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This year’s new-look Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials cross-country course means that this event is not going to be a dressage competition, riders unanimously agreed today.

The track has a new designer for 2017 in Eric Winter, who has really made his mark on the 6600m track with an optimum time of 11min 35sec.

Oliver Townend said: “I think the course designer has done a fantastic job — he’s been unbelievably brave for his first attempt. It’s the biggest Badminton I’ve ever seen and I think it will be a very, very tough test.”

Mark Todd was in agreement saying: “It’s big, strong, technical and it’s going to take quite a bit of riding.”

Tina Cook describes it as a “proper Badminton track”.

“I think Eric Winter has been very imaginative and very bold. There’s a lot of very, very big fences dimensionally and it will be very challenging for the horses. There’s very few let up fences so if there’s any point where they lose their confidence, it will be quite difficult to get that back again. I think some of the new four-star riders will get a big shock at how big the step up is from the national one-day events to Badminton.”

Andrew Nicholson said: “You’re going to have to be very alert all of the way round. It will be mentally tiring for horses.”

Australian rider rider Andrew Hoy said: “The brush fences are very big, standing at 1.40-1.45m and you’ve got to be very committed.”

Meanwhile Louise Harwood said “it’s big right from fence three.”

“I think Eric has taken the course back to a rather old fashioned one and there’s a lot of tight turns to fences from where the crowd is roped off.”

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Eric, who competed at Badminton in 1991, has also designed the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials, the Asian Games, two European pony championships, a European junior and a European young rider Championship.

Don’t miss this week’s H&H (on sale today, Thursday 4 May), including a 16-page Badminton pull-out with full form guide, dressage test, judge’s analysis, course map and more.