Whether you are a hardened eventing enthusiast or just a happy hacker, the Landrover Burghley International Horse Trials mark the end of the summer in spectacular fashion. Four days of international competition held against the magnificent backdrop of Burghley House with something for everyone.
The Burghley Horse Trials are one of only six four-star horse trials in the world. The other UK event is Badminton in early May. This is the highest level of three-day event competition and is actually run over four days as the dressage is allocated two days rather than one.
Burghley is always held around the beginning of September, the actual date varies slightly depending on the late summer Bank Holiday at the end of August. Horses arrive on site at the beginning of the week and those who are keen will watch the first trot up in front of Burghley House on Wednesday. Two days of dressage follow. Thursday and Friday are the quieter days in terms of spectator attendance, you can either pre-book a seat in the stands with a good view of the dressage arena or there are free seats which are sited slightly further away which you can wander in and out of during the day.
There are plenty of other things to watch on the first two days of the trials including a Pony Club show jumping competition and the finals of the Burghley Young Event Horse series which are held in rings just outside the shopping village.
The shopping at Burghley is to die for and many people come just for that. The trade stands are at their busiest over the weekend, particularly on the Saturday which has the highest footfall because of the cross-country phase of the competition. There is every type of equestrian retailer and all sorts of rural and country businesses interspersed with plenty of food outlets. The trade stands stay open well on into the evening. The first two days of the horse trials are also a great opportunity to have a look at the cross-country course. There are informative, guided course walks with the great and the good and you will bump into many current riders as you walk round.
Saturday is the day of action with horses starting out on the course from around midday and finishing at about 5 pm. The usual pattern is to walk and see a horse over each fence. The course is long, around four miles, and Burghley has plenty of steep inclines but the course loops around so there are lots of opportunities to hive off back towards the main arena and the shopping village. The course is liberally sprinkled with food outlets and toilets.
Sunday, the final day, is always busy starting with that all-important trot up in the morning after the rigours of the cross-country the previous day and then the final of the competition, the show jumping, from late morning. Seats in the stands are usually sold out so pre-booking is essential. The riders compete in reverse order which really heightens the tension.
Tickets for all days may be pre-booked which results in a considerable saving on the gate prices on the day. There are hospitality packages available which offer members marquees and added extras. Accommodation around the venue fills up months ahead with many people booking from year to year so you will need to plan ahead if you want to stay locally. There is a handily located Travel Lodge on the A1 which is minutes from the estate or you could push the boat out and stay at The George in Stamford which is a fabulous old coaching inn. There is a caravan park located on site where you can either bring a vehicle or camp. This is the clever way to stay on course, with advanced parking included in the fee so you can nip backwards and forwards to the main action without ever having to leave the estate. The caravan park does fill up months ahead and spaces sell out very quickly.
As a farewell to the summer, there is nothing better than the long cool days of early September. Burghley, like this year, is usually blessed with lovely weather and is a chance to have those last few lazy days in the sun. The trade stands are perfect for those who just want retail therapy and even the chance to do some early Christmas shopping. So don’t miss out next year, pop that date on your calendar, 5th-8th September 2019.