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Posted on Sep 10, 2019 in Articles

An Emotional Send Off For Sir Mark Todd – An Eventing Legend

An Emotional Send Off For Sir Mark Todd – An Eventing Legend

Images Courtesy of Mike Bain- all rights reserved and are subject to copyright

Sir Mark Todd officially retired from eventing in an emotional ceremony at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials on Sunday (8 September).

It was a a very sad emotional farewell to the man who has captured many hearts and inspired many riders  yet remained very humble throughout.

The eventing legend rode into the main arena on his London 2012 team bronze medal-winning ride, NZB Campino, ahead of the final jumping session. NZB Campino who appears to be loving his retirement still enjoyed being centre of attention in the main arena.

campretire

He told the packed stands, before he was overcome with emotion.

“Kinky, as he is known at home, is the last horse I finished a three-day event on and that was here at this event last year,”

mt

Sir Mark Todd has won Burghley 5 times amongst his many other achievements ..

Past Winners 

1999 Mr Mark Todd (N.Z.) on DIAMOND HALL RED
1998 Mr Blyth Tait (N.Z.) on CHESTERFIELD
1997 Mr Mark Todd (N.Z.) on BROADCAST NEWS
(European Open Winner)
1996 Mrs Mary King (nee Thomson) on STAR APPEAL
1995 Mr Andrew Nicholson (N.Z.) on BUCKLEY PROVINCE
1994 Mr William Fox-Pitt on CHAKA
1993 Mr. Stephen Bradley (U.S.A.) on SASSY REASON
1992 Miss Charlotte Hollingsworth on THE COOL CUSTOMER
1991 Mr. Mark Todd (N.Z.) on WELTON GREYLAG
1990 Mr. Mark Todd (N.Z.) on FACE THE MUSIC
1989 Mrs. Virginia Leng (nee Holgate) on MASTER CRAFTSMAN
(European Champion)
1988 Mrs. Jane Thelwall on KING’S JESTER
1987 Mr. Mark Todd (N.Z.) on WILTON FAIR

 

Mark Todd KNZM CBE is synonymous with the sport of Eventing. Since he started competing at the top in 1978 when he was part of New Zealand’s first 3-day eventing team to contest a world championship, he has gone on to record numerous successes at the very highest level.His unsurpassable triumphs have been rewarded with the MBE (1984), the CBE (1995), in 2000 he was voted the ‘Event Rider of the 20th Century’ by the FEI and he received a Knighthood in 2013.

Although he retired in 2000, he returned to the sport in 2008 in order to contest the Beijing Olympics. Unsurprisingly Mark returned to the top of the sport  and built a new team of horses who have come through to represent New Zealand at London and Rio Olympics and Kentucky and Caen World Equestrian Games.

Mark Todd is among the most celebrated New Zealand sportsmen, with two Olympic gold medals and numerous other honours. He was named to compete in six successive Olympic Games, though he missed the first games, in Moscow in 1980, because of the American-led boycott.Mark was a pioneer of three-day eventing in New Zealand and, in 1978, was part of New Zealand’s first three-day eventing team to contest a world championship. Those who followed him included Olympic medalists and world champions like Andrew Nicholson, Blyth Tait, Vaughn Jefferis, Vicky Latta, Sally Clark and Tinks Pottinger.Jefferis once said:

“We all owe a huge debt to Mark Todd. He was the first, and he paved the way for the rest of us.”

In his first attempt at Badminton in 1980, riding Southern Comfort, Todd was 45th after the dressage, but was one of only three inside the time on the cross-country. Going into the final day he was third. When Lucinda Prior-Palmer and Helen Butler came unstuck during the show jumping, Todd was Badminton champion. It was his first major victory in what was to become a glittering 20-year career at the top. The highest peaks were his two Olympic gold medals on Charisma, in 1984 & 1988. It was only recently at the Rio Olympics in 2016 that Michael Jung equalled Mark’s record of holding back to back individual Gold medals.Mark went on to win Badminton again in 1994, 1996 and more recently in 2011 whilst also achieving a record five wins at Burghley in 1987, 1990, 1991, 1997 and 1999. He has twice helped New Zealand teams to win world titles (1990 & 1998), was inducted in to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, won the Supreme Halberg Award and was named New Zealand’s Sportsperson of the Year in 1988 plus he was voted FEI Event Rider of the 20th Century by the International Equestrian Federation in 2000. He also was proud to carry New Zealand’s flag at the Opening Ceremony of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain and was made an MBE [Member of the British Empire] in 1984 and a CBE [Commander of the British Empire] in 1995.Following the Sydney Olympic Games (2000) he retired from eventing (for the first time) and returned to live in New Zealand. Based in his home town of Cambridge he now turned his attention to the world of flat racing and began a new career training and breeding racehorses that led to Group One wins within the first year and successes in the Wellington Cup and New Zealand Oaks.

“After that we decided we’d train a few for ourselves in New Zealand,” he said. “I’d had a couple of mares in partnership with Watership Down in Britain. I was quite keen on pedigrees.“We went to the yearling sales in 2001, bought four or five and put them into syndicates of friends. Nearly all of them won and Bramble Rose won the New Zealand Oaks and was champion staying filly of Australasia.

“The Oaks came very early in my career. Do you ever go into your first Group One expecting to win it? I expected her to run well because she had good form leading up to it but her regular jockey smashed his knee in the race before so we went for a substitute who had been off a while himself.”

Never far from the sport of Eventing he acted as coach for the NZ Olympic Eventing team at Athens in 2004 and continued to compete in eventing at a local level and to support the sport in general.

In 2008, however, he returned to eventing.

“It was originally a bit of a dare. I said, ‘You find me a horse and I’ll have a go.’ I’d been a bit disillusioned with the eventing scene but I said it’s no good griping, see if you can beat them.

He purchased a 10-year old grey called Gandalf,

“He was available to be bought, so I flew up to Auckland, tried him out, had him vetted and it all happened very quickly”.

It was then in May 2008 that Mark & Gandalf qualified for Beijing at Saumur in France. He put up one of the best performances of the New Zealand team, managing the second best Kiwi performance despite being the trailbalzer for the whole of the eventing discipline!It was then in 2008, with sponsorship from New Zealand Bloodstock, that he decided to return to the sport on the international stage, his target to represent New Zealand at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“I started enjoying it again and after Beijing we thought let’s go to London and do it properly and with the backing of New Zealand Bloodstock and Sir Peter Vela we bought Land Vision who went on to win Badminton in 2011. But 11 years on from that comeback I’ve well and truly done it. I won’t stop riding horses or jumping horses but I won’t compete again.”

In February 2009, Mark announced he was making a full return to the sport and has subsequently made appearances at Badminton and Burghley with numerous other outing at 2* and 3* (winning at Somerley, Houghton and Hartpury). In 2012, Mark followed up his Olympic return in Beijing with selection for Team New Zealand at the London Olympics  where New Zealand claimed a team Bronze, Mark finishing 12th individually. In 2013, Mark completed both Badminton and Burghley, finishing 7th on Oloa, and had several other excellent results including a 3rd at Blenhiem and a 3rd at Boekelo.

toddy walking course

In 2014 Mark was yet again on the NZ World Equestrian Games team which was an ill fated WEG from its hastliy organised outset! Mark had climbed right back into the top 5 of the FEI rider rankings with his consistent placings througout the year. In 2015 his current top 2 horses, Leonidas and NZB Campino really started to impact on the 4 star scene and by 2016 Leonidas had finished individual 7th at the Rio Olympic Games and NZB Campino top 10 at Burghley.2017 started brilliantly with both horses inside the top 6 at Badminton and sees Mark building his string towards the Tyron World Games in the USA in 2018.

He moved into his present yard, Badgerstown, near Swindon, a week after London 2012. It had been turned into an eventing centre but it is now a racing yard again and Sir Mark, who has already had three runners, has 11 horses in training with room for 40.When he was eventing, much of his early success came on thoroughbreds – Bertie Blunt and Face The Music were while Charisma, the 15.3 hand horse on which he won two Olympic golds, was “near as damn it a thoroughbred and galloped like one”.The shortening of the eventing format and the dropping of the long- distance roads and tracks phase, which used to precede the cross-country, means that warm bloods have taken over from the thoroughbred.

“The long format suited thoroughbreds,” he said. “People still love them but it is harder to compete in the dressage and show-jumping formats against warm bloods. I loved the thoroughbred brain, though. Generally they would work with you much more than a warm blood.”

Because of his equestrian background all his racehorses do basic Flat work while even the two-year-olds pop over logs and ditches.Though many jump trainers employ eventers to help teach their horses to jump and training chasers would seem the perfect fit, popping two-year-olds over the odd log is as close as Sir Mark intends to come to training jumpers.

 “I’ve always preferred the Flat,” said the man who once rode round Aintree in cold blood. “It’s partly commercial and I also understand the breeding better though I’m rapidly having to get back up to speed on that.”

Vela, the only man who has won a Caulfield Cup, Melbourne Cup and Badminton, sent him Eminent, the first flag-bearing son of Frankel, at the end of last year, initially to look after before shipping to New Zealand, then he suggested Sir Mark train him.First time out he was second in a Group One at Rosehill in Australia and might have won but for a wet track. Second time out he ran into Winx.

“Having a horse fit is having a horse fit,” he said. “But I’ve got to do things slightly different. I know how fit I need a horse for Burghley or Badminton. In New Zealand I was doing way too much with them in the early days. That is probably the biggest challenge.”

Sir Mark may be eventing’s loss but he is undoubtedly racing’s gain.

mark todd

You can read more about Mark in his autobiography, So Far So Good (1998) and all about his return to the sport in his second autobiography, Second Chance (2012). He has also had several other books published including “Charisma” (1989), “One Day Eventing”, “Mark Todd’s Cross-Country Handbook” (1995) and “Novice Eventing with Mark Todd” (1996). Plus he has also produced a series of training videos.

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