byLizzy Youngling| Dec 15, 2017
When you think of horse and rider combinations who’ve had a major impact on equestrian sports fans around the world, Sir Mark Todd and Charisma are always at the top of the list.
An unlikely match, the 6’3″ Kiwi and the 15.3-hand bay gelding were unstoppable on the international eventing circuit throughout the 1980s. Known as “Podge” around the yard due to his love of food, Charisma was relatively unknown until he and Mark won individual gold at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Four years later at the age of 16, Charisma and Todd etched their names in the record books for all time when they won individual gold—again!—at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, becoming only the second combination in a century to do so.
This month, NF Style sat down with Mark Todd to learn what made the legendary gelding so special and how Charisma changed his career and life forever.
NF Style: What made Charisma such a world-class horse?
Mark Todd: He was an incredible athlete, he had a tremendous attitude and work ethic. He was very intelligent and very brave—he just loved competing.
He was a horse that people took to heart. I was lucky enough to be a part of him.
What did you learn from Charisma?
I learned to appreciate a good horse. I learned to hold my breath in the show jumping, because he was never any good at that phase. He also taught me a lot about training horses and about being patient because he was a very strong-willed horse and if you tried to take him on too much, you’d just end up having a fight. He taught me a lot about competing in general. He certainly taught me how to appreciate success. We were fortunate enough to have a lot of success together—there weren’t many like him.
What’s your most memorable win with Charisma?
I don’t know if I have any one particular favorite, but the two Olympic Gold medals are special—for different reasons, of course. The first one in 1984 because it came a little bit out of the blue. To repeat it in 1988 when he was 16 years old, a lot of people thought he was past his best, and he probably did his best performance ever at those Games. So both, for different reasons, were very special.
What did Charisma do for your eventing career?
He really put me on the map. In 1984, we were relatively unknown at that stage. I had won Badminton in 1980, but I had only just gotten together with Charisma at the end of the previous year. He was a horse that people took to heart. I was lucky enough to be a part of him. At the time, we were only the second combination to win back-to-back gold medals in the century and most people who know me always associate me with Charisma. He’s been a big part of my career. Although, it does seem like an awfully long time ago now. He’s definitely one of those special horses that will always be remembered. We were lucky to have found each other.
You can watch a clip of Sir Mark Todd & Charisma’s Olympic cross country highlights below:
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