Happy Birthday Ian Stark! 11 reasons to be in awe of Scotland’s eventing legend

Andy Murray aside, Ian Stark is just one of the reasons we're relieved Scotland didn’t go independent last year. The former four-star eventer and course designer turns 61 today (22 February), which is the perfect excuse to remind ourselves what’s to love about the Scotsman

1. An equestrian centre takes his name

In January 2014 Ian and his wife Jenny opened the state-of-the-art Ian Stark Equestrian Centre at Greenhill Farm in the Borders.

2. He has a comedy Grandfather name

Ian has two children — a daughter Stephanie who was born in 1980, and a son Tim, born in 1981. Stephanie’s two young children, Freddie and Alfie,  call Ian ‘Grumpy’.

3. We’re waiting with bated breath for his 2015 European Championships course

Ian is designing the course for the eventing European Championships at Blair Castle this autumn (10-13 September) — his first championship track. Ian’s course-designing career kicked off at Chatsworth in 2005, with the support of Mike Etherington-Smith and The Duchess of Devonshire.

4. He’s proof that you don’t have to be riding before you can walk to be successful

Ian started riding at the age of 10 at Will Boyle’s Ladhope stables in Galashiels. And it wasn’t until he was 18 that he rode in his first horse trials, which was at Sunderland Hall on Jackie Rodger’s Glenmoidart.

Continued below…

5. He wowed at Badminton from the off

At Ian’s first Badminton, aged 30, he finished sixth and third with Sir Wattie and Oxford Blue — and was then short-listed for the 1984 Olympic team. In total he has three Badminton wins to his name and in 1988 he finished in first and second place.

6. He has so many medals it’s hard to keep track

Ian’s medal haul includes four Olympic silvers; one team gold, one team silver and one individual silver at World Championships, and one individual gold, one individual silver, one individual bronze, and a whopping six team golds at European Championships.

7. He knows a thing or two about four-stars

With the help of great sponsors and owners, Ian has ridden 18 horses to four-star level during his career.

8. The Queen loves him too

In 1989 The Queen honoured him with an MBE and in 2000 he was given an OBE.

9. He’s not a one trick pony

Eventing aside, Ian has had four books published about his life. He also rode in point-to-points for 12 years — but that ended when he rode in the Foxhunters Chase at Cheltenham in 1993 and ended up in hospital.  He freely admits that race riding was not his forte. He has had much more success training horses, with highlights including Birkwood winning the Buccleuch Cup at Kelso.

10. He’s a big hunting fan

Having hunted from the age of 12, Ian is now a field master with the Duke of Buccleuch.

11. He’s not afraid of a challenge…

In October 2011 Ian and Jenny bought seven semi-feral ponies and retrained them with the help of local college students. The ponies were part of a herd of nearly 100 belonging to an elderly farmer – and were in danger of becoming welfare cases.