Exclusive! Totilas May Breed after WEG in Kentucky, Definitely After 2012 Olympics

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Tosca and Kees Visser with Edward Gal displaying the KWPN Stallion Registration. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Tosca and Kees Visser with Edward Gal displaying the KWPN Stallion Registration. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Moorlands Totilas, the record setting Dutch black stallion that turns 10 years of age in a few days, may begin breeding after the FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010 but definitely after the London Olympics in 2012.

Kees Visser, who with his wife, Tosca, owns the stallion ridden by Edward Gal of The Netherlands, said the family is sensitive to requests from around the world to breed to Totilas that in 2009 set and then broke his own Grand Prix Kür record three times, the latest mark being 92.300 per cent at London’s Olympia Dec. 15.

The family also turned down offers to buy the son of Gribaldi, including some that were made before the European Championships in Windsor England in August where Totilas set world records in both the Grand Prix and the musical freestyle.

“You can’t say he’s not for sale,” Kees told dressage-news.com. “You never know. It would be ridiculous to say that.”

While Kees said he did not know at what price Totilas could be for sale, he replied rhetorically to this correspondent who mentioned a figure of €12-€15 million (US$17.25-$21.5 million) that had been speculated in Europe, “then maybe €20 to €25 million (US$28.7-$36) would be the price.”

The wide ranging interview with Kees Visser was at his office in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, from which he manages successful commercial real estate and Internet businesses.

Kees and Tosca Visser and their two children clearly enjoy watching their superstar compete the performances often bringing tears to Tosca.

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The Vissers bought Totilas 3 1/2 years ago after Tosca and Edward spent several months searching for what they hoped could be a successor to Lingh, the stallion which thrust him to the top tier of dressage,

An aspect of Totilas’s movements that amazed Kees Visser at the time as it does today is the almost instantaneous transition from a relaxed, suppling exercise to a gait of jaw-dropping extravagance back to a relaxing exercise.

“It’s something I’ve never seen in another horse,” he said. “If you ask him to perform it comes within seconds, and to relax the same kind of thing. I’ve never seen it.”

They ended up buying Totilas, he said, after Tosca phoned him on her second visit to the horse to say, “you have to come now because now you can see what we’re really getting.” They bought Totilas within 24 hours after that visit.

The Vissers, Edward Gal and his business partner, Nicole Werner, prepare a schedule that is conservative to try to insure the horse stays fit and healthy for top level competition into late teens like his father, Gribaldi. The plan no more than 12 competitions a year despite pleas from show organizers that an appearance by Totilas will produce sell-out performances.

“We have a belief that if there are two competitions leading to a final you don’t have to win both competitions,” he said. “Build the horse up to win the final.

“It’s common in Holland that they say if you start a competition you have to win.

“If you are winning at the beginning but you do not win at the final then you are doing something totally wrong.”

The top goals for Totilas in 2010 are the FEI World Cup Final in ‘s-Hetogenbosch–important for the Vissers as it is in their homeland, The Netherlands–in late March, and the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky at the end of September.

“Every step we make, every tournament we compete in, must be to build toward those two highlights for next year,” he said.

“The WEG is only once every four years and every one who can compete wants to compete.”

Moorlands Stables, owned by the Vissers, is a major sponsor of the Exquis World Dressage Masters events. They plan to compete Totilas at the Munich, Germany, show May 13-16 and Hickstead, England, July 29-Aug. 1. But they will skip the Palm Beach competition Feb. 2-4 as Totilas has never flown before and they do not want the horse to be affected by the potentially huge differences in temperatures from sub-tropical Florida to mid-winter Europe.

Kees said that he, Tosca, Edward and Nicole are keenly aware of the belief of many horse people around the world as put to them by someone early in 2009 that “you can’t keep the horse from breeding, it’s not fair.The potential that’s there should be given to the next generation.”

KWPN, the Dutch horse breeding society, in August 2009 awarded Totilas approval for breeding based on performance. They have also performed examinations to meet KWPN’s requirements. Totilas is “extremely healthy, so uncomplicated, so relaxed.”

Consideration is being given to breeding the horse after Kentucky as there will be a break of two years before the Olympics in London in 2012.

“People can be sure after the Olympics in 2012,” Kees said,. “We are thinking about after Kentucky but we’re not sure about it.

“We could do it for one year then slowly build up for the Olympics again… if we see how easy the horse is to manage because Edward is doing it, and if Totilas has the stamina and the power of his dad—very healthy and very strong—and it looks like he is capable of going on for a very long period.

“Though the breeding and performing at the same time is very hard on the horse and both will suffer. We have to be realistic if we want to breed the horse, we have to take him out of competition for a while then give him time to relax.

“We haven’t bred the horse because we did not want to change his character.

“If something should happen to Totilas should there be some semen to continue? It’s a discussion we have weekly with my wife, with Edward and with Nicole.

“The most important thing for us is that it is such a special horse in performance. I can say that we are a bit afraid that his character will change. Who knows? He could be even a better performer.”

The amount of money that could be made from breeding, he said, “is incredible” with requesrs from around the world, Kazakhstan, Canada, New Zealand.

Frequent rumors about offers to buy Totilas led to a discussion about the value of the stallion. Speculation was rampant after the success of the mare Blue Hors Matiné ridden by Denmark’s Andreas Helgstrand at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany in 2006, of offers of €8 million (about US$10 million at the time). Based on that unconfirmed rumor, the success of Totilas and that he is a stallion with huge earning potential there has been speculation in Europe that he could be worth between €12 million and €15 million ((US$17.25-$21.5 million).

Could the Vissers resist such an offer?

So far, he said, they have turned down offers, but he would not say for how much–“the age of a woman and the price of a horse are two questions you never want to ask.”

“We know what we have,” he said, and his answer reflected his dilemma.

“There’s the fun part of it. Whether it’s the wise thing to do, who knows.

“There’s a saying in Holland, ‘you can’t eat more than one steak a day.’

“We can afford to have a steak every day.

“We do realize the vulnerability (of Totilas). He is precious, so vulnerable. We do realize that.

“You think about it. My father once told me, ‘If someone makes you an offer always consider it, even if it is a ridiculous offer.’ You can never say afterward I didn’t pay any attention to it. I wish I did.

“If it’s not what you like, you can always say after a second, ‘it’s not what I like.’

“In life never say never.

“I don’t have any anxiety or fear as to what can go wrong. Otherwise I would sell him right away.

“You can’t say he’s not for sale. You never know. It would be ridiculous to say that. You mention 10 to 15 million, then maybe 20 or 25 million would be the price.

“They pay football players 100 million. And a horse can run faster than a football player.”

NEXT: The “very normal” Moorlands Totilas at home with Edward Gal