Badminton Horse Trials – The Unofficial World Championship of Eventing.


In the world of eventing, there is one event that holds such prestige and respect that every international rider in world strives to compete at, and hopefully win. Badminton has history and pedigree, and the list of winners reads a who’s who of famous riders and horses.

The Mitshubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is a three-day event, one of only five elite international four star, CCI****, events as classified by the FEI

“Badminton” takes place in May each year in the park of Badminton House the seat of the Dukes of Beaufort in Gloucestershire, England. The event started in 1949. The current course designer and director is Hugh Thomas, who took over from one of the sport’s most famous faces Frank Weldon, (himself a previous winner) in 1989. Frank is arguably the man who developed the event into the pinnacle of Three Day Eventing today. However, Hugh Thomas has recently come under fire following 2007’s events, where poor organisation, outdated facilities and dreadfully hard ground resulted in 22 withdrawals, including World Champion Zara Phillips. Speculation is that Sue Benson, herself a runner up who is designing the London 2012 Olympic Course, may also design at Badminton soon.

The cross country day at Badminton attracts crowds of up to a quarter of a million, which are the largest for any paid-entry sport event in the United Kingdom.

Together with the four-star rated Rolex Kentucky Three Day and the Burghley Horse Trials, Badminton forms the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing. The remaining CCI**** rated events are the Luhmühlen Horse Trials, the Adelaide Horse Trials and the Stars of Pau.

Badminton was first held in 1949 by the 10th Duke of Beaufort in order to let British riders train for future international events. The first Badminton had 22 horses from Britain and Ireland start, and was won by Golden Willow. In contrast, in 2004 there were approximately 100 entries from eleven countries, and 82 horses started the competition. Badminton was the home of the first European Championship in 1953, and was won by Major Laurence Rook on Starlight XV. In 1955, Badminton moved to Windsor Castle for a year, at the invitation of the Queen, in order to hold the second European Championships. Badminton was first televised in 1956. In 1959, it was decided to hold Badminton in two sections, called the Great and Little Badminton, due to the popularity of the event and the number of entries, but this was abandoned after the 1965 event. Today’s Badminton is held in a 6 square kilometer (1500 acre) area Badminton Park, where the car parks, tradestands, arena and cross country courses are located.

Badminton has been forced to cancel on several occasions for various reasons. In 1966, 1975 and 1987 the event was cancelled completely and in 1963 was downgraded to a one-day event due to bad weather. In 2001 it was cancelled due to foot and mouth disease.

Between 1961 and 1991, Badminton was sponsored by Messrs. Whitbread, one of the longest sponsorships for any sport. In 1992, Mitsubishi Motors, whose national ‘Colt’ Office is based locally in Cirencester took over sponsorship, initially for three years, although that sponsorship has been extended through 2010, establishing one of the longest relationships in British sport Riders winning the event are awarded the Mitsubishi Motors trophy, while riders who have completed the event five times are presented with the Armada Dish.

Interesting Facts

The first Badminton in 1949 advertised itself with immense foresight as “the most important horse event in Great Britain”.

Badminton was the second three-day event to be run in Britain. The first was its inspiration – the 1948 Olympics.

The crowd at the first Badminton was estimated at 6,000 and the event made a handsome profit of £20. Exact numbers are now hard to gauge but overall figures for the four days certainly exceed 150,000.

In 1949 the admittance fee for a 26 seater charabanc was £2/10/-, pedestrians 1/-.

Golden Willow, ridden by John Shedden caused a sensation in 1949 when he clean jumped the Irish Bank on the way to an historic victory.

In that year, eight of the 22 starters failed to get past the cross-country phase, including the valiant Brigadier J. Scott-Coburn, who was the three times winner of the Kadir Cup, the pig-sticking blue riband of India.

Badminton was first televised in 1954.

Only one continental rider has won Badminton – Switzerland’s Hans Schwarzenbach on Vae Victis in 1951. The Swiss were first, fourth, sixth and ninth, despite the fact that their horses hadn’t jumped for eight months due to the Swiss winter – they were just very obedient.

The maximum dimensions for cross-country fences have remained unchanged since 1912.

Badminton was held at Windsor in 1955 by invitation of the Queen. The trials hosted the European championships, which were won by Col. Frank Weldon and Kilbarry.

Badminton’s host, the current Duke of Beaufort, as Mr. David Somerset, was runner-up in 1959 riding Countryman III. The current Director, Hugh Thomas, was also a runner up – in 1976.

The oldest winner was Chris Bartle on Word Perfect. He was 46 and 80 days, just a few days more than Australia’s Laurie Morgan.

Only two people, Australia’s Bill Roycroft and Britain’s Lorna Sutherland (now Mrs. Clarke), have ridden round three times in one day which, including the steeplechase, would have required about 120 jumps and nearly 50 miles (80 km) of riding. This feat can never be repeated because the rules now only allow a maximum of two rides.

Until 1967 the speed and endurance day also included a run in Phase E after the cross-country.

In the early years of the event it was quite normal for horses and riders to arrive at the trials by train.

The event has been rained off three times: in 1966, in 1975 and in 1987. It was a close run thing in 1951 when three separate courses were built during the wet spring and the final rails of the eventual track were only put in place the night before the cross country.

In 1963 the event only continued under one day event rules. The weather was so bad that communications broke down completely; the Horse and Hound correspondent stood at the last fence for 10 minutes without realising it had been cut; Switzerland’s Dr. Koechlin got lost and Frank Weldon’s horse cart wheeled over fence two.

The dressage leader has won 11 times: Frank Weldon (Kilbarry, 1955 Windsor, and in 1956); Sheila Wilcox (High & Mighty 1957, 1958); Anneli Drummond-Hay (Merely a Monarch 1962); Eddi Boylan (Durlas Eile, 1965); Richard Meade (The Poacher, 1970); Mark Phillips (Great Ovation 1971); Lucinda Green (Beagle Bay 1984); Mary Thomson (King William 1992); Ginny Leng (Welton Houdini 1993).

From 1959 until 1965 the competition was split into two sections. The “Little Badminton” competitors jumped the same course as those for Great Badminton but the sections were graded on horses’ money winnings.

With increasing crowds it was decided that the cross-country day should be put back to Friday in 1974. This unpopular departure was put right when the event returned after the 1975 cancellation.

Lorna Clarke (formerly Sutherland) holds the record for competing on the most occasions – 23.

The Poacher is the only horse to have won both Little Badminton (with his owner Martin Whiteley in 1965) and Great Badminton (with Richard Meade in 1970).

Worcester Lodge, at the top of the avenue leading north from Badminton House and for many years a landmark for riders on the Roads and Tracks, was allegedly built by a previous Duke as a “pleasure dome”, where he would entertain a mistress before cantering back down Worcester Avenue to Badminton for breakfast.

The youngest winner was Richard Walker with Pasha in 1969. Richard was 18 at the time.

In 1969 the dressage leaders, Bertie Hill and Chicago fell on the steeplechase. Next year they were eliminated for taking the wrong show jumping course while lying handily in third place.

In 1972 Richard Meade, show jumping last with Laurieston and needing a clear round to win, left every pole intact but was so cautious he got 1.25 time penalties to lose by just 0.65 to Mark Phillips and Great Ovation.

In 1973 the coffin at fence three penalised well over half of the field.

Jane Holderness-Roddam’s victory on Warrior in 1978 was immortalised by the resident poet of Private Eye, E. Jarvis Thribb.

The shopping centre of the tradestands can provide, in a smaller area, probably more goods than any capital in the world.

The permanent Badminton horse trials office which temporarily moves to the show ground for the event used to be the Badminton village blacksmith’s shop.

Eleanor Brennan was the youngest person to complete Badminton, in 2005, on Bailey Zwei, she placed 44th out of ninety.


  • 1949 John Shedden : Golden Willow
  • 1950 Tony Collins : Remus
  • 1951 Hans Schwarzenbach : Vae Victis
  • 1952 Mark Darley : Emily Little
  • 1953 Laurence Rook : Starlight
  • 1954 Margaret Hough : Bambi V
  • 1955 Frank Weldon : Kilbarry (Event held at Windsor)
  • 1956 Frank Weldon : Kilbarry
  • 1957 Sheila Waddington (Sheila Willcox) : High and Mighty
  • 1958 Sheila Waddington (Sheila Willcox) : High and Mighty
  • 1959 Sheila Waddington (Sheila Willcox) : Airs and Graces
  • 1960 Bill Roycroft : Our Solo
  • 1961 Laurie Morgan : Salad Days
  • 1962 Anneli Drummond-Hay : Merely-a-Monarch
  • 1963: Event downgraded to 1 day event due to bad weather.
  • 1964 James Templer : M’Lord Connolly
  • 1965 Eddie Boylan : Durlas Eile
  • 1966: Event cancelled due to bad weather.
  • 1967 Celia Ross-Taylor : Jonathan
  • 1968 Jane Holderness-Roddam (Jane Bullen) : Our Nobby
  • 1969 Richard Walker : Pasha
  • 1970 Richard Meade : The Poacher
  • 1971 Mark Phillips : Great Ovation
  • 1972 Mark Phillips : Great Ovation
  • 1973 Lucinda Green (Lucinda Prior-Palmer) : Be Fair
  • 1974 Mark Phillips : Colombus
  • 1975: Event cancelled due to bad weather.
  • 1976 Lucinda Green (Lucinda Prior-Palmer) : Wide Awake
  • 1977 Lucinda Green (Lucinda Prior-Palmer) : George
  • 1978 Jane Holderness-Roddam (Jane Bullen) : Warrior
  • 1979 Lucinda Green (Lucinda Prior-Palmer) : Killaire
  • 1980 Mark Todd : Southern Comfort III
  • 1981 Mark Phillips : Lincoln
  • 1982 Richard Meade : Speculator III
  • 1983 Lucinda Green (Prior-Palmer) : Regal Realm
  • 1984 Lucinda Green (Prior-Palmer) : Beagle Bay
  • 1985 Ginny Leng (Ginny Holgate) : Priceless
  • 1986 Ian Stark : Sir Wattie
  • 1987: Event cancelled due to bad weather.
  • 1988 Ian Stark : Sir Wattie (Stark also came second on Glenburnie)
  • 1989 Ginny Leng (Ginny Holgate) : Master Craftsman
  • 1990 Nicola Coe : Middle Road
  • 1991 Rodney Powell : Irishman II,
  • 1992 Mary King : King William
  • 1993 Ginny Leng (Ginny Holgate) : Welton Houdini
  • 1994 Mark Todd : Horton Point
  • 1995 Bruce Davidson : Eagle Lion
  • 1996 Mark Todd : Bertie Blunt
  • 1997 David O’Connor : Custom Made
  • 1998 Chris Bartle : Word Perfect II
  • 1999 Ian Stark : Jaybee
  • 2000 Mary King : Star Appeal
  • 2001: Event cancelled due to UK foot and mouth epidemic.
  • 2002 Pippa Funnell : Supreme Rock
  • 2003 Pippa Funnell : Supreme Rock
  • 2004 William Fox-Pitt : Tamarillo
  • 2005 Pippa Funnell : Primmore’s Pride
  • 2006 Andrew Hoy : Moonfleet
  • 2007 Lucinda Fredericks (AUS): Headley Britannia
  • 2008 Nicolas Touzaint (FRA) : Hildago de L’Ile
  • 2009 Oliver Townend : Flint Curtis
  • 2010 Paul Tapner Australia : Inonothing
  • 2011 Mark Todd New Zealand : NZB Land Vision
  • 2012: Event cancelled due to bad weather
  • 2013: Jonathan Paget New Zealand : Clifton Promise
  • 2014: Sam Griffiths Australia : Paulank Brockagh


Nicolas Touzaint and Hildago de l’Ile
Winners of the 2008 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials

In 1988, Ian Stark became the only rider to date to gain first and second places with Sir Wattie, first, and Glenburnie, second. Sheila Willcox (Mrs. J. Waddington) is the only rider to have achieved a hat-trick of wins with High and Mighty in 1957 and 1958, and on Airs and Graces in 1959. She almost set up a remarkable four-timer when, in 1956 on High and Mighty, she was runner up to Colonel Frank Weldon on Kilbarry. She did win a fourth Badminton title winning Little Badminton on Glenamoy in 1964. The smallest horses Our Solo (Australia) in 1960, and Our Nobby, ridden by Jane Bullen (now Mrs. Tim Holderness-Roddam) in 1968. Both were 15 hh. The biggest horses to take the Badminton title have been Durlas Eile, Major E.A. Boylan (Ireland) in 1965, Columbus, Captain Mark Phillips in 1974, Custom Made, David O’Connor (USA) and Word Perfect II, Christ Bartle in 1998. All were 17 hh. The youngest rider to win at Badminton is Richard Walker, aged 18 and 247 days, when he rode Pasha to win in 1969. The youngest horse winning at Badminton was the five year-old Golden Willow, ridden by John Shedden in the very first year of the competition. Nowadays 7 years is the minimum age for all competing horses. The oldest rider to win at Badminton is Andrew Hoy in 2006 aged 47. The oldest horse to win the Championship is Lynn Bevan’s Horton Point, 16 years, ridden by Mark Todd (New Zealand) in 1994. Three grey horses have been successful since the start of the event – Columbus, Captain Mark Phillips, in 1974, Beagle Bay, Lucinda Green, in 1984, and Welton Houdini, Ginny Leng, in 1993.

Merry Sovereign, ridden by Clarissa Strachan, is the only horse to have completed the Badminton course six times in successive years, 1976 – 1981. Completed Badminton the most times – Andrew Nicholson (NZL) is the new holder of this record with 23 times. Previously Lorna Clarke held the record with 22 times. Lorna retired after the 1992 event. Riding three horses in the same competition at Badminton has been achieved twice. Bill Roycroft (Australia) rode Eldorado, Stoney Crossing and Avatar in 1965. Roycroft was second on Eldorado and sixth on Stoney Crossing which, the previous month was third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup behind Arkle and Mill House. Five years later in 1970, Lorna Sutherland, now Lorna Clarke, also rode three horses on the same day – Popadom, Gypsy Flame and The Dark Horse. Riders are now restricted to riding no more than two horses in the same competition.

Below is an interesting insight into preparation for Badminton by the famous Royal Zara Phillips.

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5 thoughts on “Badminton Horse Trials – The Unofficial World Championship of Eventing.

  1. Hi, I am trying to collect as many videos of Badminton as I can as I am fascinated by the courses and how things have changed…any idea where I can buy some of the back issues? So far I have 1992,1993,1994,1995,1998,1999 and 2003. I have tried Ebay and Amazon but not too much on there! Cheers

    • I’m sure this was intended as background to the video, and that the lack of a link was a genuine omission. However, it was my understanding that Wikipedia applied a creative commons licence whereby third parties are encouraged to syndicate their content – though, as you rightly point out, this should usually be accompanied by a link and/or reference – i.e. that is the copyright position.

      Whether or not Wikipedia is an organization requiring ‘courtesy’ is a more debatable point.

      I’ll ask for the first issue to be addressed ASAP – thanks for bringing this up.

  2. Hi Emily,

    I did some research and I cannot find any info on The Poachers breeding. You might have to jump on the phone and track down people in eventing circles in the UK who may be able to give you some good leads.

    Good luck.

    Jon @ Allied Equine

  3. Hi,

    I’m trying to learn more about The Poacher’s breeding. Do you know the names of his dam and sire? Do you know his breed? Google searches only turn up articles similar to yours that note his achievement, but not his background.

    Emily Greene

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