SI Vault
Frank Deford
October 03, 1988
For pure charisma, Mark Todd and his gritty little horse couldn't be beat
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October 03, 1988

The Last Medal

For pure charisma, Mark Todd and his gritty little horse couldn't be beat

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By contrast, Todd flew so effortlessly over the course that when he crossed the finish line, he had to holler "Look out!" to clear the area ahead, for Charisma was still flat out and full of run. "He never put a foot wrong," Todd said.

Charisma was as old as any horse at Seoul, and surely the smallest. At the team awards ceremony, he really did look like a pony standing beside 11 real horses, and the scene was all the more bizarre when the riders dismounted and the tiny horse's man stood head and shoulders above the other 11 riders.

Todd, 32, who was raised on a farm, has been riding since he was seven. He has wavy brown hair that shines copper in the sun when he doffs his helmet. He smokes Silk Cut cigarettes, and so there is a timeless quality to him as he stands there in his classic riding costume, razor thin, handsome and elegant—the way all people in cigarette advertisements, going to the hounds, used to look.

But Todd is no dandy. Indeed, he's more like his equine partner, strong-boned and unspoiled. Such qualities seem to be characteristic of his nation's team; the No. 2 rider for New Zealand, which earned the bronze medal, is a farmer's wife with the wonderful name of Tinks Pottinger, and she takes her Olympic horse, Volunteer, out sheepherding to keep him in fettle.

Charisma is so fit, Todd isn't sure he'll just be able to go to pasture. "He'll miss the crowd, too," Todd says. "He loves showing off. I thought about making him a dressage horse now."

A new career at 17?

"Yes, but he's done such a tremendous service for me, I couldn't ask any more of him. So he'll just get plenty of hugs and kisses and carrots and oats."

Todd took another drag on his Silk Cut. Behind him, a groom walked Charisma, cooling him off. The last time. "I kept saying, all week, every time we did something, that would be the last time for us. The last this, the last that." The last gold.

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