There are a few moments in Olympic equestrian history that have stuck with me throughout my life. Three moments in fact.

How I recall this first one is a mystery to me as I was barely a teenager at the time.

All I remembered as I sat down at my computer to write this was that several decades ago the Australian Event Team consisted of four members, two of whom were father and son.

I remember marveling at how the stars must have magically aligned for a father and a son to find themselves representing their country together at the Olympics. What I didn’t know before starting my research was this happened four times with the same family. Four!

Bill Roycroft (AUS) riding OUR SOLO in the cross country of the three-day event at the Olympic Games, Rome 1960. ©Split Seconds / Alamy Stock Photo

Bill Roycroft OBE, Australia

Bill Roycroft’s Olympic record starts in 1960 Rome—where he won his first medal—and became a family affair the following Games in 1964. Roycroft would go to contest Olympic Games with all three of his sons.

  • 1960 (Rome)Bill Roycroft, 45, made the AUS Event Team for the first time.
    • Won team gold.
  • 1964 (Tokyo) Roycroft competed at his second Olympics for the AUS Event Team.
    • Son Barry Roycroft went to his first Games as a reserve rider for the AUS Show Jumping Team.
    • This was the first time Australia had a show jumping team at an Olympics.
  • 1968 (Mexico)This time Bill and his son Wayne made up half the AUS Event Team.
    • Won team bronze.
    • Bill was also a flag bearer during the opening ceremony.
  • 1972 (Munich) And on this occasion Bill and his son Clarke were half the AUS Event Team.
  • 1976 (Montreal) Bill, now 61, and his son Wayne representing AUS at the Olympics.  
    • Won another team bronze medal.
    • Barry was also there competing in the show jumping.
  • 2000 (Sydney) Bill Roycroft carried the Olympic flag during the opening ceremony

Sir Mark Todd, New Zealand

The iconic Kiwi eventer, Mark Todd. There are so many astonishing things this man has accomplished but the one that has stuck with me forever is that he won two individual Olympic gold medals riding the same horse, Charisma.

The first was in 1984 and the second was in 1988. But to make things a little more remarkable, Mark Todd is 6’2” and Charisma was 15-3. Not a predictable combination. And, I might add, 1984 was Mark Todd’s first Olympic Games.

  • 1984 (Los Angeles) – Mark Todd made the NZ Event Team for the first time.
    • Won his first individual gold medal riding Charisma, who was 12.
    • He became the first Kiwi to win an Olympic medal in equestrian sports.
  • 1988 (Seoul) – Rode at his second Games on the NZ Event Team.
    • Won his second individual gold medal with Charisma, who was 16.Won team bronze.
    • Also went to the Games riding on the NZ Show Jumping Team.
  • 1992 (Barcelona) – Rode at his third Games on the NZ Event Team.
    • Second time on the NZ Show Jumping Team.
    • Flag bearer during the opening ceremony.
  • 2000 (Sydney) – Rode on the NZ Event Team for the fourth time.
    • Retired from competitive riding after the Games and started training racehorses.
  • 2004 (Athens) – Coached the NZ Event Team.
  • 2006 Came out of retirement and started eventing again to see if he could make another Olympic team. Why not? 
  • 2008 (Beijing) – Rode at his fifth Olympics.
  • 2012 (London) His sixth Olympics.
    • Won his second team bronze.
  • 2016 (Rio) His seventh Games.
  • 2019 – At 63 Sir Mark Todd retired from eventing, for real this time, and went back to training racehorses.

It’s clear, they make them different in the southern hemisphere. However, up here in the Great White North we have someone called… Captain Canada!

Ian Millar (CAN) riding Dorincord (with a broken hand!) at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. ©Split Seconds / Alamy Stock Photo

Ian Millar, Canada

Captain Canada, a world-famous show jumper and proud Canadian holds one thing in the world that nobody else does: the record for competing in 10 Olympic Games. That’s an enormous back tattoo worthy achievement (which he does not have, but if he was so inclined, it’d make sense).

I don’t know what makes me prouder, that Ian Millar is Canadian or that he is an equestrian. Either way, “Way to go, Ian. Way to go, Canada. Way to go, horses!”

  • 1972 (Munich) – Millar’s first time competing for Canada at the Olympics on The Shoeman.
  • 1976 (Montreal) – His second time representing Canada. This time on Count Down.
  • 1980 (Moscow) – He made the team again with Brother Sam.
  • 1984 (Los Angeles) – His third Olympics. This time with legendary mount Big Ben.
  • 1988 (Seoul) – Fourth Games. Big Ben again.
  • 1992 (Barcelona) – Fifth. Big Ben.
  • 1996 (Atlanta) – Sixth. Play It Again.
  • 2000 (Sydney) – Seventh. Dorincord.
  • 2004 (Athens) – Eighth. Promise Me.
  • 2008 (Beijing) – His ninth Games. In Style.
    • At 61, Ian Millar won his first Olympic medal, a team silver.
  • 2012 (London) – His 10th Olympic Games!
    • Ian Millar, 65, set the record for becoming the first athlete in any sport, from any country to compete in 10 Olympic Games.
    • Finished ninth individually with Star Power, his highest individual Olympic placing.  
  • 2016 (Rio) – Due to sinus issues, Millar’s horse was unable to make the 2016 Games.
    • His replacement on the team was his daughter, Amy Millar. What could be better?

Points of interest

The numbers I’m about to give are taken from Olympic stats from the first Games in 1896 to 2022, which include both the Summer and Winter Games.

  • 4 athletes have gone to 9 Olympics, 2 shooters, 1 sailor and Ian Millar.
  • 128 athletes have competed in both the Summer and Winter Olympics.
  • 6 athletes have won medals in both the Summer and Winter Games.
  • 215 athletes in the world that have competed in 6 Games, 67 of whom are women.
  • 838 athletes have competed in 5 Olympics, 256 of whom are women.
  • Many of the athletes who have competed in 5 or more Games have done so in the sports of shooting, sailing, fencing or equestrian.
  • Isabell Werth, German dressage rider, has 12 Olympic medals, 7 gold and 5 bronze.

I’m looking forward to seeing what records are set this summer at the Paris Olympics.