CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Interview: Giuseppe della Chiesa

PUBLISHED: 10:19 30 March 2016 | UPDATED: 15:41 01 April 2016

The course designer Giuseppe Della Chiesa

The course designer Giuseppe Della Chiesa

© Kit Houghton

Former top Italian event rider Giuseppe della Chiesa once dreamt of competing at Badminton Horse Trials, but instead finds himself designing the course at this iconic event

Synonymous with the exciting equestrian sport of eventing, the cross-country course at Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is one of the sport’s toughest, and is famous the world over. Thousands of spectators come in anticipation of watching the thrills and, more often than not, spills of cross-country day.

The Gloucestershire three-day event is an international four star (the sport’s highest level of which there are just six in the world), and is one that all event riders, young or old, amateur or professional, want to ride round – and ride round clear. It asks questions and tests the nerves of our very best horses and riders.

“I always feel a great responsibility to the horse in this job,” says course designer Giuseppe della Chiesa. “You must be fair to the horses, and try to see things from their point of view.”

Being asked to design the course here three years ago was, he says, a career highlight.

“When Hugh [Hugh Thomas, the horse trial’s director] asked me to design the course I said ‘are you sure you want me?’ It was a great honour as for any designer it is a dream to design at Badminton. If you talk to anyone about eventing, they say Badminton. It’s a great challenge. You have the eyes of everyone on you; the riders, the sport, the media and the public.”

It is his job to separate the wheat from the chaff, or rather allow the cream of the sport to rise to the top, and reward the brave and skilled.

“The competitors coming here expect Badminton. It is always easier to make it a bit softer, and you feel much better the night before, but that is not what I have been asked to do. My job is to separate the best from the rest,” he says.

“The course is a package, a story; it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is how the fences all relate to each other that gives you the level of the course. I design a four-star course for the biggest event in the world, and then it is up to the riders to jump it.”

Giuseppe Della Chiesa at the Gatehouse New Pond - a fence introduced in 2014Giuseppe Della Chiesa at the Gatehouse New Pond - a fence introduced in 2014

And he sees his role as one of innovationist rather than revolutionist; respecting the history and the famous fences and landmarks, such as the Lake and infamous Vicarage V, but also not letting Badminton stand still. In his first year (2014) he introduced a new water complex, the pond in a fresh area of the estate, which caused a few duckings – something that’s always entertaining for the crowds.

“There are always surprises planned,” he says with a smile. “I always say I want to try to make innovation with no revolution; the challenge is to respect the tradition but find something to add, yet keep it in line.”

The design process starts post-event with a look at what the track will comprise of the following year and decide what is possible, before fences are finally designed and placed.

“On cross-country day you hope everything goes well, but this is a high risk sport and that is something that is always there,” he says. “On the one hand you have the best horses and riders in the world, but on the other you are pushing the barriers. The risk is there. We should accept it and live with it. It is about risk-management not safety. If you want to be safe do not ride a horse across country.

This is something he feels hugely passionate about and something he has been keen to portray. Riders need to know the risk.

“It is important to have the right philosophy about the sport. We all work to minimise the risk but we can’t have zero risk. The more respect you have for the risk, the less risk you have. You move at full speed over fixed fences on a horse and something might go wrong.”

Badminton holds something very special for Giuseppe. Born into a horsey family he became one of Italy’s best event riders, representing the country at international level and becoming the national champion, yet despite this he never managed to compete at Badminton.

“I tried to do Badminton but I didn’t manage it. I was entered, but my horse pecked on landing at a water jump and cut his knees two weeks before.”

Giuseppe  with the option fence into the Gatehouse New PondGiuseppe with the option fence into the Gatehouse New Pond

So for Giuseppe designing Badminton is as though his life has come full circle.

“It’s a dream of every rider to get to Badminton and, although I didn’t get here as a rider, I am very happy I got here as a designer,” he says. “I did it somehow. I love the place; It’s like a family to me.”

The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials runs May 4-8, and cross-country day is on Saturday, May 7. For more information visit


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

Mon, 13:15

Tracy Spiers takes an impressive, if hypothetical, budget on a shopping spree in Cheltenham’s independent stores

Read more
Mon, 12:23

Get out and enjoy seasonal celebrations with a Cotswold twist

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hundreds of participating National Lottery-funded visitor attractions across the UK are saying ‘thanks’ to people who have raised money for good causes by buying a lottery ticket, including a number of venues in the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

“We’re looking forward to lots of festive fun this Christmas festival and hope to welcome lots of people to our town.”

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

“Faringdon upholds old-fashioned values through its traditional shops, personal service and shop owners who go the extra mile to make their customers feel at home.”

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

Home to some of the country’s most breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, the Cotswolds boasts plenty of beautiful stately homes you need to visit. We pick eight special locations that are made even more magical during Christmas time

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, November 19, 2018

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search