A Crowd Gathers To See Mark Todd
On the very cold evening of Monday 5th March in excess of 300 spectators gathered at the Hadlow College Equine Yard for an evening lecture demonstration by Mark Todd international event rider. He gained his MBE in 1984 followed by a CBE (1995) and then, in 2000, he was voted the 'Event Rider of the 20th Century' by the FEI. The event was organised and run by the BSc (Hons) Equine Management students as part of their course. The air was filled with an excited hum, not to mention the smell of the burger van! All spectators piled into the indoor school and quickly took their seats including the 3 extra rows!
Mark sidestepped the fact that he is a 5 times Burghley Champion, 4 times Badminton Champion, a European Champion and 2 times Olympic Champion, instead explaining that his business is simply buying and selling horses! When trying out a horse he thinks who would buy this horse? He said that the horse needed to be able to be ridden by anyone, not just him!
Mark entered the ring ridng Percy (Ocean) - described as 'his new pet' - an 8 year old Bay Thoroughbred, that he'd bought at the end of last year and nicknamed ‘Perfect Percy'. Together, they demonstrated a typical schooling routine, asking the horse to round from his back up into his neck in walk, trot and canter. Mark explained that through repetition the horse will learn, he always gave a little pat to reward if the horse had done well. On the lateral work, Mark asked for 4 or 5 steps then rewarded. He also said it was important to allow him to stretch mid-way through to relax his muscles and remain in rising trot until he felt Percy was strong in his back.
For the second demonstration the audience was lucky enough to watch last year's Badminton winner, ‘Land Vision', in action! Although, due to injury Land Vision had been off work until the end of 2011, and had only just started schooling, they demonstrated leg yield and shoulder in. This started off very softly and moving forward then steeply moving sideways and hardly moving in a forward direction at all, always keeping the same rhythm with no stiffness! Half pass, counter canter, and flying changes. Then the most wonderful extended trot, to which Mark exclaimed ‘he's not a bad horse!' which was met by a ripple of laughter from the crowd, however it was backed up by Mark saying ‘I reckon he is probably one of the nicest horses I have ever had'. Land Vision is, after all, his number one hope for the Olympics this year!
Using the third horse Alfiano Del Ferro, although initially spooked by the noise of the microphone and the wind outside, Mark demonstrated lengthening and shortening of stride, then worked over some small jumps, always changing direction and keeping the horse short and round.
The final horse, a 10 year old German Thoroughbred was an experienced horse on his 3rd season of eventing. With this horse Mark was able to demonstrate various jumping combinations, gradually changing the height and spread of the jumps. It was great to feel the tension mounting in the crowd as the jumps got higher and more technical.
Not only was it a very enjoyable evening for the spectators, Mark said it was also an excellent training session for each horse. The evening ended with a raffle raising £534 for the Mark Davies Injured Riders fund. This is a worthwhile charity that provides moral, financial and practical support to people in Britain who have been injured as a result of equine related accidents.