Mark Todd (equestrian)

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Sir Mark Todd
Mark Todd Major Milestone Dairy Farm Burghley 2010.jpg
Mark Todd and Major Milestone at the Dairy Farm during the cross-country phase of Burghley Horse Trials 2010
Personal information
Full name Mark James Todd
Nationality  New Zealand
Discipline Eventing
Born (1956-03-01) 1 March 1956 (age 59)
Cambridge, New Zealand
Mark Todd on Gandalf at the 2008 Barbury International Horse Trials.
Mark 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, (Fédération Equestre Internationale).[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 the New Zealand Sportsperson of the year, winner of the Supreme Halberg Award.[4] In the same year he was inducted into The New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame. [5] Todd and fellow equestrian Andrew Nicholson, are the first New Zealanders to have competed at six Olympic Games.

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 Olympics, Todd equaled the Olympic record for the longest gap between first and last Olympic medals, 28 years.[6] The 2012 Games were Todd's sixth having previously competed in 1984-1992, 2000 and 2008.


Early life[edit]

Born in Cambridge, New Zealand,[7] he developed a deep and abiding passion for horses.[8] 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!”[9]


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.[10]

Early 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.[10] 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.[10]

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 Andrew 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]

Personal life[edit]

Todd married Carolyn Berry in 1986 and had two children, Lauren and James.[10] They separated in 2010.[12]

Career peak[edit]

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.[13] 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.[14]

In the 1985 New Year Honours, Todd was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire,[15] and he was elevated to Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1995 Queen's Birthday Honours.[16]

Prior to his 'comeback' for the Beijing Olympics, Todd's last international competition was at the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics where he won an individual bronze medal. His win was somewhat clouded by allegations in the UK's Sunday Mirror tabloid that Todd had used cocaine with a homosexual partner prior to final team selection.[17] The controversy was a matter of national debate[18][19] and almost cost Todd his team selection.[20]


Todd retired from international competition following the 2000 Sydney Olympics and returned to live in New Zealand. He, Carolyn, and their children moved to Rivermonte Farm near his home town of Cambridge[21] 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.

Todd's autobiography, So Far So Good,[10] 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.


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 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 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 Beijing 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.[22]

Following Beijing, Todd and Gandalf joined a strong field of international eventers to compete for the inaugural Express Eventing International Cup.[23] 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, his Beijing Olympics mount.[22] 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.

Competing at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Todd became the second oldest New Zealand Olympian in history.[24]

In the New Year Honours 2013 Todd was appointed a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to equestrian sport.[25][26] His investiture at Buckingham Palace in May 2013 took place only days after the death of his father, Norm.[27]


  1. ^ a b "Mark Todd". The CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury Trust. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "RIDER BIOGRAPHY - Mark Todd" (PDF). Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  3. ^ "Past Winners". Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  4. ^ "1980-1989 Halberg Award Winners". The Halberg Trust. 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". Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "Famous New Zealanders - Mark Todd". Christchurch City Libraries. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  8. ^ Todd (1998) p. 1
  9. ^ "Mark Todd Equestrian Eventer". Local Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d e (Todd, 1998.p1)
  11. ^ "Biography - Mark Todd". NEW ZEALAND OLYMPIC COMMITTEE. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  12. ^ Mark Todd leaves his wife
  13. ^ "Kiwis Shed Tears for Charisma". Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  14. ^ Todd 1998 p. 56
  15. ^ London Gazette (supplement), No. 49970, 30 December 1984. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  16. ^ Queen's Birthday Honours List 1995. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  17. ^ "Todd rides out scandal storm". CNN Sports Illustrated. 1 September 2000. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  18. ^ Boulware, Jack (28 June 2000). "Horseplay -". 
  19. ^ "Greatness still in Todd despite time and troubles". The Southland Times. 11 March 2008. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  20. ^ Romanos (2008)
  21. ^ "Cambridge iSite Visitor & Community Information Centre | Ph +64 (7) 823 3456 | Cambridge Town & Waipa District - Waikato - New Zealand. Quality Local & Business Directory". 
  22. ^ a b "Mark Todd announces full return to eventing | Horsetalk - International horse news". Horsetalk. 24 February 2009. 
  23. ^ "Express Eventing - Welcome". 
  24. ^ "Mark Todd best bet to carry NZ's flag again". Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  25. ^ "New Year Honours 2013" (29 January 2013) 8 The New Zealand Gazette 293.
  26. ^ "New Year Honours List 2013". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2012. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  27. ^ Mark Todd receives knighthood
  • Todd, M., So far so good Mark Todd 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]