Totilas Out of Competition for Season From Another Injury

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Totilas ridden by Matthias Alexander Rath at the 2011 European Championships in Rotterdam. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Totilas ridden by Matthias Alexander Rath at the 2011 European Championships in Rotterdam. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

In the latest chapter in the continuing saga of Totilas, rider Matthias Alexander Rath disclosed Wednesday that the black stallion will be out for the season–most likely including the European Championships–as a result of another injury.

The latest injury in which the horse’s leg was twisted while breeding to a “phantom” to collect semen was reported by the Dutch equestrian newspaper Hoeflsag.

Matthias, 28, last weekend proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Franziska Eisenmann, 25,  and set the wedding date as the week before the European Championships in Herning, Denmark in August.

“I’m sorry for Matthias,” said German coach Monica Theodorescu, explaining that: “For a championship you need to sign up and train the horse.”

Sjef Janssen, the former Netherlands team coach who has taken over training of Matthias and Totilas, was quoted by Hoefslag as invoking Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

The German observation trials for the squad to compete at the Europeans are at Balve and Aachen in June.

The 13-year-old KWPN stallion (Gribaldi x Lominka x Glendale) was last ridden by Matthias in competition at the German Championships in Balve last June seeking to qualify for the Olympics in London, and their last international show was Horses & Dreams CDI4* at Hagen, Germany in April.

In the period of slightly over two years Edward Gal of the Netherlands competed Totilas at Grand Prix, the pair started in 30 CDI Grand Prix, finishing first in all but three occasions when they placed second. By the time the partnership ended after the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010, the pair held world record scores at the Grand Prix, the Special and the Musical Freestyle and had captured the hearts of horselovers around the world and captivated millions of new fans.

Moorlands Totilas showing off one of his breathtaking gaits as Edward Gal rides the black stallion to a third gold medal at the World Equestrian Games. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Totilas showing off one of his breathtaking gaits as Edward Gal rides the black stallion to a third gold medal at the World Equestrian Games, the last competition for the partnership. © 2010 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The sale of Totilas to Paul Schockemöhle of Performance Sales International and the wealthy former German Olympic team gold medalist Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff, stepmother of Matthias, for a reported €9.5 million (US$12.3 million) has been dogged by injuries and controversy from the start.

Their first competition was to be at Hagen in 2011, but had to be put off when Totilas developed a hoof abscess. The pair made their CDI debut at Munich in June 2011, then competed at Balve, Wiesbaden and Aachen over the next several weeks to prepare for the European Championships that year. Matthias now complains about that schedule as “too much to chase” and “I definitely will not do that now.”

The Euopeans in 2011 did not live up to expectations with the pair finishing fourth overall based on the results of three tests–Grand Prix, Special and Freestyle.

At Hagen in 2012, photographs of Totilas being ridden by Matthias were labeled by critics as demonstrating the use of “rollkur”–an overbending of the neck for a prolonged period.

Then, Matthias reported he was suffering from a viral infection, mononucleosis, and would not compete at Aachen, a German team observation trial and he said he was not available to ride on the German team at London.

Top German jumper rider Ludger Beerbaum at the same time publicly criticized the public relations campaign waged by the family, saying that self-congratulation should only come after results which the pair had not produced.

The pair were dropped from Germany’s elite squad and have fallen to a placing of 320 on the International Equestrian Federation’s world rankings.

Despite this, Matthias said he was aiming Totilas for the World Cup Finals at Gothenberg in April. But the pair did not compete in any of the eight qualifying events in the Western European League.

Sport was the top priority for 2012, he said through his press agent a few weeks ago, and breeding would be kept to a minimum.

The European Championships were the next goal.

Those now appear unlikely–or as the German magazine Stern reported, “almost impossible” because of a breeding accident.

“It’s really crazy,” Matthias said. “I think that we have now passed through all the bad things.”

“We have to see how quickly we will begin again,” he told Hoefslag, “or rather how slowly. For the next few years we have a number of goals and the important thing is that in those years he remains fit. So we certainly will not force it.

“I have no further plans for Totilas for this season.”

Matthias has not mentioned the world championships in Normandy, France next year but has said several times he is shooting for the next Olympics at Rio de Janeiro in 2016–3 1/2 years from now when Totilas will be 16 years old.