BADMINTON BUILD UP 2018 … 5 Minutes with Eric Winter

This is Eric Winter’s second year designing the cross-country course at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. Eventing Worldwide gets his thoughts on the ground conditions, the challenges of designing the course for the second year and how he comes up with something new. 

On the importance of cross country to a world-class event…..

“It’s important to keep cross country at the heart of our sport. People don’t drive six or ten hours or come from a different country because the dressage arena is very flat or the show jumping is very brightly coloured. At the heart of the sport are people who are excited by cross country – they come here because it is an exciting cross-country course and it must stay at that level – its very much a supreme test. 

On his second year designing the course…..

“The big log into the water worked very well, but when I jumped them over it they landed without much control. So I have adapted that and put in a much deeper log – it’s still the same sort of size – but horses will roll over it more and not throw in the big jump. We’re still at the top end of cross country – there still a lot to do out there and there are still some technical and very big fences. 

Coming up with something new…….

“It fills you with dread and then there is a moment of let’s go for it. But actually, you walk around the course and you see things during the course of the year. I do quite a lot of events and you play around with a few different things and then you start to think actually, that would work there, and I remember this fence from 1970 worked really well so maybe we’ll bring that back. Part of being a good course designer is about good memory – remembering fences that you really liked and thought were really cool – and going back to traditional things especially at a place like Badminton which is a really traditional event. I try and design a very traditional course with modern ethics behind it. 

Of the wet winter conditions……..

“It’s been challenging all the way through with the build, but we have had two amazing strokes of luck. We wanted to put the big fences in back in November and booked a crane to move some things, but it was wet and horrible. I phoned up James Willis (Senior Course Builder) the day before and said we might as well scrap tomorrow as we’ll never get the crane in. He said well, it’s forecast to be minus seven overnight so we might have a chance.  And as it happened it was minus 10 and we got the crane on and moved everything, and the next day it all melted and the opportunity had gone. The window to get the crane on was very fortuitous for us.

On who he designs the course for and getting the standard right

 “I want Michael Jung and Andrew Nicholson [Nereo] to look good, and to make it look fairly simple. But I want to challenge them and I want to get everybody round if I can. There is a way of jumping round it but it allows the good horses to prosper. If there is a really good cross-country horse in the field who does an average dressage test, I want to rider to think it is worth setting off cross country. 

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