In the wake of the storm of criticism that greeted this year’s Badminton Horse Trials in May, organiser Hugh Thomas has revealed a swathe of major changes.

More than 25% of the field withdrew, complaining of rough and hard going on the cross-country course and in the warm-up arena. Afterwards, riders criticised Badminton for lagging behind other major three-day events (news, 26 July).

The key changes (listed below) include major work to the ground — on the course, warm-up and main arena — and a number of incentives for riders and their teams, including the abolition of entry fees and a major increase in prize-money.

“Obviously, Hugh has taken heed of what we all had to say, and made a huge effort,” acknowledged Clayton Fredericks, chairman of the Event Riders’ Association (ERA). “If we could have run the competition on the ground we saw, it would have been perfect — the warm-up area looks like a golf fairway — but the proof will be in how the event runs next year.”

He added: “No entry fee is a milestone, completion grants, higher prize-money and improvements to the lorry park — it’s very commendable, but there is still a way to go to have riders and owners completely happy.”

The 2008 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials will take place from 1-4 May.

Badminton’s new initiatives

  • Turf consultants appointed, ground maintenance equipment purchased
  • Course pegged out and mown, to be aerated, sanded, fertilised etc during the year. Park users — including Duke of Beaufort’s hunt — asked to keep off the track
  • Ground on warm-up area reseeded and prepared. Planning application sought for an all-weather warm-up area
  • Waiting list kept for event, with aim of starting 85 horses
  • Prize-money increased to £60,000 for first prize (25% more than any other event in the world) and £1,000 for 20th, the lowest prize. Overall fund, £251,000
  • Riders’ entry fee scrapped
  • Award of £200 to grooms of horses starting cross-country (previously £175 for grooms of finishing horses)
  • Extra money given to Event Riders’ Association dinner
  • One more pair of passes available per horse
  • Improvements to access of and ground in lorry park, installation of additional, modern toilets and showers

www.badminton-horse.co.uk

Read other top rider’s views on the changes in Horse & Hound (15 November, ’07)