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H&H eventing editor’s blog: new arena site for Badminton 2021 feels like coming full circle

*Opinion*

This week’s news that Badminton Horse Trials will move its main arena to the lawn in front of the house for next year’s event is a brilliant innovation by the organisers.

I have to admit that although Badminton announced it would run “behind closed doors” at the end of October, I only realised about two weeks ago that this means there won’t be grandstands and tradestands. In my mind, whenever I thought about Badminton 2021, the whole infrastructure of Badminton was there… but empty.

That, of course, was unrealistic and ridiculous. Why on earth would an event go to the expense of putting up grandstands or tradestand tents with no one to fill them?

But then I thought about the alternative. A main arena with no stands? That’s basically a field with a square of white railings in the middle of it. That’s just plain weird. It would feel like doing your BE90 test at Nowhere-Under-The-Hill.

What would a lap of honour be like in such an arena, with perhaps the cheers of 100 other riders and their small attending support teams wafting away across the park? Sad. That’s what it would be like.

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Against that backdrop, the idea of relocating the Badminton Horse Trials main arena for 2021 looks like a stroke of genius.

There is history behind the decision – the arena was in front of Badminton House for the event’s early years, moving in 1960 to its current location after a very wet year in 1959 left the park in a “heartbreaking state”, according to Debby Sly’s excellent book Badminton Horse Trials: The Triumphs and The Tears. Putting the arena by the house again feels like coming full circle.

It will mean the 2021 event has a link to the event’s past. The winner will be able to treasure photos of their dressage and showjumping against that glorious backdrop, as well as pictures galloping about with a victor’s rug on. It will be different, but it will be special and unique.

Hats off to whoever thought of this. We can’t wait to see it in action. Will there be straw bales for the select few to sit on, like the old pictures? I really hope so.

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