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My first experience of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials probably wasn't all that typical. After all, I attended as an ambassador for Hiho Silver, with a press pass, commentating on trot-up fashion on Radio Badminton, whilst rubbing shoulders with my childhood idol, Mary King.
I was totally pinching myself.
However, last year, I was a Badminton newbie, so I thought I'd give you my tips and advice, to help you get the very best from your experience.
My first tip would be to wear comfortable walking shoes! I know we all want to look super smart for such a prestigious event (got to get that Instagram shot!) but if you can't make it down to watch the cross country because your blisters have blisters, you'll be kicking yourself. There is, of course, a lot of walking involved, as you would expect from an event held in the 52,000 acre gardens of Badminton House. So dress your feet accordingly.
Another tip would be to dress for the weather. It's a very open landscape, which means that when the weather turns, you could find yourself caught out without much warning. Equally, a bottle of sun cream wouldn't go amiss, if you're an eternal optimist, like me.
Arrive in plenty of time. Whether you're watching the trot-up or the cross country, the crowds will be deep, with over 160,000 visitors last year. So if you want to get the best spot and make sure you get a great view of all of the action, make sure to arrive early and stake your claim.
Take lots of pennies. The shopping at Badminton is second to none for all lovers of country fashion, equestrian knick-knacks and country interiors. There are over 500 beautiful stands to peruse, so you may need to schedule in an extra day just to shop until you drop.
Speaking of shopping, if you haven't already seen Hiho Silver's official 2018 Badminton Horse Trials jewellery collection, you simply must stop by their stand. (Stand No. 188, Deer Park Drive) The exclusive limited edition pieces are absolutely breathtaking and super affordable. They're definitely the perfect memento for your special visit.
Come with an empty stomach. Taking a wander around the food and drink stalls is definitely part of the fun, at Badminton. There are some incredible offerings, from savoury to sweet, from quintessentially British, to the something a little more exotic, from sit down meals, to picnic basket fillers. It wouldn't be hard to blow a large proportion of your budget on food and drink alone, so definitely eat a light breakfast that morning.
Tune into Radio Badminton. You can listen along on 106.1FM, meaning that even when you're enjoying some time mooching around the shopping village, or relaxing over lunch, you won't miss a trick. Radio receivers can be purchased from the showground for just £10. Listen out for me representing Hiho, at the trot up, on Wednesday.
Know the schedule. Do you know what's happening whilst you're at the event, so that you can make the most of every moment you spend there? There is the official competition to think about, of course, but there's also a variety of other fun displays to catch, including the Shetland Pony Grand National and the Stallion Display, amongst others.
Consider walking the course. There are course walks available on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and it's something that is definitely on my bucket list. I wish I'd done it last year, but I just didn't have the time. You can find further details via the Badminton website and I think a small fee applies.
Above all, go with an open mind, a sense of humour and bundles of enthusiasm. There'll be lots of exercise, some thrills and spills (hopefully not the champagne!) and probably every weather condition you can imagine. It's such a great, fun, family event and I'm so excited to be going back with Hiho this year! We hope to see you there.