Burghley Horse Trials: The Unofficial Guide
If Badminton Horse Trials kick starts the international eventing season in the UK, then Burghley Horse Trials brings it to a close. Held over the first weekend in September, Burghley is the autumn mirror to Badminton in the spring.
Burghley Horse Trials is held at Burghley House which is near Stamford in Lincolnshire. Burghley House is one of the finest Elizabethan houses in Europe and is open to the public (closed during the horse trials). The horse trials run, just like Badminton, over four days, Thursday through to Sunday so, if you are making a week of it, then you can visit this spectacular house and gardens on days either side of the event as it will be open.
Burghley Horse Trials is a four-star event of which there are only six worldwide, the other British event being Badminton in the spring. Burghley is a newer event to Badminton, running for the first time in 1961, but hosting the European championships in only its second year of competition in 1962. The event came to Burghley House by accident, following the cancellation of a competition at Harewood. The British Horse Society, who ran horse trials in those days, were invited to re-route to Burghley House.
Wondering How It Looked in 1962?
Burghley Horse Trials is an opportunity to see the world’s finest riders competing at the highest level of competition across the three disciplines of dressage, show jumping and cross country. It is a three-day event but runs for four days as the number of competitors dictates that the dressage has to be run over two days, Thursday and Friday. The cross-country follows on Saturday, always drawing the biggest crowds and then the final discipline, the show jumping is on Sunday.
What to Wear for Burghley Horse Trials
Coming at the end of the summer, Burghley often enjoys something of an Indian summer weather wise so it can be warm. However, it can also be cool first thing in the morning and in the evenings, and sometimes cold and wet, so as with all long days out in the English countryside, you need to go prepared for all seasons in one day.
Burghley is quite a stylish event and whilst it does not have a dress code, a waxed jacket will never look out of place and will be one of the most useful things you can take. Fitted with plenty of pockets, a ladies' or gentleman’s waxed coat is practical and multi-functional as well as looking stylish and staying waterproof but breathable when it is raining. Comfortable walking boots or short boots are ideal for a long day on your feet; they will keep your feet dry if it is wet and is more comfortable to walk in for long periods than Wellington boots. A good hat is a must, flat caps for the gentleman protecting heads from sun and rain and even now for the ladies who are borrowing this look to create something stylish and feminine.
What’s On at the Burghley Horse Trials?
Apart from the international competition over the four days, there are plenty of other things to watch in the rings around the main arena.
Pony Club & Young Horses
There is a Pony Club show jumping competition and also a series called Burghley Young Event Horse which are classes showcasing up and coming young event horses. There are informative displays and course walks with some top names ahead of the cross country on Saturday.
There is a huge shopping village with well-known names from both the fashion and the equestrian world and trade stands selling all sorts of things from jewellery to riding safaris. The shopping area is always at its busiest on Saturday when the crowds arrive for cross country day so a smart move is to come for two days and shop on one of the quieter days which are Thursday and Friday. Burghley is the perfect place to pick up some early Christmas presents to put away for later in the year. It’s also a chance to have a sneak preview of some of the cross country fences.
Cross Country Course
Spend the whole of Saturday on the cross country course. Seeing one horse over each fence will take you most of the afternoon, the horses starting this phase usually late morning.
Tickets and Passes
Tickets for all the four days plus parking can be bought at the gate or in advance if you know your plans and they are cheaper if bought ahead. It is possible to buy a season ticket for all four days. There is some free seating available in the stands on the two dressage days but pre-booked tickets will get you a better view of the competition and are essential on the last day to see the conclusion of the competition.
Accommodation and TravelView Accommodation Deals in Stamford
There is a campsite within the parkland for those who want to pitch a tent or bring a caravan. This is very popular amongst spectators who want to stay for the entire event and pitches sell out months in advance so you need to think ahead on this. It’s a great way to stay on site and have a handy base to retreat to during the day. The shopping village and food stands stay open throughout the evening and there is a real party atmosphere often complemented with some late summer sunshine.
Burghley House sits right next to the pretty town of Stamford which offers plenty of places to eat and stay. Accommodation is booked from year to year so you need to be organised with your plans if you want to dine in Stamford or find a hotel during horse trials weekend. Burghley is located next to the A1M and offers very good road access from all parts of the country. It is also conveniently close to Peterborough which does offer a range of other accommodation options and has a mainline train station.
Burghley Horse Trials is the end of summer eventing party and traditionally enjoys fine weather. It is quite distinct from its counterpart, Badminton Horse Trials, not least because the terrain in this part of Lincolnshire makes for a very different cross country experience compared to Gloucestershire. However, it shares much with Badminton in that the location is simply breathtaking and the quality of competition world class, not to forget, of course, the fabulous shopping.