Cheltenham and all things horsey
Horsing around the Cotswolds
Think of Cheltenham and undoubtedly horse racing will come to mind – the town is synonymous with the sport. Cheltenham’s 350-acre racecourse is the ‘jewel in jump racing’s crown’, and it plays host to the famous four-day Festival every March when an average of 65,000 people flock to the town and its course every day to watch renowned jockeys and their mounts chase glory.
Visiting Cheltenham in March is a sure bet for horse-racing fans. However, the equestrian calendar is jam-packed all year round, and plenty of them are only a short distance from your accommodation in the Cotswolds’ town.
From breakfast with Kim Bailey to a day (or three) at Blenheim or Badminton, here are some of the most thrilling equestrian adventures to enjoy during your stay with Staylets in Cheltenham.
- Badminton Horse Trials
Usually held in May in Badminton in Gloucestershire, 2020’s event was cancelled due to Covid-19 and it currently looks like the 2021 event will be held behind closed doors unless restrictions are lifted.
One of the most exciting occasions in the global eventing calendar, Badminton is a robust and exciting equestrian affair in which riders and their steeds must demonstrate skills in dressage, cross-country and jumping over four days. One of only six five-star events (stars equal the level of difficulty) in the world, Badminton is also the oldest – it was first held in 1949. For more than seventy years, it has offered horse lovers a great family day out, with children and dogs welcome to enjoy great hospitality options, shopping, top-level equestrian sport and more in a stunning location.
- Gloucestershire Festival of Polo
Usually held in June in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, 2020’s event was cancelled due to Covid-19. News is eagerly awaited about this year’s event.
No matter if Jilly Cooper, British royalty or mints comes to mind when you hear the word ‘polo’, you are sure to love the Gloucestershire Festival of Polo – held annually at Beaufort Polo Club in Tetbury. The horseplay of a polo match is thrilling to watch; plus there’s always a traditional funfair and tented shopping village that are pukka between chukkas. The Festival of Polo attracts world-class players, and along with thousands of other spectators, the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George and Princess Charlotte have attended along with resident, Zara Tindall.
- Festival of British Eventing
6-8 August 2021, Gatcombe Park, Gloucestershire
Held at the home of HRH Princess Royal, the three-day Magic Millions Festival of British Eventing is a crucial fixture that fans of the sport look forward to every year. Attendees enjoy watching eventers from amateurs to elite riders – four British Eventing championships take place during the Festival – in a real showcase of the sport. For attendees, there are pony races, dog shows, a shopping village, and a food court to enjoy.
- Blenheim Horse Trials
Usually held in September in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, 2020’s event was cancelled due to Covid-19. From 2021 onwards the event is being organised by The Jockey Club.
Set within 2,000 acres of the picturesque grounds of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough and the birthplace of Winston Churchill, the SsangYong Blenheim Horse Trials is one of the most prestigious four-star, three-day events in the world. This key event attracts some of the world’s best riders and horses, and, of course, thousands of spectators. As well all the action from the trials, there are multiple displays and attractions for all the family, including children’s play areas, a food and drink walk, and more than 200 outlets in the shopping village.
- Behind the scenes stable tour at JonJo O’Neill’s
Jonjo O’Neill is one of the most successful racehorse trainers in the UK and Ireland. He’s had 26 Cheltenham Festival Winners in his extraordinary career and is based at Jackdaws Castle in the heart of the beautiful Cotswolds. Racing enthusiasts can enjoy a behind-the-scenes stable tour to see how it’s done at one of the most famous training centres in Europe. This tour, on which numbers are limited to ensure it’s an authentic VIP experience, includes watching the morning indoor warm-up, following the horses to the Gallops, a tour of and time in the yard, as well as a chat and photo opportunity with Jonjo himself. Tours usually cost £250 per person, plus VAT. Contact details here.
- A morning on the Gallops with Kim Bailey
Get the inside track with a behind-the-scenes tour of Thorndale Farm, Kim Bailey’s operation. Bailey is one of only two trainers currently operating to have won the Grand National, the Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle. This fun morning includes a trip to the gallops to see the national hunt horses get put through their paces, an informative stable tour hosted by Bailey, all followed by a delicious cooked breakfast. Available Monday to Saturday at the cost of £95 per person. Contact Kim Bailey Racing directly for availability.
- Horse riding
Of course, while staying in Cheltenham, you may simply want to mount up and get back in the saddle. There are plenty of local stables and riding schools to choose from: tour around the Slaughters or go on a “river ride” with the Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre; go on a hack with Cotswolds Trail Riding; or contact Staylets’ friends at Mill Farm Stables just outside Winchcombe.
We hope you enjoy our recommendations.