Matthias Rath & Totilas Wow Munich Despite Nerves in Launching New Chapter for Superstar Stallion

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Totilas ridden by Matthias Rath in a highlight of their first competition ride. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

MUNICH, Germany, June 2–Matthias Alexander Rath rode Totilas in their much anticipated first competition Thursday wowing the sellout crowd despite rider nerves that caused some mistakes for a score of 76.787 per cent, but Germany’s dressage world including the owners who paid millions for the superstar stallion breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The 11-year-old son of Gribaldi displayed for the 8,000 spectators some of the same flashes of brilliance that earned world records at all three Grand Prix levels, three gold medals from the 2010 World Equestrian Games, a World Cup title and two European Championship golds for the previous rider, Edward Gal of The Netherlands.

Matthias, at age 26 is nowhere near as experienced as Edward, and was clearly nervous as they were greeted by loud applause when they entered the arena in the 1976 Olympic equestrian stadium. But the pair steadily improved during the eight-minute Grand Prix ride and, in the eyes of judges, trainers, horsepeople and media who had flown from around the world for this moment, they may have glimpsed a likely star at the London Olympics next year, the main goal on the competition schedule. They could even shine brighter sooner if they make the German team for this year’s European championship in Rotterdam at the end of August, but that still would be well under a year since Matthias started riding Totilas.

Aside from Totilas, there were no outstanding entries among the 20 starters in the CDI3* Grand Prix, but crowds ignored dreary overcast and chilly weather threatening rain to witness the little publicized appearance overshadowed everything else including a CDI5* and rider award offering a total of €125,000 (US$180,000) in prize money.

For the record, Carola Koppelmann of Germany on Le Bo was second on 69.234 per cent with fellow German Nadine Capellman on Girasol 7 third on 68.766 per cent. Being Germany, the early rides in the class attracted a fair number of spectators.

By the time Matthias and Totilas appeared in the warmup arena as the penultimate combination, the crowd had swelled to at least as large as last year when Edward rode Totilas in the CDI5*.

Totilas with Matthias Rath aboard swallowed by the sea of spectators after their ride. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The competition ended months of speculation–some of it unkind and by many who had not seen Matthias ride the horse since it was bought by Germany’s Paul Schockemöhle for his Performance Sales International as a breeding stallion and Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff came in as his partner to also include competition rights for Matthias, her stepson.

Paul said that Totilas is still being collected for semen every second day as he has since the start of the breeding season, but it had no apparent effect on the horse’s performance in the show ring.

Very happy Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff and Paul Schockemöhle after the first competition ride by Matthias Rath and Totilas. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Matthias admitted afterward he felt pressure after untold numbers of people asked when he would compete the horse, which heightened after the pair scratched from their intended first show at Hagen, Germany, a month ago when Totilas developed a hoof abcess.

All the more so when even warmup sessions at this complex of dressage. jumper, driving, vaulting and Western competitions drew big crowds.

Matthias said that no matter how much training with his father, only real competition would show how the horse reacted to Matthias’s different build and size, aids, atmosphere and all of the elements that make up a show horse. After Thursday’s ride, they will analyze the ride and study videos that they expect to lead to changes as soon as the Grand Prix Special scheduled for 10:30 a.m. CET (4:30 a.m. US ET) Friday.

Some images of movements from Thursday’s Grand Prix:

Extended trot by Matthias Rath and Totilas. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Matthias Rath and Totilas performing the pirouette. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Totilas ridden by Matthias Rath in canter. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“We know there are things we have to get better at,” Matthias said. “We will begin training to improve.”

Matthias Rath and Totilas strutting their stuff in the awards ceremony. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Results of CDI3* Grand Prix: Results CDI3* Grand Prix