Equestrian Sports NZ expresses disappointment at social media video of Sir Mark Todd's horse abuse

Equestrian Sports NZ has distanced itself from the behaviour of Olympic legend Sir Mark Todd, who has been videoed beating a horse with a stick.

But animal welfare campaigners wonder how often the Kiwi sporting icon has committed similar act over his long, illustrious career.

Sir Mark's abuse was posted on social media platform TikTok, as he strikes a horse 10 times to coax it across a water obstacle, and the eight-time Olympian and twice eventing gold medallist has apologised for the shocking incident.

But his national body is unimpressed and some have called for his title to be stripped as a result.

"We are very disappointed to see this behaviour, as it is certainly not something we endorse," says Equestrian Sports NZ chief executive Julian Bowen.

Sir Mark insists he doesn't condone these actions and admits he let himself down.

"I wholeheartedly apologise to the horse and all involved for my actions in this video clip," he says. "One of the main things I preach is about establishing a mutual respect between horse and rider, and that patience and kindness is the best way to get results.

Sir Mark Todd beats a horse on TikTok video
Sir Mark Todd beats a horse on TikTok video. Photo credit: TikTok

"I believe this is one of the main attributes along with a great empathy with animals that has enabled me to have a long and successful career in eventing. I am very disappointed in myself that I did not adhere to that in this case."

But SAFE spokesperson Will Appelbe questions whether this was a one-off occurrence.

"It's pretty disappointing to be honest and actually quite shocking that someone like Sir Mark Todd, someone of that standing, would treat a horse like that, and repeatedly whip it over and over again," says Appelbe.

"He's been seen on video once, how many times has he treated horses this way? We just don't know.

"I would hope the authorities in the UK are looking into it."

Sir Mark was knighted in 2013 and seems unlikely to lose his title. Government guidelines state honours are only usually revoked for serious crimes resulting in at least three months' imprisonment.