ON a warm July afternoon in Greenwich Park all eyes in a packed grandstand were on a 56-year-old New Zealand rider and his horse Campino as he aimed to make history.

It had been 28 years since Mark Todd had won his first Olympic medal, a gold in the individual eventing competition in Los Angeles, and now in London there were just two fences between him claiming the record for the longest length of time between his first and last medal.

Todd and his horse were extremely tired going into the final day of the team eventing competition, but Marlborough-based compatriot Andrew Nicholson and Jock Paget had put the New Zealand team in a good position to claim bronze.

There were large intakes of breath as Campino had one fence down early in the round, but Todd used all his experience to guide the young horse home and clinch the bronze medal ahead of Sweden.

However, the Kiwi could not celebrate for long as the following week he was setting up home on the edge of Swindon at Badgerstown, a place the rider has fallen in love with over the years.

“I moved in a week after the Olympics so it was a bit of a crazy time,” he said, walking around the yard which has been transformed in the two years that he has been there.

“I’ve lived in the area of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire before and I wasn’t really looking for a place, but I’d come here to go schooling on the cross-country course in the past and I found that it was on the market. I decided on the spur of the moment that this would suit me ideally and set about trying to make it work.

“The facilities here are great. It was built by Stan Mellor, a racehorse trainer, so he did the stables here and there is an all-weather and grass gallop on the property and then later on there was a cross-country course and also the dressage arena out there.

“So it had pretty much everything that I wanted, although it was in a fairly run-down state, and the location is really good too.

“I have really enjoyed my time here and got to know Swindon a bit and I have found it nice there. I know a lot of people talk it down, but I like it.”

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Todd was not from a horsey background, but fell in love with the sport from an early age.

Little did he know, when he was borrowing a horse from his grandfather’s neighbour, the success he would experience later down the line.

“I was just a pony-mad kid from a non-horsey family, so where it came from I don’t know,” said Todd, walking one of his star horses Land Vision in from the field.

“I always wanted to ride and I was fortunate enough that my grandfather had a farm and a neighbour of his was a well-known local equestrian rider. I used to go out there every weekend and ride with them.

“Then I started going through pony club and it all went on from there.

“In the area here we are quite fortunate, it is a horsey area.

“We have Lambourn with all the racing nearby and there are quite a few riding clubs and equestrian centres around the place and I think you have just got to be keen to do it and make it happen.

“Like with any sport, if you want to be good at it you have to work at it and you have to be patient about it.

“The great thing about riding is that you can do it at any level. You can just be a pleasure rider and there are a lot of those around here. You see them hacking around the Ridgeway and around the roads here, or you can be a serious competitor.

“You can never imagine that I would have a career like this. In those days, when I started off being an eventer, equestrianism was never a career, it was something you did as a hobby. But fortunately I have been able to turn it into a career.”

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Todd has led the way in eventing and achieved the remarkable feat of winning Badminton at his first attempt in 1980.

Since then he has tasted unprecedented success, including two individual gold medals at Los Angeles in 1984 and in Seoul in 1988, three more Badminton crowns and won the Burghley Horse Trial a record five times.

He did retire back in 2000, but could only manage eight years away from the sport before he was back doing what he loves.

He confirmed he was still a force to be reckoned with when he won Badminton in 2011 and was recognised for his services to the sport in 2013 when he was knighted by Prince Charles.

So it is understandable that the 58-year-old struggles to pick out his favourite moment of his career to date.

“I have been fortunate enough to have a lot of highlights in my career,” he said.

“I think the back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 1984 and 88 were a highlight, because I was only the second rider in history to do that and then I think the other one which was really satisfying was after retiring in 2000 and then coming back into the sport, being able to come back and win Badminton again - that was pretty amazing.

“I can’t keep going forever. My main goal is to get to Rio 2016 and have a competitive chance there of winning another medal.

“At the moment I currently jointly hold the Olympic record for the longest period between medals. I think it is 28 years between medals, so if I can go back next time and win another medal and get that honour all to myself it would be great.”

Todd has had the privilege of riding some fantastic horses during his long career but none had the same allure as Charisma.

The gelding is considered to be one of the greatest horses to have graced the sport, but Todd is still hoping to find another one like him.

“Charisma was an amazing little horse. He was only quite small, he was only 15.3hh (160cm) but he was a brilliant horse and a great showman and he won a lot of hearts,” he said.

“People that know equestrian sport and know about me, in New Zealand for example, if you asked about equestrian sport they immediately say Charisma.

“He was Charisma by name and he did have a lot of charisma and I was very fortunate that he came along in my career at the right time.

“I think you will only ever have one horse like that. I have had an awful lot of good horses, and, like I say, this horse Leonidas that I have is relatively young and I think he is very talented.

“Of course Land Vision was probably as talented, if not more talented, than Charisma but unfortunately he is not a particularly sound horse, he has had a lot of injury problems.

“It is not just about talent alone, they have to be tough and sound and I have a couple of very nice younger ones coming along as well.

“You just never know and that is the exciting part about it. The next one coming along might just be a champion.”

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It is now the close season and Todd and the horses will be using the time to take some much deserved down time, as well as the occasional trip to Brazil for the New Zealander, where he manages the Brazilian eventing team.

But there are no signs that the veteran rider is considering a second retirement any time soon. He already has his sights set on next year and he will be going for his fifth Badminton title with two of his horses, Leonidas and Oloa.

With the Olympics less than two years away, Todd is keen to feel the same buzz as he got from that first gold 30 years ago.

“It is this time of year that we are doing the maintenance jobs that we don’t have time to do otherwise,” he said.

“I am going back to New Zealand in the middle of December to stay out there until about the third week of January, stopping off in America and doing a couple of teaching clinics.

“Normally we spend a month or six weeks there and I haven’t done that in the last few years but we are going to have a bit of rest and relaxation and go to the beach and hang out and catch up with family and friends.

“It is down time for the horses as well, so they have a month just chilling out in the field and then they come back in and start building up gradually for next year.

“We don’t have a championship next year. There are European Championships, but being from New Zealand I am not eligible for them.

“Badminton to us is what Wimbledon is to tennis. It’s the one everybody wants to win.

“I’ve been lucky enough to win it four times over a span of 30-odd years and it is very special. It is a magnificent park and it is great event with huge crowds and a lot of prestige involved in it.

“I hope I have still got it in me to win another one, you never know. My horse now, Leonidas, is a very smart horse and I have thought a lot of him and if we can get there in good form he has as good a chance as any.

“Barbury is also a great event, of its type I think it is one of the best in the world actually.

“It is fantastic for a viewing course because you can sit in the middle and see most of the cross-country course and they have great hospitality and it is always a great event. We are lucky it is just over the hill there.

“But I hope to have a horse or two at Badminton and Burghley and a couple of the other big ones and basically for me it is just a year consolidating and getting ready for the Olympics in 2016.”