few hours in a safe place. Just take some extra cash with you as there is a charge for using it. 
  • You will not go hungry at Burghley. There are many food and drink stalls to cater for all tastes, or there is always the option to bring in a picnic.

*Sources referred to for the creation of this document.