Mark Todd (equestrian)

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Sir Mark Todd
Mark Todd Gandalf Barbury dressage 2008.jpg
Todd on Gandalf at the 2008 Barbury International Horse Trials
Personal information
Full nameMark James Todd
Born (1956-03-01) 1 March 1956 (age 63)
Cambridge, New Zealand
Todd and Major Milestone at the Dairy Farm during the cross-country phase of Burghley Horse Trials 2010
Todd and NZB Land Vision during the cross-country phase of the 2011 Badminton Horse Trials

Sir Mark James Todd KNZM CBE (born 1 March 1956) is a New Zealand horseman noted for his accomplishments in the discipline of eventing, voted Rider of the 20th century by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports.[1]

He won gold medals at Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988) Olympics, the Badminton Horse Trials on four occasions,[2] the Burghley Horse Trials five times,[3] and as a member of New Zealand’s Eventing team, he won gold medals at the World Championships in 1990 and 1998 (Rome), plus 20 or more other international events, and numerous other international individual and team titles.

In 1988, he was announced as the New Zealand Sportsperson of the year and winner of the Supreme Halberg Award.[4] In the same year, he was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.[5]

On 25 April 2011, Todd completed a fourth Badminton victory riding NZB Land Vision, becoming the oldest winner of the event.[2]

By winning his fifth Olympic medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Todd equaled the Olympic record for the longest gap between first and last Olympic medals, 28 years,[6] and shares the record for most Olympic medals won by a New Zealander with canoeists Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald.[7] The 2016 Games were Todd's seventh, having previously competed in 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2008 and 2012. Todd is the first New Zealander to have competed at seven Olympic Games.

Early life[edit]

Born in Cambridge, New Zealand,[8] he developed a deep and abiding passion for horses.[9] He rode at pony club as a youngster and competed at local shows.[1]

Todd considered becoming a jockey but quickly grew to 6 ft 2 in which forced him into show jumping instead. In reference to his riding skills, fellow New Zealand team member, Andrew Nicholson, is quoted as saying “Mark can ride anything – he could go cross-country on a dairy cow!”[10]

On leaving school 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.[9]

Equestrian career[edit]

In 1978, he was part of New Zealand’s first three-day eventing team to contest a world championship, at Lexington, Kentucky, United States. He was 10th after the dressage and second in the steeplechase, but then his horse, Tophunter, broke down during the cross-country stage.[9] Thereafter, Todd moved to England, where he mucked out stables and obtained use of horses for event rides. At his first attempt, in 1980, he won the Badminton Horse Trials riding Southern Comfort.[2] Todd was a virtual unknown when he arrived, with fellow New Zealander Andrew Nicholson as his groom.[9]

Todd is recognized as a pioneer of three-day eventing in New Zealand. His success was followed by fellow New Zealand Olympic medallists and world champions like Tinks Pottinger, Blyth Tait, Vaughn Jefferis, Vicky Latta, Sally Clark and Nicholson. Jefferis once said: “We all owe a huge debt to Mark Todd. He was the first, and he paved the way for us".[11]


Todd became a popular sportsman in his home country and some of the horses he rode also became well-known. Most notable was Charisma, the 15.2 hands (62 inches, 157 cm) Thoroughbred (with 1/16 Percheron) Todd rode when winning successive Olympic Gold Medals in 1984 and 1988.[12] Charisma was retired to a Waikato farm after the Seoul Olympics but appeared with Todd for later public appearances including flag bearing at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland New Zealand. Charisma died aged 30 from a broken shoulder.[13]

In the 1985 New Year Honours, Todd was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire,[14] and he was elevated to Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1995 Queen's Birthday Honours.[15]

Todd also competed at the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics, where he won an individual bronze medal. His win was somewhat clouded by allegations in the Sunday Mirror that Todd had used cocaine with a homosexual partner prior to final team selection.[16] The controversy was a matter of national debate,[17][18] and almost cost Todd his team selection.[19]


Todd retired from international competition following the Olympics and returned to live in New Zealand. Todd and his family moved to Rivermonte Farm near his home town of Cambridge[20] in Waikato to breed horses and concentrate on several business ventures, including the manufacture/retail of harness and other tack. His Thoroughbreds enjoyed racing 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.


On 25 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 2008 Summer Olympics. His comeback was sponsored by New Zealand Bloodstock.

On 19 May 2008, Todd placed sixth at a three-day equestrian event in Saumur, France. Subsequently, achieving qualification and selection for the Olympics, he put up one of the best performances of the NZ team, in what was only his eighth competition in eight years. The New Zealand team finished fifth, and Todd managed the second best individual performance for the team, coming in 17th overall.[21]

Following Beijing, Todd competed for the inaugural Express Eventing International Cup on Gandalf.[22] However, three refusals in the show jumping portion resulted in a poor placing. In February 2009, Todd announced that he was making a full return to elite level eventing, basing himself in England with a team of up to 8 horses including Gandalf.[21]

Competing at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Todd became the second oldest New Zealand Olympian in history.[23]

In the 2013 New Year Honours, Todd was appointed a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to equestrian sport.[24][25] His investiture at Buckingham Palace in May 2013 took place only days after the death of his father, Norm.[26]

Todd got selected to represent New Zealand at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Once again he became the second oldest New Zealand Olympian in history, as the fellow equestrian Julie Brougham made her Olympic debut at the age of 62.[27] At the Games held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Todd finished 4th in the team competition and 7th individually. Todd was the last team member to compete in the jumping phase, however, he uncharacteristically dropped four rails. As a result, New Zealand team missed out on a possible gold medal. Todd later described this outcome as one of the biggest lows of his career.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Todd married Carolyn Berry in 1986 and had two children, Lauren and James.[9] They separated in 2009.[29] The couple remarried in 2014, with only their children present as witnesses.[30]

Todd's autobiography, So Far, So Good,[9] was published in 1998. 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.


  1. ^ a b "Mark Todd". The CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury Trust. Archived from the original on 1 April 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "RIDER BIOGRAPHY - Mark Todd" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 May 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  3. ^ "Past Winners". Archived from the original on 3 May 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  4. ^ "1980-1989 Halberg Award Winners". The Halberg Trust. Archived from the original on 10 March 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  5. ^ "Inductees - Mark Todd". New Zealand Sports hall of Fame. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  6. ^ "New Zealand three-day eventers win bronze". Archived from the original on 8 August 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  7. ^ "Sir Mark Todd overcome with emotion at prospect of sixth Olympic equestrian medal". Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  8. ^ "Famous New Zealanders - Mark Todd". Christchurch City Libraries. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d e f (Todd, 1998 p. 1)
  10. ^ Louise Parkes (27 May 2008). "A Tall Order? Not if Your Name is Todd". USEF Network.
  11. ^ "Biography - Mark Todd". NEW ZEALAND OLYMPIC COMMITTEE. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  12. ^ "Kiwis Shed Tears for Charisma". Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  13. ^ Todd 1998 p. 56
  14. ^ London Gazette (supplement), No. 49970, 30 December 1984. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  15. ^ Queen's Birthday Honours List 1995 Archived 14 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  16. ^ "Todd rides out scandal storm". CNN Sports Illustrated. 1 September 2000. Archived from the original on 14 July 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  17. ^ Boulware, Jack (28 June 2000). "Horseplay". Archived from the original on 6 November 2003.
  18. ^ "Greatness still in Todd despite time and troubles". The Southland Times. 11 March 2008. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  19. ^ Romanos (2008)
  20. ^ "Cambridge iSite Visitor & Community Information Centre | Ph +64 (7) 823 3456 | Cambridge Town & Waipa District - Waikato - New Zealand. Quality Local & Business Directory".
  21. ^ a b "Mark Todd announces full return to eventing | Horsetalk - International horse news". Horsetalk. 24 February 2009.
  22. ^ "Express Eventing - Welcome". Archived from the original on 1 February 2009.
  23. ^ "Mark Todd best bet to carry NZ's flag again". Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  24. ^ "New Year Honours 2013" (29 January 2013) 8 The New Zealand Gazette 293.
  25. ^ "New Year honours list 2013". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  26. ^ "Mark Todd receives knighthood". News Hub. 18 May 2013.
  27. ^ "Brougham knocks Todd from top spot". New Zealand Olympic Committee. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  28. ^ "Rio Olympics 2016: Sir Mark Todd devastated as Kiwi three-day eventers miss out on medals". 10 August 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  29. ^ "Mark Todd leaves his wife". NZ Herald. 26 December 2010.
  30. ^ "The Diary: It's two for the Todds as Sir Mark remarries ex". NZ Herald. 20 December 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Todd, M., So Far, So Good: The Autobiography, 1998, Hodder Moa Beckett Publishers Limited, Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Romanos, J., Our Olympic Century. 2008, Trio Books Limited, Wellington New Zealand.

External links[edit]