Toddy calls time on eventing career

It's the end of an amazing era, as Sir Mark Todd has announced his retirement from eventing – for good

Sir Mark on his final lap of honour at Camphire horse trials (Image: LIbby Law)

Sir Mark Todd has announced his retirement from eventing, going out on a high as part of the Kiwi team to win the Nations’ Cup at the Camphire International Horse Trials in Ireland.

The FEI Rider of the 20thCentury is one of the sport’s all-time greats, having won two individual Olympic gold medals, four Badminton titles and five Burghley crowns. He has competed at seven Olympic Games for New Zealand, including two where he rode in both show jumping and eventing; and a string of World Equestrian Games where he was on two gold medal-winning teams.

It was an emotional moment for 63-year-old Sir Mark as the announcement was made at the Camphire prizegiving, which was met with gasps from commentators and spectators.

It was an emotional morning for the 63-year-old Sir Mark (image: Libby Law)

“I had been thinking about it for some time,” says Sir Mark, who will now turn his focus back to racing. “The opportunity came up at the end of last year with the racing and I can’t keep going (with eventing) forever. 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 from the eventing and I was finding it harder and harder to focus on the eventing.”
He admits the fire had gone out in his belly. “It is not just about the competition, and unless you are 110% 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.”

Sir Mark says he had initially planned to retire at the end of the current season but changed his mind. “Once I decided I was going to retire, I just wanted to finish sooner rather than later. I had three nice horses going to Camphire and was riding one of my favourites in the Nations Cup so thought it would be a nice way to end it all. To end up on the winning team with Tim and Jonelle (Price) has been an added bonus.”

Going out on a winning note with Jonelle and Tim (Image: Libby Law)

Sir Mark says that while it wasn’t easy to make that final decision, he feels hugely relieved to have done so.

He felt he was lucky to have had a career that had many highlights. “I am very fortunate,” he says. “I guess the highlight of my second career was winning Badminton with Land Vision but one of the main highlights has been the people I have been involved with . . . I have worked with fabulous owners, wonderful sponsors, amazing people who have worked for us over the years and great trainers. It has been a real privilege to have been part of this team and this journey.”

Sir Mark has 10 race horses in work and his long-time owner Sir Peter Vela is still very much involved, as well as some of his other owners. “I am training in the UK at the moment but we loved our time in Australia with Eminent so it is very possible some time in the future we would love to take another horse down there. We will take it slowly – I am under no illusions it will be difficult breaking into the British racing scene but I would like to think we can have a crack.”

Sir Mark’s decision to retire had been made with his wife Carolyn who he admitted would be far more relaxed about the racing game than she was with eventing. “It was very much a joint decision. It is a dangerous sport, and she worries, so she will be far more relaxed about this and has always loved racing.”

Please enjoy this pictorial tribute to Sir Mark’s long and illustrious career.

Mark with Charisma (right) and Carlsberg (NZHP library)
Charisma’s last public appearance (NZHP library)
Celebrating a Badminton win with Bertie Blunt in 1996, the year after he rode most of the course with one stirrup (NZHP library)
Winning Badminton again in 2011 with NZB Land Vision was a highlight of his second career (Image: Kit Houghton/ Mitsubishi Motors)
Sir Mark Todd speaks with TVNZ (Image: Libby Law)
Mark Todd Top Hunter
Mark Todd and Top Hunter, who were second in the Waiteko Trophy at the 1978 one-day trials, and as a result were selected for the World Three-day Eventing Champs in Kentucky (Image: NZHP Library)
Mark finished fifth individually on Bahlua, helping the NZ team to gold at the 1990 World Equestrian Games in Stockholm (image: Barbara Thomson)
Our cover star in May 1986: Gilly Meacham was a lucky recipient of a cuddle! (NZHP library)