Mark Phillips (pictured) is taking over responsibility for the advanced tracks at Belton Horse Trials (1-3 April 2011) from 2012 Olympic course-designer Sue Benson.

“Sue has been a huge help establishing the event at top level — over the past five years she has made some significant changes that have greatly improved the course,” said organiser Stuart Buntine.

H&H columnist, Burghley course-designer and American team trainer Mark plans to make his first visit to Belton in the next couple of weeks to formulate some new ideas.

Mark rode regularly at the event during his competitive career, but due to his other commitments abroad, this will be his first visit for several years.

In another interesting development for the Lincolnshire event, Germany’s Rüdiger Schwarz will be the FEI technical delegate in 2011. Rüdiger was the designer of the acclaimed course for the 2006 World Equestrian Games at Aachen.

Other work is also underway at Belton — organisers have been working closely with the National Trust and Natural England to further improve the park, a long-term project which they expect to pay dividends over the next few years.

Belton potentially holds a key pre-Badminton date — next year it is three weeks before the Gloucestershire four-star — but the organising team have some work to do in getting riders back on-side.

Riders criticised the course at Belton last year when Ian Olding died in a cross-country fall and this year the ground and the strict substitution policy came under fire, although the track was better received.