Ian Stark was born in Galashiels in 1954, the youngest of three children. He married Jenny McAulay in 1979 and they went on to have two children, firstly a daughter, Stephanie, in 1980, and then a son, Tim, in 1981. Stephanie is now married to Charles Robson and they have two young children, Freddie and Alfie, who call Ian ‘Grumpy’.
Ian started riding at Will Boyle’s Ladhope stables in Galashiels at the age of 10. He rode in his first horse trials at Sunderland Hall, between Galashiels and Selkirk, aged 18 on Jackie Rodger’s Glenmoidart.
Ian worked for the DHSS from the age of 18 to 28. At 28 Ian started to work at home, with Jenny, doing horses full time. At 30 Ian rode in his first Badminton on Sir Wattie, owned by Dame Jean Maxwell-Scott and Mrs Susan Luczyc-Wyhowska, and Oxford Blue, owned by Miss Liz Davidson. Both horses were only 8 years old at the time. They finished 6th and 3rd respectively and Ian was subsequently short listed for the 1984 Olympic Team.
At this point, most fortunately, Ian’s first sponsor stepped in. The Edinburgh Woollen Mill, with David Stevenson at the helm, was the lifeblood of Ian’s career for over 8 years and it cannot be expressed in words how much David’s support – financial and otherwise – was and is appreciated.
At the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles Ian rode Oxford Blue, with Sir Wattie as his travelling reserve. Ian’s first championship medal came from these games in the form of team Silver.
The LA Olympics was the real start of Ian’s eventing career and the beginning of a longstanding inclusion on the British event team, which culminated in a collection of medals and wins, including:
- 4 Olympic Silvers
- 1 team gold, 1 team silver and 1 individual silver at World Championships
- 1 individual Gold, 1 individual silver and 1 individual bronze – plus 6 team golds – at European Championships.
- Team gold and individual bronze in Poland at the 1986 alternative World Champs.
- Three Badminton wins and the (as yet) unequalled record of being the only rider to ever come 1st and 2nd in the same year in 1988.
- An abundance of three day event wins – too numerous to recall but with Bramham being a particular favourite and lucky place!
All in all Ian has ridden 18 horses to 4 star level, supported throughout his career by some truly wonderful owners and sponsors. Ian retired from teams in 2000 and then (allegedly!) retired fully in 2007. Thereafter he went on to ride at three star level again with ‘Looks Similar’, a horse that was first competed at Pre-Novice level by his late sister-in-law, Catriona Arres, and then up to two star level by his daughter, Stephanie. He still finds it impossible to give up totally so you will see him out and about on the odd young horse at the more local events!
Ian’s eventing career diversified latterly. From 2001 to 2012 he was a selector of the British team and in 2004 he trained the Brazilian team for the Athens Olympics.
In 2005 Ian started cross country course designing at Chatsworth, encouraged by Mike Etherington Smith and The Duchess of Devonshire. This was the start of his new career in eventing and he now designs throughout Britain, Ireland and the USA. In 2015 he will design his first Championship track for the European Championships at, fittingly, Blair Castle in Scotland.
Ian has been honoured with a number of awards over the course of his career, including:
- The Honorary Fellowship of the British Horse Society
- The MBE from the Queen in 1989 and the OBE in 2000
- Honorary Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Saddlers
- Fellowship of the Scottish Borders College in 2007
- Induction into the Halls of Fame of Sporting Scotland, Sporting Scottish Borders, the British Horse Society and the Event Riders’ Association
In addition to his eventing efforts, Ian has had four books published about his life and career – his wife, Jenny, wrote the first one, entitled The Flying Scot! He also rode in Point-to-Points for 12 years but it all ended when he rode in the Foxhunters Chase at Cheltenham in 1993 and ended up in hospital – he will freely admit that race riding was not his forte but he then trained horses and had much more success, including Birkwood winning the Buccleuch Cup at Kelso races. For some years now he has also been a Steward for the British Horseracing Authority, stewarding about 35 days a year at Kelso, Hamilton, Perth, Musselburgh, Carlisle and Aintree. As of 1st January 2014 Ian will join the Stewarding Committee for the North and Scotland.
Ian and Jenny’s latest venture is the new Ian Stark Equestrian Centre at their home, Greenhill Farm, near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. This is an exciting project that Ian and Jenny have dreamed of for years, and which is now becoming a reality!