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Equestrian Events

The Ultimate Guide to Badminton Horse Trials

A horse trials event has all the excitement and anticipation of a formula one racing event, and more. Individual riders pit their skills against other competitors to showcase their efforts across the three disciplines of dressage, cross-country and show jumping. At a three-day event like Badminton, after the dressage and cross-country phases, there is a gripping show jumping finale. At the end of the last day, the rider that has displayed excellence across all three phases of the competition is crowned the winner.

Here we give you a run-down of what makes Badminton such a cherished event on the international eventing calendar, plus a style guide on what to wear as a spectator.

 

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A FIVE-STAR EVENT WITH AN ESTEEMED BRITISH HISTORY

Badminton is a world-famous horse trials event. It showcases the elite of eventing, where top riders perform in one of the toughest and most prestigious equestrian events in the world. It is one of only six Concours Complet International (CCI) five-star events in the world and one of only two five-star events in the UK, the other being Burghley. Five-star events are classified by the Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI), marking Badminton out as a challenging competition at the pinnacle of the sport. The event covers three phases that all competitors must take part in: dressage, cross-country and show jumping, and each take place on different days; meaning it is referred to as a three-day event. 

Where is Badminton Horse Trials?

Badminton Horse Trials are held across 500 acres of the Badminton Estate in South Gloucestershire.

When is Badminton Horse Trials?

The horse trials are held every year in May. In 2020 the event will be held from Wednesday 6th May to Sunday the 10th May.

History of Badminton Horse Trials

The first Badminton Horse Trials was held in 1949 by the 10th Duke of Beaufort to help British riders training for international events. Badminton Park remains under ownership of the current Duke and Duchess of Beaufort, and 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the event. Mitsubishi Motors has sponsored the Horse Trials for 28 years, with 2019 being its last sponsorship year.

Badminton Horse Trials is often shortened colloquially to “Badders” and is a great day out in the countryside for the whole family. In addition to the elite competition, amateur riders can compete in the Mitsubishi Motors Cup. The grassroots competition is held in the same location and occurs on the first day of Badminton, when the elite horses are undergoing inspection.

FORMAT OF BADMINTON HORSE TRIALS

Badminton is an annual three-day event that runs over five days, because there is a health inspection of the horses before the competition begins and the dressage phase takes up two days:

Day 1, Wednesday:

The amateur riding competition is held, covering dressage, cross-country and show jumping. Some dressage for the amateur competition also happens on the Tuesday, but this is not open to the public. On Wednesday, the elite horses undergo an initial inspection to make sure they are fit to compete, otherwise known as a ‘trot up’. The young event horse class also occurs on this day.

Day 2, Thursday:

The elite competition begins with dressage.

Day 3, Friday:

Dressage continues and there is a Stallion Parade.

Day 4, Saturday:

Cross-country day and the Shetland Grand National.

Day 5, Sunday:

Final inspection of the horses to ensure they are fit to ride in the final phase of the competition. Once horses are passed as fit, show jumping commences. At the end of the day, there is a presentation of prizes and the winner of Badminton is announced.

BADMINTON HORSE TRIALS DRESS CODE

There is no set dress code for Badminton but it is best to wear clothing that is weather appropriate. Practical clothing and footwear are vital because it is an outdoor event. Some years there has been blazing sunshine and other occasions, torrential rain. Keep a close eye on the weather forecast so you are prepared. 

Some people dress really casual and wear a simple jumper and jeans, while others go smart-casual and wear fashionable pieces from the likes of Fairfax & Favor, Dubarry and Barbour. Practicality does not exclude style. Sunday is the day when spectators and riders are at their most stylish. Embrace a stylish country look, inspired by the elegant outfits riders wear in the trot up, and leave the riding kit at home. Ladies, consider channelling Zara Tindall with chic white jeans and a cape. The same goes for gentlemen, a classic tweed blazer and RM Williams boots are country appropriate. 

Layer up

Wearing layers is the best way to stay stylish and warm, whatever the weather. Start your outfit with a casual shirt, then a layer of knitwear, finishing off with a tweed blazer and a waterproof. You will be thankful for those layers if the changeable British weather threatens. On a sunny day, an elegant vest top teamed with jeans works well for ladies. Just remember to bring a cosy cardigan with you in case it gets blustery. 

A classic cosy knit over a relaxed shirt is perfect for Badminton. If the weather forecast is looking bleak, always wear wool or cashmere to keep you cosy. Take a look at William Lockie’s wool and cashmere jumpers for men and soft lambswool jumpers for women. When the weather is looking fine, Schӧffel’s cotton and cashmere Cable Knit V-neck Jumper or Sleeveless V-neck Jumper are useful layers that will not add bulk. On a good day, you may be able to just wear a shirt with or without a fine knitwear layer on top, but always take a light waterproof coat with you to save you getting drenched in a downpour. Umbrellas are not ideal for equestrian events as horses can be spooked by them. 

Jeans or smart-casual trousers

Badminton is a relatively casual affair, therefore wearing jeans is absolutely OK. Women sometimes opt for skinny white jeans or dark jeans that go well with smart, casual boots. Similarly, men can pair dark jeans or chinos with Chelsea boots. 

Ladies, the white Alice Jeans from RM Williams are ideal if you like a slim-fit jean with stretch. For a straight leg jean, try the Kimberley Jeans which come in white or a classic blue jean colour. If you prefer a dark blue jean, look no further than the range by Amazing Woman, including straight leg as well as skinny leg styles like the Guapa Ankle Grazer. Alternatively, choose the Dubarry Honeysuckle Jeans for a soft-velvety feel, which are available in several colours to suit your taste. 

Men generally go for a traditional blue jean or a lighter coloured chino if the weather is good. Badminton is an all-day event, so it is important that you are comfortable and your jeans fit well. Before you purchase jeans or trousers, take a look at the detailed size and measurement guidance on each A Hume product page. Every brand fits slightly differently, so we measure the trousers ourselves to give you accurate measurements. RM Williams offer a wide variety of blue jeans in different leg lengths, allowing you to find your perfect fit. The Ramco Denim Jean is one of RM Williams’ best selling jeans, offering comfort and versatility with a tapered leg that fits neatly over RM Williams boots. For an ultrasoft style with a tapered leg, try the Linesman Regular Fit Jean in luxury fabric. If you like chinos, Gant’s Slim Twill Chinos in Dark Khaki are an easy to wear colour for weekend style. 

Country blazers or capes

Tweed is a countryside staple that suits a prestigious equestrian event like Badminton. For men and women, a tweed jacket instantly smartens a pair of jeans and provides warmth on cooler days. Tweed comes in an array of designs, from blazers and sports jackets to three-quarter length coats or capes. A classic sports jacket for men or a fitted tweed blazer for ladies is perfect for Badminton. Not too long or cumbersome, a fitted blazer is easy to put on or off in changeable weather conditions. We would suggest avoiding long tweed coats for Badminton as they are likely to be too heavy weight for the weather in May. 

A feminine fitted blazer works well as an outer layer for Badminton. Wear yours open for relaxed style. Ladies tailored jackets feature stylish details, such as the Dubarry Jasmine Jacket with vintage bow styling to the pockets. Dubarry’s Samphire Cape is also a good cover up for inclement weather, designed with Teflon coated 100% wool tweed and front arm slits for movement.   

A gentleman’s favourite is the Magee Donegal Tweed Jacket which comes in several colours including a stylish grey, and looks great teamed with pale chinos. A Hume stock a wide range of men’s sports jackets to give you effortless country style.

If you plan to wear more than one item in tweed, like a jacket and a flat cap, ensure the tweed pattern does not match. Unmatching tweed looks effortlessly stylish.

Flat boots or wellingtons

Comfortable footwear is paramount for the demands of a Badminton day out, which often involves walking 5 miles around the cross-country course. Whatever you choose to do at Badminton, there is a lot of walking and you are likely to be on your feet for most of the day. Wearing practical footwear is the best way forward. You would look out of place turning up to Badminton in glamorous Louboutins. Flat boots are best with a sturdy sole to keep your feet supported and comfortable all day long. On a sunny day, smart-casual loafers are an alternative. 

A pair of Dubarry’s iconic Galway boots will let you enjoy the day come rain or shine. These knee-high leather boots include a full Gore-Tex® lining, making them waterproof and breathable. Le Chameau wellingtons for ladies and men are another option for when the ground is soggy. Their deep tread sole will give you grip in all terrain. 

Ladies Fairfax & Favor Imperial Explorer boots are also ideal for Badminton, being leather lined, water-resistant and breathable. If you prefer a shorter ankle boots, try jodhpur or Chelsea style boots, such as Dubarry’s unisex Kerry boot or Fairfax & Favor’s Leather Chelsea Boots

For a hardworking gentleman’s boot, the Antrim Chelsea Boot by Dubarry is a great addition to your country casual wardrobe. Made from quality leather with a Gore-Tex® lining, they are fully waterproof and are easy to pull off and on due to the inside finger pull and elasticated side gussets. 

A waterproof coat

A waterproof coat will come in handy should the clouds turn black. Barbour does a great range of waterproof jackets for men and women. Choose a lightweight one that is easy to carry with you when the showers blow over. Barbour’s Hallow Jacket for men is breathable, machine washable and features distinctive Barbour embroidery on the front chest pocket. For women, Dubarry’s Shannon Jacket brings a ray of sunshine to your wardrobe with its bright yellow colour and quality details, such as taped seams to keep the rain out. 

As Badminton is a British country event, you will also see many people in Barbour wax jackets. Fit in with the Badminton crowd by wearing the Barbour Ashby Jacket for men or the Ladies Beadnell Jacket. Both have contemporary styling and include Barbour’s signature tartan lining. A relaxed shirt and cosy jumper should be all you need as layers underneath your jacket. 

A tweed cap or trilby

This is not the place for fascinators or top hats like you would wear to the races. A few pheasant feathers peeping out of a trilby hat are fine. Otherwise, if you decide to wear a hat, keep it simple in design. Choose a tweed flat cap or trilby to fit in with the country smart-casual look at Badminton. 

Tweed flat caps are an essential for traditional country attire with many available to suit both men and women. Look for one made from 100% wool to keep you warm or a cap with more of a peak to help keep the sun out of your eyes, like the A Hume Lambden Turnberry Tweed Cap which is an exclusive design.  

Trilby or fedora style hats are an alternative to a flat cap and the wider brim helps to shield your eyes from the sun and rain. For a well-made trilby hat, Dubarry and Hicks & Brown are the brands to look at. The unisex Butler Hat by Dubarry has a waterproof and breathable design, meaning it is guaranteed to keep your head dry in a downpour. It also features Dubarry’s signature branded oval and leather hatband for style. Hicks & Brown are the go-to brand for stylish ladies fedoras for all seasons, including the popular Suffolk Fedora with Classic Feather

A day bag

A bag that is big enough to carry all your daytime essentials is useful. You are likely to leave your car in the morning and not return until dusk, so a spacious handbag or stylish backpack is ideal. Just ensure your bag is not too heavy weight in design to carry round all day. The Millican Matthew the Daypack is perfect for a day at a countryside event. It includes many useful pockets, a fold-away rain cover and adjustable shoulder straps.

OUR HINTS AND TIPS FOR BADMINTON

    • The Shetland Grand National, held on the Saturday, is highly entertaining to watch and fascinating for all the family, particularly if you have children who adore Shetland ponies. 
    • The Badminton Estate is not close to public transport, so it is best to travel by car. Just be prepared for queues, as more than 185,000 people attend over the five days. 
    • The parking can be miles away from the showground, so wear comfortable shoes or boots for lots of walking. 
    • Go on the Thursday if you do not like big crowds. This is generally the quieter day, although it is a dressage only day. You may also get some early shopping deals.
    • The best vantage point to see the cross-country action is by the famous Water Jump. 
    • You will need a grandstand ticket to watch the show jumping on the Sunday in addition to your personal admission and car pass. 
    • No need to book a hotel – you can camp or glamp on-site at Badminton. Bring your own caravan or tent and book your pitch on the campsite, or alternatively hire a motorhome or pre-erected tent. If you fancy a little more exclusivity, book a luxury glamping experience in The Badminton Retreat which has great views of the cross-country course. This area has its own pamper room, hot tubs, restaurant and bar. 
    • Well behaved dogs are welcome at Badminton, but you are not allowed to let your dog off its lead. Also, consider using the Dog Crèche that is available. This is really useful if you want to go and watch the show jumping for a few hours as dogs are not permitted in the grandstands, any restaurants or the Member’s Enclosure.   
  • Do not forget to leave some time for shopping – many country and lifestyle brands showcase their finest products at Badminton, so it is not to be missed! There are also plenty food and drink stalls. 

*Sources referred to for the creation of this document.

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