The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials cross-country course is set to have an number of significant changes for 2018, according to course designer Eric Winter.

“Everything is different for 2018 — I’ve changed the direction in which the course will run. This year it will go anti-clockwise — the opposite way to last year,” says Eric. “We’ll go through the quarry at the start with a new bank at fence three, which will really shift combinations off their rhythm.

“There’s a new combination in Huntsman’s Close, with a big log followed by two narrow logs. The more riders angle the first big log, the easier the line will be around a tree to the two offset, narrow logs. The distance between the two narrow logs will be fairly open, so riders will have to keep moving forward while keeping hold of the reins to ensure their horses stay on the line.”

Reflecting on the changes he has made to the course since taking over from Giuseppe Della Chiesa in 2017, Eric says: “There’s no fence in the same place I don’t think — we’ve moved everything around a little bit.”

Eric says that there is a certain type of horse required to take on the demands of this challenging four-star course.

“If you bring a horse to Badminton, it has to be a cross-country horse; it has to want to curl over a fence and jump a little bounce into something, be able to be really neat in front and be brave, get the trip and be able to handle terrain.

“I had a thoroughly fantastic time designing in 2017 — I wanted to get Badminton back to being the pinnacle of cross-country. I wanted to go back to an old fashioned type of cross-country course where combinations jumped logs, square bit of timber and all sorts of different questions — that, for me, is cross-country,” explains Eric of his efforts earlier this year.

“Real cross-country is about using terrain and training your horse to gets used to all types of things — I think my 2017 course did that well and I was really pleased with it in general.”

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“My standout 2017 cross-country rounds were Andrew Nicholson — it was great to see him win [with Nereo]. Michael Jung [and La Biosthetique-Sam FBW] made it look like a Pony Club course — that’s one of the drivers for an event, the good guys should make it look easy, and they did. Euro Prince and Clare Abbott pinged round — the little horse was just beautiful, amazing to watch.”

Tickets for Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (2-6 May) go on sale on 10 January — stay tuned to Horse & Hound for more details