With just five days to go until the start of Badminton Horse Trials 2017 (3-7 May), Sam Lloyd catches up with cross-country course designer Eric Winter to find out how preparations are going — and how he has coped with the pressure of designing for such a prestigious event

Listen to the full interview with Eric Winter here:

Q. Are you happy with preparations?

Eric: It’s been fantastic weather for building cross-country courses. We put the fences out in the middle of February, and then we’ve been dressing and developing ideas since then.

Q. How important is it for you to stamp your individuality on this course?

Eric: I started thinking with a blank canvas as I always do if I go into an event that is established. I always think where do I want to go with it — what would I do if there was nothing here, and then how could I develop that. You have things that you’re passionate about — for me it’s all about the training of horses, so you think about what the really true values in training of horses are, and then think about how I am going to describe that through a list of fences. At an event like this, you don’t just have an impact on the horses that run at this event, you effect the horses that run at every level downwards, because people take ideas from these events and move them forwards.

Q. How much pressure is there on you building the course for Badminton?

Eric: I’ve worked here quite a lot so I knew sort of what I wanted to do, and I have a real respect for the place and the history that goes with it. When I designed the course, I did it very quickly. So Hugh (Thomas) asked me on the Thursday, and I walked off site on the Sunday of the event last year with the course completely in the my mind. I did it very quickly because I didn’t want all that pressure to get on top of me.

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Q. What are the key combinations to look out for on this year’s course from a fan’s perspective?

The main water comes up quite early and I think it’s quite big into there. And the other water jump at the top, where there are three logs, is quite a big question. There’s a lot of stuff out there this year that demands different skills.

Don’t miss our Badminton preview issue of Horse & Hound magazine, out now (27 April 2017), complete with our exclusive course walk with William Fox-Pitt — plus shopping vouchers