Whilst I have never ridden a horse, Little Miss loves everything equine so we decided that this year we would visit the Badminton Horse Trials. By a great coincidence, England played a cricket ODI in Bristol yesterday, so Mr S travelled up early on Friday morning to watch the cricket with his dad and I drove up with the children after school and work. My Father in Law lives close to Badminton , just a 10 mile journey which made this morning’s drive over quick and easy. I was really impressed by the organisation for Badminton, I had envisaged queuing traffic both in and out but it was minimal thanks to a very efficient system and arriving and leaving slightly earlier than the main crowds. We arrived just before 9 and left around 4pm. When we arrived at 9, we parked and walked over to the traders, this area was huge and we didn’t visit all the stands. When we have a day out like today, we tend to have breakfast on site and like today, its often a pancake. After breakfast we pottered around the stands, whilst there were lots of specialist equine stalls there were many country crafts, artisan stalls and food specialists, I particularly liked the Country Living marquee. Grandad had given the children money and they were delighted to find the must have fidget toy on sale at Badminton, without a doubt the busiest stall today. They were a good buy and when Little Man got fed up with the cross country he was happy to sit on the grass and play with his new toy.
Before the main event of the cross country there was a fun event in the main arena, the Shetland pony derby. This was a good starter, the children got to see the arena and some of the jumps and then cheered the ponies on in a race. After the race we headed out on course to follow the cross country. Next year we’ve decided that we would change this plan slightly, perhaps watch the first couple of riders in the arena and then get some lunch before heading out to the jumps. The food stalls on the course were very busy and there was more variety and choice in the centre. Being out on the cross country course was a fantastic experience, you are so close to the action and see the pain etched on the rider’s faces, hear the thunder of the hooves etc.. Most people move around the course so you have front row action for each jump. The jumps were designed and presented beautifully, lots of natural features complementing the materials of the jumps. We saw a variety of jumps, water, steep hills, jumps very close to each other, high jumps, wide jumps etc.. I found it was helpful having the programme for all the details of riders, horses and jumps and I really enjoyed following the cross country, much more than I had expected to. The skill needed for a successful round is immense. Whilst it is difficult to follow the placings and timings, you can buy a radio for full commentary or there are loudspeakers and large screens around the course.
I had never been to the Badminton estate before and it is a beautiful stately home and perfect setting for the event, its trees and features simply merge into the course. The crowds were huge but as most people walk around the 30 fences, it is easy to get close to the action. The whole scene was quintessentially British, lots of tweed, hats and Labradors. I was quite taken by our day and we are already planning our return next year. Our horsie mad daughter has written such a lovely piece about Badminton, these words and her excitement at being there have helped make a special family day out.