52 percent of the CCI three-star riders jumped clear but there were no competitors that achieved the time. In addition, whilst there were a handful of moderate rider falls, there were no horse falls. Eric states that this is every course designer’s dream result. Eric explains:
“When building a three-star cross-country course, I’m aiming for 50 to 60 percent clear. Every designer aims for no horses falls and this year is the first year I have achieved that.”
There is no doubt that Blenheim has evolved dramatically in the last decade and Event Director Mandy Hervieu and Eric Winter have been a formidable team. The shopping village has grown without losing its quality “Countryside” feel and the extent of “non-eventing” attractions develops each year. It was Eric who introduced the 8/9 year old CIC three-star which has never failed to highlight the equine stars of the future. Eric laments:
“It’s always sad when you move on and the Blenheim has changed shape massively in 10 years and I’ve enjoyed it. I am looking forward to taking on Badminton but it won’t be easy.”
He reveals his plans for next year;
“I want Badminton to be that traditional old Badminton with some real rider frighteners. You won’t see too many portables or any big yellow submarines to jump and we are going to go back to the tradition of swapping direction as it keeps riders on their toes.”
Eric was informed by Badminton Event Director and former course designer Hugh Thomas on the Thursday of this year’s event.
“You could have knocked me over with a feather and over the next three days I walked it again and again.”
“I can change anything I want on the course but Hugh told me not to mess with the traffic plans as they work, so there won’t be any new loops but so far we’ve reshaped the ground around the water.”
Reflecting on the course at this year’s Olympics, Eric was full of praise for Pierre Michelet’s challenging track.
“The Rio course was great. It asked loads of different questions and riders had to be on it all the time. The heart of cross-country riding is unpredictability and it really highlighted that.”
by Eleanore Kelly