Badminton: a Guide for the Thrill Seekers
Hurrah - Badminton is FINALLY here!! For us Eventers it's better than Christmas and Birthdays put together!! There's so many wonderful things to see and do at Badminton - the shopping is always a big talking point, as is the amazing food and obviously the bar and social scene. But today I am talking about the ACTION!! The athletes, both human and horse that make this event the amazing spectacle it is year after year.
I LOVE Badminton and obsess over it for weeks - looking at the course, checking the entries and scrolling through social media at any opportunity. Actually, all year round I watch cross country at every opportunity possible - any live streams, re-runs of ERMs on Horse & Country TV and any events I can get along to so I wanted to write a quick blog for those who are going first and foremost to see the action! Here are my ten (ish) tips on how to maximise your Cross country experience!!
1. Get there early – and I mean early as there’s nothing more frustrating than being sat in a maaaaasive que at the entrance. Last year we arrived at 7am ahead of an 11am kick off, which meant we just breezed in and were parked really close to the main area. Arriving early means you can sus-out the layout of the field before everyone arrives, plus, if you are lucky you will get to spot a few of the big names giving their horses a leg stretch up the canter tracks or walking their lines on the more tricky fences for the final time which in itself is fascinating and highly recommended; last year I watched Ingrid Klimke walk, walk and re-walk the Savills Staircase.
2. Take food and water in an appropriate bag, ideally a back pack as this is the most comfortable of transporting it! It’s a long old day out on the cross-country course and you do not want to waste half an hour at a time standing in the que at the food vans – guaranteed something dramatic will happen while your back is turned. I’m an eater so require snacks 24/7 when I’m on holiday (Badders definitely counts as a holiday), so mine is full to the bring of tasty treats including strawberries with chocolate sauce and mini bottles of prosecco of course!!
3. Dress appropriately and have room in the bag for layers to put on/take off! Fingers crossed its going to be sunny but the reality of the UK in May is that there’s a great chance it’s going to be scorching one minute and cold and raining the next so be prepared! I recommend our Training Gilet as a good in-between garment and fold our Softshell jacket up and pop it in the bottom of your bag, just in case! It’s wind and shower proof and the ideal weight to keep the chill off but stop you from overheating while walking up the hill at Huntsman’s close!
4. Wear comfortable shoes! If you want to make the most of the action and walk all the way to Hildon Water Pond at the top end of the course I recommend trainers (if the grass is dry) or sturdy waterproof boots in the likelihood of rain. You will see people struggling through the mud in high heels – yes, they looked amazing at the start of the day but guys, it’s just not worth it!
5. Familiarise yourself with the course ahead of time and pick the fences you want to spend the most time at. You don’t want to panic and spend too much time at the more insignificant fences thinking you have all the time in the world to see the statement fences. Time will run away from you so plan your viewing points and make sure you get a good spot for your favourite riders! We were advised to walk the course backwards, so you can see the riders coming towards you which, in theory, is a good idea but unfortunately in 2017 the track was so tough that many combinations didn’t make it all the way around. This resulted in us missing quite a lot of riders and sitting around, sometimes for 10-15 minutes at a time waiting for the next rider to come. I was gutted to miss Paul Tapner for this very reason!
6. Check out the warm up area. This was one of my favourite parts of last year’s Badminton because it’s a real insight into how these riders think and prepare. I found it so interesting taking in how different each rider’s tactic and seeing how much jumping, flatwork and lengthening/shortening work they did. Definitely educational, plus you can get quite close and take time to appreciate the sheer power of these gorgeous creatures (the horses that is!).
7. Go to the loo before the action starts. This sounds stupid and obvious; however, I could never have imagined the length of the que at the portaloos! Again, I missed some incredible action by standing in the loo que, so (at the risk of sounding like your mother) if you see one without a que on your travels then use it while you can and carry tissues with you AT ALL TIMES!
8. Badminton radio/ Programme – I’m an organiser, so highlight your must sees in the programme and know exactly when they are due on course. I also strongly advice purchasing a headset and making use of Badminton Radio as then you can hear what is happening on the rest of the course and get horse and rider stats and insights as they are going round.
9. Don’t spend all day videoing – as a keen vlogger I know that you will of course want to make a killer video montage of your time at Badders but make sure you remember to put your phone away and experience the action first hand. The atmosphere at Badminton is like no other and I highly recommend watching the majority of it directly through your real-life eyes, rather than peering through your phone!
10. Finish you day at the Lake. Not only is this one of thee most amazing fences to watch as you take in the enormity of the drop in, you can also sit in the grandstand to rest those weary legs and the atmosphere is unbelievable with everyone clapping and cheering for every single rider! The best bit is that once the final horse comes through, the action isn’t over! All dog owners (who have been so kind to keep their dogs on leads all day) can release their hounds and watch them play in the water. Last year was hilarious as all different breeds and sizes went tearing around the water chasing balls, sticks and each other. This is guaranteed to send you home with a massive smile on your face after the perfect day out!
11. Bonus point- once the action is over you are allowed to walk out onto the course and take in just how big some of the fences truly are! Seeing what these guys are jumping is a guaranteed way of curing your fear of moving up to BE100!!
Most of all, ENJOY EVERY MINUTE!!