Defender Burghley Horse Trials

Thursday 5th - Sunday 8th September 2024

Often compared to Badminton only bigger and better! Burghley is stunning and you will either be having frolics in the heat wave weather or up to your neck in mud! This show marks the end of our summer season so we like to let our hair down a little...come and join the fun, for more info on the show go to: to buy tickets.

What is a Horse Trial?

Burghley Horse Trials is a four day event Thursday and Friday are both Dressage days, Saturday is the Cross Country Phase and Sunday starts with the Trot Up and finishes with the Show Jumping phase. The scores from each phase are then combined together to give the overall score for the event.

Dressage, the first phase, is designed to show off the horse’s suppleness, rhythm and, most importantly, obedience and harmony with the rider. It is used to show that a horse that can later go on to complete a long, challenging cross country course, also has the training to be graceful and precise. It is amazing to watch such large animals floating along seemingly with no directions from their rider.

Cross Country, the most popular phase, requires extreme fitness and trust from both rider and horse. The course is built of 32 incredibly solid, natural fences, over a 4 mile course. Fences include the challenging Jubilee Leap, at a whopping height of 1m45, and the Land rover Trout Hatchery, at which riders face a dunking if they can’t hold on.

The Trot Up is the make or break time for many horses. Before the event, each horse is assessed to make sure they are fit enough to compete over these grueling 4 days, and then once again, on the Sunday morning. This is a very formal affair, and each horse must be turned out to perfection, along with their neatly dressed riders. A vet will then give them a pass, allowing them to continue into the Show Jumping Phase, or a fail, meaning their dreams of that £50,000 prize have to come to an end. Andrew likes to watch this in the morning with his bacon butty before he opens up shop.

The Show Jumping Phase is used to test the horse’s fitness and agility. The course is made of around 12 knock down, coloured fences at around 1m30 in height. Riders must jump every fence clear, within the time limit. The course is small compared to most show jumping competitions, but remember, each horse has had to take it’s rider around a 4 mile course the previous day, so to do any of the jumps is an achievement in itself. Competitors jump in reverse order, leading to a tense atmosphere as the leading riders enter the ring to jump. 

What to wear

England being England, the weather is never a certain thing. Despite being in the middle of summer, Burghley weather can range from Heat Wave to Torrential Rain, sometimes within the weekend itself, so prepare for all eventualities! Lightweight clothes are a must though, whatever the weather. In heat waves, it will stop you from overheating, and if it decides to pour with rain, they can dry easily. There is nothing worse than having to walk a cross country course wearing wet jeans. However, if you are planning on having breakfast in the members Enclosure (Open from 8-9:30 daily) you will need to dress smartly.

Wellies and a coat are also a good idea to have in the back of your car so that if it does decide to pour with rain, you can quickly change; even once it has stopped raining, the grass will be soaked and you may end up with the two-tone trouser effect.  Chuck a sunhat and suncream in the back of the car as well, so if the sun does appear, you can be prepared for it, and avoid looking like a tomato.

Footwear wise, stilettos are really not recommended. Even in incredibly dry weather, your heels will end up disappearing into the ground. Flat, comfortable shoes that are easy to walk in are a good idea for when it is dry. Blisters are your worst enemy, and they tend to prey on anyone who thinks they can “get away with it”.

And last but not least, jewellery. Burghley being Burghley, it wouldn't be the same without some stunning Sterling Silver Jewellery to match your outfit, whatever the weather. We'd recommend our fabulous Equestrian Collection. Whether you are planning on visiting the members tent or not, this gorgeous collection is absolutely perfect. So how about putting on your snaffle necklace and earrings, and rocking the Trials in style. If you don't have one, fear not, just pop by our Equestrian Collection and treat yourself.

Our Hints and Tips

Other than clothes, in the back of your car, you might want to also have a waterproof backed picnic blanket or even a couple of lightweight canvas chairs if you don’t feel like walking too far, although of course just far enough to come and visit us! Both of these will stop you from needing to sit on the wet grass when your legs give out.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of liquids. It is a long day, and whether it is cold or hot, you will need to stay hydrated to avoid the paramedics having extra work. Unfortunately, alcohol doesn’t count…
Sunday is the best day for shopping. Stall holders don’t really want to take all their stuff back, so you can grab some great bargains.
If you are coming on Saturday, arrive in plenty of time as there can be very long queues, or even better, stay in nearby Stamford on Friday night, avoiding the incredibly early morning.

Burghley Horse Trials is just outside Stamford in Lincolnshire. It is very clearly signposted from almost every direction, although if you want to use your SatNav, the postcode is PE9 2LH. Visit Google Maps here to see where it is.


Image by Rachel at Sweet Images