This extraordinary Kiwi answers your most pressing questions
Name: Sir Mark Todd KNZM CBE
Date of birth: 1 March 1956
Hometown: Cambridge, New Zealand, but based in Swindon, Wiltshire
Notable achievements: Four-time winner of Badminton, five-time winner of Burghley, Olympic gold medallist in 1984 and 1988, three-time medallist at the World Equestrian Games, and FEI Rider of the 20thCentury.
Before there was total Kiwi domination of the eventing rankings, there was Mark Todd – a talented, determined upstart from the North Island of New Zealand, who headed to his first Badminton in 1980 as an almost total unknown, with fellow countryman Andrew Nicholson grooming for him. He would leave that event the winner, and the new name on everyone’s lips – and his remarkable career trajectory would only snowball from there.
In 2000, a bronze medal freshly installed in his trophy cabinet from that year’s Sydney Olympics, he retired from eventing to move back home to New Zealand. There, he trained and bred racehorses, taking the 2003 New Zealand Oaks and the Wellington Cup among his successes. In 2008, on a dare, he returned to the sport, ostensibly just for that year’s Olympics. But he’s given us all a good run of it and now, the man that Vaughan Jefferis once said “was the first, and he paved the way for us” has hung up his hat for good. We settled down for a cuppa and a catch-up with Mark, a man who has forever changed the landscape of eventing.
[Inaugural Burghley winners] Anneli Drummond-Hay and Merely A Monarch really inspired me as a kid. Lucinda Green was the golden girl of eventing when I first came to the UK, and I loved to watch her go cross-country. Now, Michael Jung, William Fox-Pitt, and Chris Burton are the ones to watch and learn from. The wonderful thing about this sport is you never stop learning.
The best horse I’ve ever ridden would have to be Charisma, because he won two Olympic gold medals for me and was an all-round great athlete. He did have one weakness though, which was that in the showjumping he liked to tap his way round!
…the horse he’d have liked to ride
I think La Biosthetique Sam FBW would have been a real machine across country, although I wouldn’t particularly want to follow Michael Jung! Michael makes Sam look so easy, when maybe he’s not actually that straightforward.
…the secret to his longevity
I’ve been so lucky to have great horses and great owners, and a great team working with me. I’m naturally very competitive, and I’ve been lucky not to have had any major injuries – and I’ve had the drive to keep going, too. But I think a mid-career break certainly helped! At the end of the day, I’ve kept going simply because I love horses and riding.
…the win that mattered most
Coming back from retirement to win Badminton in 2011 with NZB Land Vision stands out. To win there after an eight-year break – a long time by anyone’s standards! – was really special.
…the next steps
I’m not so much retiring as changing careers to focus on training racehorses – but I’ll still be involved with eventing through the Bridging the Gap Scholarship, and I won’t rule out coaching, either. But for now, ten racehorses – and some more to come – is enough to keep me busy.
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