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Badminton Horse Trials: An interview with Mark Todd

PUBLISHED: 16:29 28 April 2015 | UPDATED: 09:36 21 July 2015

Mark Todd riding Land Vision / Photo: Kit Houghton

Mark Todd riding Land Vision / Photo: Kit Houghton

©Kit Houghton

Debbie Graham spoke to Cotswolds-based eventer Mark Todd on the eve of 2013’s Badminton Horse Trials

Mark Todd with the Mitsubishi Motors Trophy / Photo: Kit HoughtonMark Todd with the Mitsubishi Motors Trophy / Photo: Kit Houghton

Thirteen years ago Kiwi eventer Sir Mark Todd CBE retired from the sport of eventing after an illustrious career that included two individual Olympic gold medals. But a quiet life proved not for him and just eight years later Toddy, as he is known, came out of retirement to represent New Zealand at the Beijing Olympics.

Since then he has never looked back and this month he will be heading to Badminton Horse Trials to defend the title he won here two years ago (the 2012 event was cancelled).

Mark’s career has spanned more than 30 years and his numerous wins include four wins at Badminton and he has twice helped New Zealand to win world titles (1990 and 1998).

In 2000 he was voted the FEI Event Rider of the 20th Century by the International Equestrian Federation and is now based in a yard near Swindon in Wiltshire.

How does it feel to be returning to Badminton as defending champion?

It seems so long ago I won it I can’t believe I am still the defending champion. I am just looking forward to getting back there.

What makes Badminton so special?

It’s the history of the whole event. There has always been something about Badminton and it’s still the one that every one wants to go to.

Who are you riding this year?

I have two horses this year: Major Milestone, who has been round before, and a new ride Ravensstar.

Major Milestone is not good in the dressage phase but he is a good cross country horse and a good show jumper and we are normally playing catch up after the dressage. Ravenstar is a little bit of an unknown quantity, but he is a nice horse. He’s capable of doing a good dressage and feels like a very good jumper but I don’t think he will be threatening the top ones.

What’s the best part of the cross country course at Badminton?

The end!

So that makes the start the worst…?

Yeah!

Did you miss the sport when you retired?

I did. I missed all my mates and all the camaraderie and I missed the competing, but I had had enough by 2000 and was ready to stop, and ready to start again in 2008. It was a personal challenge for myself. I wanted to prove to myself that I could get right back to the very top. Winning Badminton in 2011 was huge. I still sometimes can’t believe we did it. I think it meant as much as the first win here if not more.

Who has been the most influential in your life?

I don’t think there has been one person. I have taken advice and trained with a lot of people over the years. My grandfather was probably the one that sparked my love of horses and I learnt to ride on his farm. It was a very different way of learning to ride than say how the Germans did. They learnt to ride in an indoor school, whereas we learnt to ride bareback, galloping around the farm and having fun on a horse. There was nothing structured about it. We were cowboys, but we learnt about balance and hanging on and we learnt about riding horses across country.

What has been a career highlight?

I have been extremely fortunate and I have had a lot of highlights, and certainly winning back-to-back-golds on Charisma was one of them, but coming back to win at Badminton was huge.

The accolades you get are very humbling. It is a huge honour to be recognised within your sport for achievement and I am proud of what I have achieved.

Who has been your favourite horse?

It always has to be Charisma. He was a magic little horse. He was a little super star.

Would that boy growing up in New Zealand ever dreamt he could have had the success you have had?

No, no way. I was just a pony-mad kid. I believed I said to my mother at one I was going to represent New Zealand at the Olympics, but that was the most of it. I never really had pipe dreams of winning this and winning that. I always wanted to be the best I could be and hoped that that best was good enough to beat the others. It was something I loved doing and I was lucky enough to be good at it.

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For more on the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, visit: www.badminton-horse.co.uk

This article is from the May 2013 issue of Cotswold Life; some information included may have since changed.

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