He has been at the top of the sport for more than 40 years but yesterday, the legendary horseman Sir Mark Todd, announced he was hanging up his boots. He has said and done this before but this time he says it will be for good.
Double Olympic champion and five-time Burghley winner, Mark made the staggering announcement at the end of a Nations Cup event at Camphire in Ireland on Sunday after being part of the winning New Zealand team.
A supporter and brand advocate of Horse Scout since its inception, Mark competed at seven Olympics, winning six medals. He won gold at Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988) riding the great Charisma and was one of the very few athletes to compete at the Olympics in two disciplines- showjumping and eventing. Mark had previously indicated a desire to compete in Tokyo next year but had concluded 40 years of competing at the highest level was long enough.
In addition, he claimed four Badminton Horse Trials titles alongside his five victories at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials and two team world championship gold medals. He was considered as one of the greatest horsemen of all time.
Mark was rider of the 20th century by the governing body FEI and is regarded as one of New Zealand’s most successful athletes, receiving a Knighthood. More recently, he was appointed a Land Rover Ambassador.
With a previously successful background in racing, he has decided to devote more time to breeding and training race horses in England, something that had become more than a passing interest after securing a training license.
“I had initially thought I may stay on for one more Olympic Games but since I got back into the racing my attention has been taken away,” he said. “It is not just about the competition and unless you are 110 per cent focused and driven towards that goal, you won’t succeed . . . and I certainly wasn’t. In fairness to the owners, horses and others hoping to get on the team, this was the best thing. I have been here once before but there will be no comeback this time.”
Mark first retired from the sport in 2000, his decision partly driven by a British tabloid newspaper sting claiming he had used cocaine in the lead-up to that year’s Sydney Olympics. He vehemently denied the report.
He returned to compete at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and three years later, at 55, became the oldest winner of Badminton Horse Trials when he claimed the title on NZB Land Vision.
Mark explained he felt relieved to retire after considering the decision for some time and was delighted to go out on a winning note, alongside world leading team mates Tim and Jonelle Price.
Some Twitter tributes:
Andrew Hoy: “We first met 41 years ago- it’s been a blast ever since. A happy retirement to Sir Mark Todd. One of the all time greats of our sport and rider of the 20th century. But more than anything- a dear friend and most wonderful, kind man! We will miss you! Enjoy the next chapter.”
Lucienne Elms CEO Horse Scout: “I first met Mark at Blenheim Horse Trials when I was 19yrs old, I can recall having posters of him on my walls as a teenager. Years later I was fortunate enough to support his professional career, via young horse acquisition and sales through Horsecsout.com, I am very grateful for his support as a Horse Scout brand advocate the past few years. He is undoubtably the most multifaceted horseman that has ever been, I hugely respect his choice to go out on a high, myself and all of the Horse Scout Team wish him every success in the next chapter!”
The FEI: “Bittersweet brilliance. The man. The myth. The legend. Helped New Zealand to a stunning victory in Ireland in the FEI #Eventing Nations Cup… and then stunned the equestrian world by announcing his retirement!”
Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials: “What a legend Sir Mark Todd you are, a true friend, an inspiration and you’ve helped make Burghley so very special for so many people.”