Matthias Alexander Rath to Ride Totilas for Germany–Official

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Matthias Alexander Rath. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Matthias Alexander Rath. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Matthias Alexander Rath, who at 26 years of age represented Germany at the World Equestrian Games, on Tuesday was named the rider of Totilas, and gave an exhibition ride of the black stallion’s amazing gaits that have made him a global celebrity.

Wearing a full dressage outfit of a tail coat with the German coat of arms on the pocket and a top hat, Matthias’ demonstration ride–his father, Klaus Martin Rath, coaching him–was broadcast worldwide over the Internet.

It ended with the arena darkened and Matthias and the 10-year-old son of Gribaldi spotlighted.

Matthias Alexander Rath on Totilas
Matthias Alexander Rath on Totilas

Totilas for the previous four years has been trained and competed by Holland’s Edward Gal when the KWPN-recognized stallion was owned by Moorlands Stable.

The announcement was made by new owner Paul Schockemöhle at the headquarters of his Performance Sales International in Mühlen. PSI is probably the world’s pre-eminent horse sport breeding and sales organization and Totilas has joined the stallion lineup that includes Sandro Hit.

Paul Schockemöhle bought Totilas last month for a reported €10 million (US$13 million) and the name of the new rider has been one of the worst kept secrets. Nevertheless, Tuesday’s announcement was like a Hollywood premiere, attracting a huge crowd of news people and was broadcast worldwide by clipmyhorse.de over the Internet.

Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff, stepmother to Matthias, whose own riding career included team gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics but was cut short by the tick-borne Lyme disease, shares ownership of Totilas with Paul, though he is the majority owner.

They will share in all revenues of the horse, including breeding fees.

In 2009 when owned by Tosca and Kees Visser and the first year Totilas stood for breeding, the number of mares was limited to 175 from about 350 applications and the fee was €5,500 (US$7,200).

Paul stressed that the sporting side of Totilas was the most important but he compared Totilas to another of his stallions, Sandro Hit.

“I believe there is a big return for Totilas as a breeding stallion,” he said. “He’ll win some ribbons and some prize money. He’ll have marketing value. His progeny are very important. I have a horse Sandro Hit. He made relatively a lot of money as a breeding stallion.”

Ann Kathrin turned over her Sterntaler UNICEF to Matthias to compete and he did so successfully, winning team bronze at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky and the 2009 European Championships. He also competes the 10-year-old gelding, Triviant UNICEF which, coincidentally, was bought at an annual PSI auction, which this year is scheduled for Dec. 12.

Asked about the negative feelings in The Netherlands about the sale, Paul explained that he had contacted the owners of Totilas last spring when it became known the horse would be sold after the WEG.

“I feel good that the horse is here and not in America or Saudi Arabia,” he said with a smile.

Paul said he admired Matthias’s riding skills and how he works with horses.

When Matthias came to try the horse, he said, “I was overwhelmed the first thirty minutes. He had an incredible ride on this horse. I’m convinced Totilas will make great performances with Rath.”

If the partnership of Matthias and Totilas works–and Tuesday’s demonstration ride indicated there is every reason to think it will–the pair are likely to represent Germany at the 2012 London Olympics as well as the 2011 European Championships in Rotterdam, an irony that will not be lost on either the Dutch or the Germans as the horse was bred and trained in Holland.

It also is a sharp reminder of the relatively diminished status of German dressage that stood atop the team medals podium at Olympics, world championships and the Europeans until as recently as the 2008 Beijing Games but since then has been overshadowed by the Dutch and Great Britain and is looking to a Dutch horse to regain supremacy.

Edward Gal riding Totilas at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky last month. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Edward Gal riding Totilas at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in September, the final competition for the Dutch partnership. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Matthias will be under a microscope as he takes over from the Dutch partnership that put dressage on primetime television and guaranteed sellout shows on their way to collecting all three dressage gold medals at the WEG, the World Cup title in 2010, their only Finals appearance, and was the star of the 2009 Europeans. On their way, they posted world record scores in all three premier international tests, the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle.

Matthias is studying management at Goethe University in Frankfurt while pursuing a riding career at the Linsenhoff family stud and competition yard,  Schafhof, near Frankfurt.

His father, Klaus Martin Rath, has been his trainer, though he has also been coached by Klaus Balkenhol, a German Olympic team and individual medalist and coach of the U.S. team from 2000 to 2008.

Matthias Alexander Rath on Sterntaler-UNICEF. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Matthias Alexander Rath on Sterntaler UNICEF at the European Championships. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com