STYLE Riders and Rovers
SETTING Lush Lincolnshire landscape
When? 4–7 September 2014
Where? Burghley House, Stamford, Lincolnshire
Tell me more… As much social gathering as sporting event – attracting equine enthusiasts, passionate spectators, and plenty more who come along for a grand day out with family and friends – the award-winning annual Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials is a highlight of the international equestrian calendar. This prestigious and popular leg of the global Grand Slam of Eventing brings the world’s top riders and horses together to test their skill, stamina and speed across three pulse-quickening equestrian disciplines at the highest competition level: CCI 4*. Away from the thundering hooves and gleaming tack, there’s a weekend’s worth of eating, drinking, shopping and people-watching to enjoy, with doggie displays and other fun distractions spread out in sight of magnificent Elizabethan manor, Burghley House.
Event highlights There’s the poised elegance of the dressage, and the technical flair of the show-jumping – but you can’t beat the drama of the cross-country course: 31 idiosyncratic fences (including picnic tables, boats, Land Rovers and other oddities) designed to test competitors’ mettle are fiendishly sprinkled around Capability Brown parkland more used to hosting herds of deer than neck-craning crowds. Gatherings in the Members’ Enclosure are lively and sociable; and you’d be forgiven for spending more time browsing the shopping pavilions than admiring mounts.
IN THE KNOW
Head count Some 160,000 visitors and 80 competitors gather for the four-day spectacular.
Best view Aficionados book their grandstand tickets as soon as they are available: in the covered East Stand, central blocks F and G provide prime positions for dressage; and also for the show-jumping finale, when the North Stand will garner great views, too. For cracking close-up cross-country action, station yourself at the Trout Hatchery (where there’s also a giant screen), or the Leaf Pit. Check the course map for other options; there are plenty.
Packing tips Any UK native knows how unpredictable the weather can be, so be prepared with sun hats and sou’westers – you can leave the least likely options in the car. Practical footwear is must unless you plan to take root in the Members’ Enclosure, and choose pack-a-macs over parapluies: the atmosphere is very laid-back, but you won’t be popular if you stand at the front with a giant golfing umbrella…
Crowd control When you’ve had your fill of the throngs lining the cross-country course on Saturday, or when standing room in the Main Arena on Sunday is in short supply, join the visitors happily mingling and soaking up the atmosphere by the big screen in the Exhibition Village, from where you can dip in and out of the action, or raid the Food Walk stands and find a quiet patch of parkland to escape to – there’s plenty of it.
Bar chat Land Rover Burghley has been named Best Horse Trials Event in the World by L’Année Hyppique an astonishing seven times: will 2014 be the eighth win? Course designer Captain Mark Phillips has changed the cross-country course over the years: hold your breath as horses and riders negotiate what is now considered the most challenging course in the world. Will world number 1 Andrew Nicholson be ‘Mr Stickability’ again, or will Sam Griffiths snaffle a coveted second leg in the Rolex Grand Slam after his recent win at Badminton?
Tickets Available for individual days, or for the whole event, they’re cheaper booked in advance online than at the gate. For ticketing and membership (which you’ll need for access to the Member’s Enclosure), go to www.burghley-horse.co.uk. Check the timetable if you’re only going for one day: dressage kicks off in the Main Arena on Thursday and continues through Friday; Saturday is cross-country day; and the event culminates with the show-jumping on Sunday.
DOs AND DON’Ts
• Do behave yourself near fences, unless you want to spook the horses.
• Don’t rush: there’s plenty to see and do, food to eat and shopping to be done, and – unlike blink-and-you-miss-it days at the races – the sporting action continues all day.
• Do keep your pooch on a lead. They’re not allowed in the grandstand or the Member’s Enclosure, but there is a dog crèche (book in advance).
• Don’t expect to visit Burghley House itself: it’s closed for the duration of the event.
• Do revv up for a go on the specially designed ‘tetrapod’ offroad course, where you can test drive a brand-new Land Rover; and keep an eye out for exclusive offers for Land Rover owners.
• Don’t drink and drive!
NEED TO KNOW
Food & drink Anything and everything, from formal champagne lunches at the Winners Enclosure restaurant to world street food from stands sprinkled across the showground, as well as great British produce along the Food Walk: duck-fat roasties, saddleback pork pies and sloe gin, anyone?
Shop Even if you eschewed every single display of equine prowess, you still wouldn’t get round all 630+ of the exhibitors in the incredible shopping pavilions and avenues: shy away from the gleaming saddlery and tip-top horsey trappings, and you can pick up something unique at the Country Living or Rural Crafts Association pavilions, where hundreds of artisan producers showcase quirky, hand-made and one-off pieces. Luxury-label lovers will find plenty to please, too, with Hermès, Barbour and Boodles among the offerings.
Getting there Stamford in Lincolnshire is less than two hours’ drive from London up the A1, and the event is well signposted, but allow extra time for driving, especially on Saturday, when the last 10 miles can eat up an hour. Stamford station is served by trains from Birmingham, Leicester, Nuneaton or Peterborough; from there, it’s a 20–30 minutes to walk into the event.
Parking Plentiful, though you’ll need to purchase car park passes – it’s best to do this when booking tickets.
Children Accompanied under-13s are admitted free of charge (though over-3s will need their own Grandstand tickets). There’s plenty for families to enjoy at Land Rover Burghley, with dog-agility displays, Pony Club competitions and more, but little ones’ attention may wander if ponies, pooches or 4WD vehicles aren’t their thing. No crèche, but baby-changing facilities are available.
Sleep Local accommodation gets booked up very quickly, but there’s plenty available elsewhere in the area; just a 25-minute drive away is the charming restaurant with rooms, Oundle Mill in Northamptonshire. Alternatively, consider making a long weekend of it by basing yourself in nearby Cambridge, less than a hour away.
The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 2014 takes place 4–7 September. For more information, or to book tickets, go to www.burghley-horse.co.uk