England’s elite Badminton Horse Trials set for facelift in 2018

England’s elite Badminton Horse Trials set for facelift in 2018

08/11/2017 at 23:46Updated 08/11/2017 at 23:47

Held on the exquisite emerald grounds of the Badminton Estate in South Gloucestershire, the annual Badminton Horse Trials are one of the most prestigious and challenging equestrian sports competitions on the planet. And while traditions are paramount at the historic CCI**** Eventing championship, the event is expected to have a brand new look in 2018.

“Everything’s different for 2018,” says Eric Winter, who took over the job of course designer at the Horse Trials this year. Winter, himself a former Eventing rider and  FEI International-level designer who has designed 30 different venues in Britain, Western Europe and Asia, has revealed his plans for the 2018 overhaul in a new video.

“I wanted to get Badminton back to being the pinnacle of cross-country,” Winter explains. “I wanted to go back to an old-fashioned type of cross-country course, where we really jump logs and some square bits of timber and all sorts of different questions. And that, to me, is cross-country. You know, it’s not about training in an arena… Real cross-country is about using terrain and bits of wood, and training your horses to cope with those things.”

“If you bring a horse to badminton, it has to be a cross-country horse,” he adds, “it has to be able to curl over a fence and jump a little, bounce into something — be able to really be neat in front and be brave and get the trip and be able to handle terrain….”

Winter says he was pleased with how his inaugural year at Badminton in 2017 went, notably the victory of New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson. Speaking of runner-up and World No.1 in the sport, Germany’s Michael Jung, Winter says: “He made it look like a pony club course, and that’s one of the drivers for an event: your good guys should make it look easy, and they did.”

As for the future, “in 2018, we’re gonna run anti-clockwise — the opposite direction from last year — we’re gonna go through the quarry, we’ve got a new bank at the third fence so that will really shift them off their rhythm…”

Next year’s Badminton Horse Trials, which are scheduled for May 2-6, 2018, will of course feature the traditional Dressage, Cross-Country and Show Jumping phases in the Eventing discipline. Over the years, the event has been one of the select group of top-flight 4* Eventing competitions around the world making up the FEI Classics series, which itself is being overhauled. The other traditional stops on the series are Les 4 Etoiles de Pau in France, the Australian International 3 Day Event, the Luhmuhlen CCI* in Germany, and the Burghley Horse Trials, also in Great Britain.

According to Badminton organizers, “the prize money for the inaugural 1949 event was £150 to the winner and a total of about £500 in all; by 1965 this had ‘progressed’ to £250 and £750 in all; in 1975 to £1,000 and £3,500 in all; in 1985 to £5,000 and £15,000 in all; in 1995 it was £22,500 and £92,000 overall, in 2005 it was £50,000 and £190,000 overall. At the 2015 competition the winner took home £80,000 and the total prize money was approximately £330,000. In 2017 the total prize money was £360,000 with £100,000 going to the winner.”