Totilas Out of Olympics–Mathias Rath Still “Very Ill” with Mononucleosis

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Totilas ridden by Matthias Alexander Rath. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

AACHEN, Germany, July 5–Totilas, the 12-year-old black super stallion that held all the dressage Grand Prix records when ridden by Edward Gal, will not go to the Olympics in London because rider Matthias Alexander Rath is still “very ill” with mononucleosis, the German federation announced Thursday.

Klaus Roeser, who heads up the dressage selection committee of the German federation, made the announcement about the health of Matthias and stressed that Totilas (Gribaldi x Lominka x Glendale) was fit.

“With the bad luck of Totilas we have a new situation,” he said, explaining that the German federation will review the rides and announce the team on Sunday.

Asked about the condition of Totilas, he said that the horse was training well with Klaus Martin Rath, Matthias’s father and trainer, “but unfortunately Klaus is not the rider.”

The withdrawal of Totilas, who was competing at small tour in 2008 when the last Olympics were held, came as a shock and disappointment that the world’s best known dressage horse will not appear in London.

When ridden by Edward Gal of the Netherlands, Totilas held the world record scores for the Grand Prix, the Special and the Freestyle. The pair led the Dutch team to the gold medal at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010 and also won individual gold. The pair also won the 2010 World Cup Final in their only appearance.

After the world championships, Totilas was sold by Moorlands Stables of the Netherlands to Germany’s Paul Schockemöhle whose Performance Sales International is probably the world’s most successful show horse breeding and sales organization, and Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff, a German Olympic dressage team gold medalist and stepmother of Matthias.

Matthias began riding Totilas at the beginning of 2011.

In the 18 months since, the black stallion has sustained injuries that delayed his German debut in April, 2010, caused him to withdraw from the family’s Frankfurt indoor competition last December and cancel a trip to Florida to compete.

And there has been growing disenchantment with the circus-like atmosphere created around the horse with an intense public relations campaign targeted primarily at non-equestrians.

Ludger Beerbaum, Germany’s leading jumper rider who has competed in six lympics, was asked in an interview Thursday with the German daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel about the “wonder horse.”

“Totilas is no wonder horse, he is an ordinary horse. The miracle was in Holland,” he told the newspaper.

Der Tagesspiegel: What do you mean?

Ludger Beerbaum: Under Edward Gal that was a perfect symbiosis between horse and rider. Now it is only part of the supposed miracle in Germany.

Der Tagesspiegel:: How do you rate the hype surrounding Totilas?

Ludger: Frankly, the whole showmanship should only come after the athletic performance, then you can talk about favorite roles. But the athletic performance I do not see at the moment. Just because Totila was expensive is the issue most talked about, not because of the performance of horse and rider.

Der Tagesspiegel: There was this hype already when Totila was still in the Netherlands.

Ludger: Yes, but back then it was so because of the performance. Today there is this hype just because the horse was so expensive.

Der Tagesspiegel: Nevertheless, it appears to have increased public interest in your sport. Is not that positive?

Ludger: How do you measure this interest? Because Totilas is now constantly in the tabloids? On television ratings? I did not see that now more people are excited about our sport. People are only interested in the fate of Totila: If he fails or not?

Der Tagesspiegel: At the beginning of the big fuss about Totilas, could you have prevented this at all?

Ludger: One would have to approach the whole thing differently. I had such a horse may also have bought or buy, because I do not have the money (laughs). But then I would have kept a low profile and not be waiting with some PR (public relations) numbers.

Der Tagesspiegel: What would you have done differently?

Ludger: I would have waited until I could do my piaffe and passage, and then I might have thought about printing Totilas-shirts.

Der Tagesspiegel: How distressing is it for the rider when the pressure is so great?

Ludger: There are two considerations: Keep the pressure from the owners economically? Yes, of course. They could even afford the to put the horse on the grill and eat it tomorrow.

Der Tagesspiegel:  Can Totilas build on his previous successes?

Ludger: It is very difficult. If Totilas is ridden by a big expert with the most talent and the greatest serenity, perhaps. Isabell Werth and Anky van Grunsven, which would probably fix it. But only them.