Moorlands Totilas ridden by Edward Gal dominate Exquis World Dressage Masters Grand Prix at Hickstead

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Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

HICKSTEAD, England, July 25–Moorlands Totilas ridden by Edward Gal dominated the Exquis World Dressage Masters Grand Prix series finale Saturday with a performance that drew gasps of amazement from the crowd and a rare standing ovation.

The black stallion, just nine years old, scored 79.745 per cent in his first competition outside of his native Holland since starting the Grand Prix and has yet to be beaten at the top level of the sport.

Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas in passage. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas in passage. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The strength of The Netherlands’ dressage was shown at this competition that is a companion to the famous Royal International Horse Show.

Second place at 76.553 per cent was Adeline Cornelissen on her Parzival who has been out with an injury since the World Cup in Las Vegas in April while fourth place on 74.128 per cent went to Imke Schellekens-Bartels on Hunter Douglas Sunrise and sixth place to Hans Peter Minderhoud and Exquis Escapado at 74.128 per cent.

Great Britain’s Laura Bechtolsheimer on her 2008 Olympic mount Mistral Hojris broke the Dutch command by placing third with 76.255 per cent and Canada’s Ashley Holzer on Pop Art in fifth place at 73.191 per cent.

Leslie Morse of Beverly Hills, California, on the stallion Tip Top 962 on which she won the U.S. National Championship last month was the only other rider in the over-70 per cent club, receiving a score of 70.213 per cent.

Anky van Grunsven, the reigning world and Olympic champion on IPS Salinero, did not compete at Hickstead, but is expected to be on the Dutch team with Gal and Totilas for the European Championships in Windsor, England, next month.

The Grand Prix Special with 12 riders and the Grand Prix Freestyle of the six top riders from the Grand Prix will be held Sunday in the €100,000 (US$140,000) event that is the last in the 2009 series that began in Palm Beach, Florida, then Munich, Germany and Cannes, France.

Exquis World Dressage Masters drew some real celebrities, like Ringo Starr listening to the commentary. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Exquis World Dressage Masters drew some real celebrities, like Ringo Starr listening to the commentary. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Cornelissen and Parzival were the third the 19 combinations and held the lead until Gal and Totilas who were 16th in the order.

Early in the ride, Totilas was scoring into the mid-80s until he broke into a canter in the transition from walk to passage because, Gal told dressage-news.com, the horse “got too excited and tried to do too much. Also, he has not traveled much and is still young so it takes a little time for him to settle in and get used to stables and the competition ring.

“He is not spooky. He just needs to get a bit older.

“It is amazing to me that we make these mistakes but the horse is so amazing that he immediately recovers and the scores start going up again.

Laura Bechtolsheimeron Mistral Hojris with her trainer Klaus Balkenhol, former U.S. national coach, in the background. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura Bechtolsheimeron Mistral Hojris with her trainer Klaus Balkenhol, former U.S. national coach, in the background. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“He feels like he really enjoys what he is doing… today maybe enjoying it too much,” he said of the mistakes.

Gal was known around the world as the rider of the stallion Lingh, now owned by Karen Reid Offield, who beat his then trainer, van Grunsven, in the Grand Prix at the 2005 World Cup in Las Vegas.

He said Lingh will always have a special place in his heart as his top international mount, and he never thought that he could have another horse who may be better.

“Totilas is is still getting stronger and fitter,” he said. But he is conserving the horse with no more than one competition a month. The horse will get a month-long holiday after the European Championships, and he and the owners, Kees and Tosca Visser of Moorland Stables will decide on the winter schedule.

One of the judges told Gal that he did not just have a better horse, “you have a new species.”

“I knew when Moorland bought the horse that he could be special,” he said. “But not like this.”

Adeline Cornelissen and Parzival. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Adeline Cornelissen and Parzival. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

He said that he is very careful in his training of Totilas, working on details in small steps, not the flamboyant gaits he shows at competitions.

Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas receiving standing ovation and cadenced clapping. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas receiving standing ovation and cadenced clapping. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

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