Mark Todd

Mark James Todd, CBE (born 1 March 1956) is a champion New Zealand horseman, voted Rider of the 20th Century by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports, (Fédération Equestre Internationale).

He won gold medals at Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988) Olympics, the prestigious Badminton Horse Trials  on three occasions, the Burghley Horse Trials[4] five times, and as a member of New Zealand’s Eventing "Dream Team" he won gold medals at the World Championships in 1990 and 1998 (Rome), the European Championships in 1997, plus 20 or more other international events, and numerous other international individual and team titles.

In New Zealand he has been honoured with the 1998 Supreme Halberg Award[5] as New Zealand Sportsperson of the year and inducted into The New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.

Mark Todd and fellow equestrian Andrew Nicholson, are the first New Zealanders to have competed at six Olympic Games.

Born in Cambridge New Zealand, with a deep and abiding passion for horses, Mark rode at Pony Club as a youngster and competed at local shows.

As a youngster, Mark Todd suffered the usual broken bones and tears in pony club events, but he was passionate about horses and persevered. He considered becoming a jockey but quickly grew to 6 ft 2 in which forced him into show jumping instead. Although he was a lanky lad , he impressed with his elegant riding and the uncanny rapport he quickly fostered with his mounts, even those he had never ridden before. He was able to coax exceptional jumping feats from some horses which other riders had decided were not worth the effort. Fellow New Zealand Team member, Andrew Nicholson, is quoted as saying “Mark can ride anything – he could go cross-country on a dairy cow!” 

On leaving school Mark Todd pursued a career as a farmer, gaining a Diploma of Agriculture at the Waikato Technical Institute, and working on farms while fitting in riding, competing and selling horses.

In 1978 he was part of New Zealand’s first three-day eventing team to contest a world championship, at Lexington, Kentucky, U.S.A.. On a brutal course Todd was doing well – 10th after the dressage and second in the steeplechase – until his horse, Tophunter, broke down during the cross-country stage.

The championships opened Todd’s eyes to international three-day eventing. He juggled his finances, sometimes having to sell his horses, moved to England where he mucked out stables and began to earn event rides. At his first attempt, in 1980, he won the famous Badminton Horse Trials [10] riding Southern Comfort . Badminton is the Wimbledon of eventing and Todd was a virtual unknown when he arrived, his mateAndrew Nicholson as his groom. He went on to became, arguably, the most successful individual eventer in equestrian history.

Mark Todd is recognized as a pioneer of three-day eventing in New Zealand. Those who followed him included Olympic medallists and world champions like Tinks Pottinger,Blyth Tait, Vaughn Jefferis, Vicky Latta, Sally Clark and Andrew Nicholson. – Olympic profile Link text"Jefferis once said: “We all owe a huge debt to Mark Todd. He was the first, and he paved the way for us".

Mark Todd married Carolyn Berry in 1986. He has a daughter called Lauren who is currently attending university, and a son, James, who is still at school.

Mark Todd became a popular sportsman in his home country, as were the numerous horses he rode. Most notable was Charisma[2], the 15.2hhthoroughbred (with 1/16th percheron) partnered Todd in winning successive Olympic Gold Medals (Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988). Charisma was retired to a Waikato farm after the Soul Olympics but continued to partner Mark for many public appearances including flag bearing(Todd 1998 p.56) at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland New Zealand. Charisma died aged 30 from a broken shoulder.

Prior to his `comeback` for the Beijing Olympics Todd`s last international competition was at the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics where he achieved an individual bronze medal. His bronze medal win somewhat clouded by a scandal, prior to final team selection, originally reported by the English Sunday Mirror newspaper. The controversy caused by the publication was a matter of national debate and almost cost Mark his team selection. (Romanos, J.,2008)

Mark Todd retired from international competition following the 2000 Sydney Olympics and returned to live in New Zealand. He, Caroline, and their children moved to Rivermonte Farm near his home town of  Cambridge in Waikato to breed horses and concentrate on several business ventures, including the manufacture/retail of harness and other tack. He has become a familiar face at racetracks where his thoroughbreds have enjoyed success, including wins in the Wellington Cup and New Zealand Oaks. He remained closely involved with the administration of the eventing, acting as coach for the NZ Olympic Eventing team at Athens in 2004. He continued to compete in eventing at a local level and to support the sport in general.

Mark Todd`s autobiography, So Far So Good,  has become a popular seller among the international equestrian scene. He has 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). He has also produced a series of training videos.

On the 25th January 2008 Horse & Hound announced online that Mark Todd was to make a return to Eventing eight years after he retired in Sydney. He purchased a 10-year old grey called Gandalf to campaign for selection to ride at the Beijing Olympics 2008.

"He was available to be bought, so I flew up to Auckland, tried him out, had him vetted and it all happened very quickly. There wasn`t a lot of planning involved, it all just happened," said 52-year-old Mark, whose comeback is being sponsored by New Zealand Bloodstock.

On the 19th of May 2008 Todd placed sixth at a three-day equestrian event in Saumur, France. Subsequently achieving qualification and selection for the Beijing Olympics he put up one of the best performances of the Kiwi team, in what was only his eighth competition in eight years. The New Zealand team finished fifth, and Todd managed the second best Kiwi performance, coming in 17th overall.

Following his effort in Beijing Todd and Gandalf joined a strong field of elite international eventers to compete for the inaugural Express Eventing International Cup. Touted as the Twenty20 of eventing there was a prize pool of STG250,000 up for grabs. Sadly three refusals in the showjumping spoiled their chances of victory.

In February 2009 Todd announced that he is making a full return to elite level eventing, basing himself in England with a team of up to 8 horses including Gandalf, his Beijing Olympics mount. 

Todd told British magazine Horse and Hound that he would be based in Swindon with Belgian event rider Bruno Goyens de Heusch. "I plan to be (in the UK) until June, then will go back to New Zealand for a month. I will return to the UK until the end of the season and be in New Zealand for Christmas," he told H&H. The attached link is a radio interview with Mark Todd about his comeback.

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 Todd was a pioneer of three-day eventing in New Zealand. Those who followed him included Olympic medallists and world champions like Tinks Pottinger, Blyth Tait, Vaughn Jefferis, Vicky Latta, Sally Clark and Andrew Nicholson. 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.”

Growing up in the Waikato area, Todd had an incredible passion for horses. In 1978 he was part of New Zealand’s first three-day eventing team to a world championship, at Lexington, Kentucky. On a brutal course Todd was doing well – 10th after the dressage and second in the steeplechase – until his horse, Tophunter, broke down during the cross-country stage.

The championships opened Todd’s eyes to international three-day eventing. He juggled his finances, sometimes having to sell his horses, and had a crack at Badminton in 1980. Badminton is the Wimbledon of eventing and Todd was a virtual unknown when he arrived, his mate Nicholson as his groom.

Riding Southern Comfort, Todd was 45th after the dressage, but was one of only three inside the time limit 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, the first foreigner to win the crown in years. It was his first major victory in a glittering 20-year career at the top.

The highest peaks, certainly in the New Zealand public’s estimation, were his two Olympic gold medals on Charisma, in 1984 and 1988. But Mark Todd had three victories at Badminton – he won again in 1994 and 1996 – and triumphs at Burghley and in many other European events. He twice helped New Zealand teams to win world titles. He gained a reputation for being able to hop on to an unfamiliar horse and turn in a champion performance. Briton Karen Dixon, a strong rival, said: “He could make a donkey jump 10 feet.”

Mark Todd was named Rider of the Century by the International Equestrian Federation. As one of his great rivals, Lucinda Green, once famously said: “Todd could win Badminton on a skateboard.” 

His Olympic victory at Los Angeles in 1984 was his most dramatic. Entering the show jumping he was lying second behind American Karen Stives. Charisma, not always the safest of jumpers, went clear and then Todd waited while Stives entered the show jumping arena. Puffing away on a cigarette, Todd twitched nervously until Stives hit the second-last fence and Todd was the Olympic champion.

Todd and 16-year-old Charisma, or Podge, as Todd called him, defended the title magnificently at Seoul in 1988, outclassing the field in searchingly hot conditions. When the gold was Todd’s, Television commentator Brian O’Flaherty injected famously: “That’s two for Todd and Todd for two.” Besides winning the gold medal at Seoul, Todd was part of the bronze medal-winning New Zealand three-day eventing team, and competed in the show jumping, finishing 26th on Bago.

He had forgettable moments at the Olympics, too, besides the 1980 boycott. In 1992, the year he was the New Zealand team flag-bearer, his horse, Welton Greylag, broke down during the competition. He rode Double Take to 37th in the show jumping that year. At Atlanta four years later Kayem was ruled out on medical grounds.

Mark Todd was looking to close his career on a high at the 2000 Sydney and brought some cheer to a tough Olympics for New Zealand when he rode Eyespy II to a bronze medal in the three-day eventing, giving him an Olympic collection of two golds and two bronzes.

Shortly after the Sydney Olympics, Mark Todd returned to New Zealand. He has remained closely involved with three-day eventing and was one of the New Zealand Olympic team coaches at Athens in 2004.

He won the Halberg Award in 1988 and was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.