Badminton director to retire after 31 years in the role

Hugh Thomas has decided to retire from his role as event director at Badminton Horse Trials once a successor has been appointed and is in place.

“I have decided that 2019 will be my last Badminton as event director and so I will be retiring once we are able to identify a successor and get him or her in place,” he said. “I have been asked to lead the recruitment process.”

Hugh continued: “In the mean time it will very much be ‘business as usual’ and I and the Badminton team will be starting on the planning for 2020.

“I have had 31 wonderful years, working with a terrific team of people and I am very confident that they are in a good place to take the event onwards and upwards.”

Hugh, 71, was initially both event director and cross-country course-designer at Badminton. He retired from designing the course after the 2013 event. Since then, the track has been designed by Giuseppe della Chiesa (2014-2016) and Eric Winter (2017-present).

Hugh rode at the top level before he moved into event administration, finishing second at Badminton in 1976 riding Playamar and riding at the Olympics in Montreal the year on the same horse. He worked in sponsorship with BEP in London before taking up the role at Badminton.

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The new director will be just the fifth in Badminton’s 70-year history. The event’s first director was Lt Colonel Trevor Horn (1949-56), followed by Lt. Colonel Gordon Cox Cox (1957-64) and Lt. Colonel Frank Weldon (1965-88).

This year marks the end of an era for Badminton in more ways than one. In addition to Hugh’s retirement, the 2019 event was the last to take place with Mitsubishi Motors as title sponsor, after 28 years.

Full report on Piggy French’s Badminton win last week in Horse & Hound tomorrow (issue dated 9 May).