Sir Mark Todd officially retired from eventing in an emotional ceremony at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials on Sunday (8 September).
The eventing legend rode into the main arena on his London 2012 team bronze medal-winning ride, NZB Campino, ahead of the final jumping session.
“Kinky, as he is known at home, is the last horse I finished a three-day event on and that was here at this event last year,” he told the packed stands, before he was overcome with emotion.
“Now I’m heading back into the racing world as I did 19 years ago when I last retired, here at Burghley and the kids and Carolyn were much younger then! We left on that Monday morning with 20 suitcases and headed back to New Zealand, before I rode in the Sydney Olympics, which was to be my last ever event.
“Eight years later, I came back and it has been a wonderful 11 years.”
Sir Mark announced his second retirement from the sport after New Zealand won the Irish leg of the FEI Nations Cup series at Camphire in July.
“It has been an amazing 40 years. I know there’s a lot of people here who were probably little then and have grown up since I first rode here. You are an amazing crowd and have always got behind me and made me feel very welcome,” he said.
“I want to thank all the event organisers, the volunteers, the trainers, the grooms — including my latest groom, Jess Wilson, who has done an amazing job — and the owners. It is very easy for me to stand here, but it is all the work that goes on behind the scenes and I’m just the one who gets the glory.”
The six-time Olympic medallist, who won individual gold at both the 1984 and 1988 Olympics on Charisma, joked he seems to “make a habit” of Burghley retirement ceremonies.
“I’ve retired twice here, I’ve had two horses retire here — maybe it’s because it’s the end of the season and it’s a fitting time,” he said.
“[All my victories here] have been so different. When I won on Face The Music it was a year when nobody made the time. He was well down after the dressage and he was an incredibly fast horse, so he pulled up the leaderboard and we ended up winning it.
“When Welton Greylag won here it was for some wonderful owners, the Welmans, and that was their only four-star (now five-star) big win. When Broadcast News won it was the open European Championships here, and of course when I won on Welton Fair and was second on Charisma that was the only time I’ve done a one-two at a major three-day-event. They have all been special.”
The five-time Burghley and four-time Badminton winner, who will now focus on training racehorses, said he “honestly cannot say one highlight”.
“If I had to pick anything, I guess it would be the back-to-back [Olympic] gold medals with Charisma,”he said. “But also coming back after eight years off and going to Badminton with NZB Land Vision and winning again, when I didn’t expect it and I don’t think anybody else expected it. That was amazing as well.”
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The 63-year-old added he is not totally divorcing himself from the sport and is still mentoring a couple of riders.
“For the moment though, I’m just want to get myself set up in the racing and get that going, then I can look to see what I can do,” he said.
“The encouraging thing is there are a few younger ones following on. We saw Sam Lissington have her first Burghley here, it wasn’t probably what she hoped but she showed a lot of promise, and there’s a couple of others coming through.
“Maybe with me moving out of the way it will give them a chance to shine.”
Don’t miss this week’s issue of Horse & Hound — on sale Thursday, 12 September — for the full report from Burghley, plus all the usual news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more