The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials dressage times are released on Wednesday of the event, after the trot-up (first horse inspection) which establishes whether each horse is fit to take part in the competition.
The competitors’ running order is decided by a draw which takes place two to three weeks before the event. The draw ensures a random starting order, although riders with two horses in the competition always have one of their horses at the start of the running order and one at the end.
The dressage takes place on Thursday and Friday of the event and each horse and rider take their turn in the arena in front of the three judges, who are known as the ground jury. The three judges all sit at different places around the arena and they stay in the same position for every competitor. They are accompanied by a writer, who notes down the score and comments for each movement, and someone to press the score buttons which feed the electronic live scoreboard, which allows spectators and connections to see the rider’s provisional dressage score in real-time as the test progresses.
The Badminton Horse Trials dressage times are usually set so the competitors enter the arena at eight minute intervals. The test takes around five or six minutes, while the extra time allows riders to come in and out and judges to finish filling in their marks.
The dressage usually starts at 9am on Thursday and Friday and each day is split into four blocks of around 10 competitors, with a coffee break in the morning, a lunch break in the middle of the day and a tea break in the afternoon. The dressage finishes around 5pm each day.
Before the first competitor performs on Thursday, a guinea pig horse and rider run through the dressage test. This is an opportunity for the judges to get their eye in and for the officials to ensure all the scoring systems and so on are working. The honour of performing the guinea pig dressage test is often given to a young up-and-coming British rider, who has not yet ridden at Badminton but is gaining valuable experience of the big-event atmosphere.