Happy 70th birthday, Ian Stark! We look back at the flying Scot’s career…

  • Ian Stark, four-times Olympic silver medallist and five-star course-designer, turns 70 today, so we take this opportunity to look back at the highlights of his eventing career.

    Ian gave up his office job in his late 20s to event full-time and became one of Britain’s most successful riders, winning 18 championship medals and taking the Badminton Horse Trials title three times.

    Ian blasted onto the top-level eventing scene in 1984, when he made his Badminton debut, finishing third on Oxford Blue and sixth on Sir Wattie (below).

    Ian Stark career highlights: Sir Wattie at Badminton 1984

    Credit: John F Hughes

    This put both horses in the frame for selection for the Los Angeles Olympics later that year. Oxford Blue is pictured below during a selection trial at Castle Ashby in June.

    Credit: Bob Thomas/Getty Images

    Ian was selected for the Games with Oxford Blue, finishing ninth individually and contributing to team silver (below).

    Ian Stark career highlights: 1984 Olympics

    Credit: Popperfoto/Getty Images

    A year later, Ian rode Oxford Blue at the European Eventing Championships at Burghley Horse Trials, finishing with team gold and individual bronze (below). Surprisingly, despite many career highlights, Ian Stark never won Burghley.

    Credit: Jim Meads

    In 1986, Ian raised the Badminton trophy for the first time when he piloted Sir Wattie into first place (below).

    Ian Stark career highlights: Badminton 1986

    This was an unusual year in international eventing. The World Championships were held in Gawler, Australia, but because many nations could not afford to send a team there, an alternative worlds was also hosted at Bialy Bor, Poland. Britain underlined her superiority by taking team gold at both – and Ginny Leng (now Elliot) took individual gold at both, too. Ian was part of the Gawler team with Oxford Blue and the Bialy Bor team with Sir Wattie, who also landed individual bronze.

    Sir Wattie could not defend his title at Badminton 1987 because the weather forced the event to be cancelled, but he swept another team gold and individual silver at that year’s European Championships at Luhmühlen Horse Trials.

    In 1988, he returned to Badminton and won again. The Scottish rider also finished second on Glenburnie, earning himself a special place as the only rider in the event’s history to achieve a one-two, definitely one of Ian Stark’s career highlights. He is pictured below with Sir Wattie (left) and Glenburnie (right).

    Credit: Bob Thomas/Getty Images

    A slightly hairy moment as Sir Wattie jumps into The Lake.

    Credit: Bob Thomas/Getty Images

    Ian showjumping to the title aboard Sir Wattie.

    Ian Stark career highlights: Badminton 1988

    Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    A lap of honour for Sir Wattie.

    Credit: Elizabeth Furth

    Sir Wattie made his final team appearance at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, where he landed team and individual silver. Ian is pictured with British team-mates Ginny Leng (now Elliot), Karen Straker (now Dixon) and Mark Phillips, with the Princess Royal making the presentation.

    Credit: AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara

    Glenburnie was Ian’s horse for the 1989 Europeans at Burghley, where the team again took the gold. This was the era of Ian’s much-loved flying greys, Glenburnie and Murphy Himself. The latter, known for his boldness across country, stepped up in 1990 at the World Equestrian Games in Stockholm, where he scored team and individual silver (below).

    Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    In 1991, Glenburnie was back in the limelight when he went to the European Championships in Punchestown, Ireland, and landed double gold. This was Ian’s only individual gold during his 16-year championship career. Glenburnie is pictured at Badminton the following year, 1992.

    Credit: Bob Thomas/Getty Images

    Murphy Himself received the call-up for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona (below), but he did not finish and the British team came home empty-handed in sixth.

    Ian Stark career highlights: 1992 OlympicsCredit: Popperfoto via Getty Images

    Credit: Popperfoto via Getty Images

    Ian’s team appearances were more sporadic after this, but he made it to his fourth Olympics at Atlanta in 1996, riding Stanwick Ghost on the fifth-placed British team. He was back on the podium at the Burghley European Championships in 1997, where he was on the gold medal-winning British squad with Arakai.

    In 1999, Ian scored his third and final Badminton win when he piloted Jaybee into top spot at the event’s 50th anniversary running. He is pictured below jumping into The Lake.

    Credit: Phil Cole/ALLSPORT

    A grin from Ian as he secures the title.

    Ian Stark career highlights: Badminton 1999

    Credit: Phil Cole /Allsport

    Ian with The Queen at prize-giving, with the Duke of Beaufort in the background.

    Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    A lap of honour for Ian and Jaybee, runners-up Mark Todd and Word For Word and third-placed Kerry Millikin on Out And About.

    Ian Stark career highlights: Badminton 1999

    Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Ian made his fifth consecutive – and final – Olympic appearance at the Sydney Games. The team and individual competitions were separate and he was selected for both. Arakai finished 10th in the individual and Jaybee was part of the silver medal-winning British team.

    Here is Arakai in action.

    Credit: Al Bello /Allsport

    And Jaybee…

    Credit: Mike Hewitt/Allsport

    Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    A lap of honour for Ian, Pippa Funnell (Supreme Rock), Jeanette Brakewell (Over To You) and Leslie Law (Shear H20).

    Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

    Ian retired from team selection after the Sydney Olympics and from four-star (now five-star) competitions after finishing 11th at Kentucky Three-Day Event in 2007 on Full Circle II, but he has not given up competing and was placed at intermediate level last year on Chatsworth Diamond, who is related to his Atlanta ride Stanwick Ghost.

    He has forged a successful career as a coach and course-designer in recent years, his responsibilities including the track at Bramham Horse Trials and the Maryland 5 Star. He retires from course-designing at the end of his year but will continue to do some work in an advisory capacity and is looking forward to spending more time with his grandchildren.

    Happy birthday, Ian!

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