There is an event that no horse lover would want to miss for anything in the world: the Badminton Horse Trials! It is one of the six major competitions in the world and today, it is known as the ultimate equestrian competition for top riders. For enthusiasts, it is a unique moment of fabulous shows, enthusiasm and adrenaline in a unique and fascinating environment.
Origin of Badminton Horse Trials
The Badminton Horse Trials have been held since 1949, on the Duke of Beaufort’s land in Gloucestershire, in the southwest of the United Kingdom, near Bristol and Bath. Skilfully orchestrated by its director Hugh Thomas, and by the Course Designers who succeeded him, this high-level event was also the choice of a renowned sponsor, Mitsubishi Motors. Each year, the Badminton Horse Trials attract approximately 160,000 spectators and 85 pairs of riders and horses.
Since its creation, only three continental Europeans riders have won the prestigious trophy: the Swiss Captain, Hans Schwarzenbach in 1951, the German, Michael Jung in 2016 and Frenchman, Nicolas Touzaint in 2008. Apart from these winners, the victory is dominated by the British, Australians, New Zealanders and Americans.
Brief facts about the Badminton Horse Trials
The Badminton Horse Trials is a competition with impressive records. For example, New Zealander Andrew Nicholson (Mark Todd’s own former bellman) holds the record for 37 completed courses. The British Lucinda Green, for her part, holds the record for victories with no less than 6 victories between 1973 and 1984.
Mark Todd was named “rider of the 20th century”, winner in 2011 for the fourth time, at the age of 55. He retired provisionally after the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and then returned to competition in 2008 for the Olympic Games. Let’s not forget to mention Mary King, an exceptional rider, idol of an entire nation, who has never stopped accumulating titles and victories throughout her history.
In 2019, the Badminton Horse Trials celebrates its 70th anniversary!
In 2019, the Badminton Horse Trials celebrates its 70th anniversary, the first event dating back to 1949. Admission is free for children under 12 years of age and the organizers offer tickets that can be obtained at a reduced price if bought early enough.
70 years old! It is an opportunity to review a few anecdotes that are part of a major equestrian event in the UK, such as the following:
- The Badminton Horse Trials were born thanks to the determination of the 10th Duke of Beaufort to organize an annual competition on his property in Badminton in the southwest of England, in order to allow riders to gain experience and contribute to the formation of an Olympic team.
- In the early days, there were 22 starters from only two countries: Great Britain and Ireland
- The winner of the first European Championships in Badminton was Laurence Rook, in 1953.
- It was in 1956 that the trials were broadcast on television for the first time. At the time, the event was covered by only 15 cameras, broadcast on the British public channel, the BBC.
- In 1955, on the invitation of Queen Elizabeth, the trials were held in Windsor.
- As the popularity of equestrian sport grew and spectators became more and more numerous, the trials had to be divided into two sections in 1959: Great Badminton and Little Badminton. This sharing lasted until 1965.
- In 1992, Mitsubishi Motors became the main sponsor of the event, initially for three years. Nearly 30 years later, its name is closely linked to the Badminton Horse Trials.
- The Badminton Horse Trials have been cancelled four times in their history, due to bad weather conditions in 1966, 1975, 1987 and 2012. In 2001, the event was also cancelled due to the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.
- In 1949, when the event was first inaugurated, the winner received £150. This amount has since evolved, with a total of £100,000 being awarded to the winner in 2018.
- Today, the event brings to life a microcosm around Badminton, with all the shops, car parks and other activities around Badminton Park spread over approximately 200 hectares.
(Source: Photographer Henry Bucklow/Lazy Photography)