Totilas History in Photos from 2008 Through 2015
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
AACHEN, Germany, Aug. 17, 2015–At this historic and storied show grounds seven years ago, Edward Gal rode a black stallion named Moorlands Totilas in what was “small” tour but a year later was giant in dressage earning scores that previously were only dreamed about and winning legions of new fans in a virtual revolution for the sport.
Now, having left the same show grounds with yet another injury last week questions have been raised about whether the horse will even attempt returning to competition next year when he will be 16 years old and even his most ardent fans let alone judges, German team coaches and the media would scrutinize every step.
Dressage-news.com has put together a collection of some photographic highlights from the time this correspondent first saw the horse ridden by Edward Gal in competition in 2008 to the last salute at the end of the Nations Cup Grand Prix at the European Championships last week.
Totilas came to be ridden by Edward when Tosca and Kees Visser searched for a horse specifically for Edward because they believed the rider deserved a world class mount–Lingh had been sold to the United States as had TC Ravel.
The Vissers and Edward enlisted the best available support to maintain the extraordinarily athletic KWPN stallion then eight years old, and followed a schedule of carefully selected competitions. Breeding was not on the agenda.
A year later, the dressage community in Europe was abuzz with talk of the amazing partnership that made its international Grand Prix debut in Rotterdam then went across the English Channel to Hickstead in England. Any hopes of a quiet buildup to the European Championships that were scheduled for Windsor, England went on the muck heap.
Spectators weren’t yet filling the stands and the media was not out in force but those who made it to Hickstead, including this correspondent, were awed. Judges couldn’t say enough nice things.
If not yet a star, Totilas was a celebrity and rewarded with a world record score in the Grand Prix Freestyle.
Stardom became reality at their next competition–the European Championships in Windsor.
The spotlight was brightly on Totilas, but the sense of a new day for dressage embraced another Dutch combination, Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival, and the success of Great Britain’s team led by then Laura Bechtolsheimer on Mistral Hojris that thrilled the home crowd. A young Matthias Alexander Rath on Sterntaler-UNICEF placed fourth individually and the highest placed member of the German bronze medal team behind the Netherlands on gold and Great Britain silver, .
Dressage helped make up for poor attendance at the jumping (a couple of jumping events were staged elsewhere in England in direct conflict with the Europeans) but nothing matched the atmosphere of the Grand Prix Freestyle under lights with the walls of Windsor Castle looming above the arena. Among those in the standing room only crowd was one-time German jumping champion and major horse breeder and dealer, Paul Schockemöhle. Some in the crowd openly wept in the highly charged atmosphere.
Totilas was a star.
But you would never know it based on a visit for a few days to the stables of Edward Gal and Totilas at Harskamp in the Netherlands. It was clear success had not gone to anyone’s head. Totilas was treated like all the other horses–care, exercise and attention lavished in equal measure, training designed to keep the stallion fit but no daily drilling to enhance already eye-popping gaits. Totilas was leading a horse’s life. And not even a permanent nameplate but a tape with his name scrawled on it. Totilas didn’t seem to care.
A string of eight victories in the European indoor circuit sent them to the pair’s only World Cup Final and victory.
Munich, Germany was the first event for Totilas and Edward of the 2010 European outdoor season to build up to the World Equestrian Games scheduled for Kentucky.
Star power of Totilas was assured. But he still had to share warmup space and time with other horses, including one young girl named Bella Rose brought out by Isabell Werth to become acclimated to the noise and bustle of show grounds.
And what noise and bustle. Fans just wanted to say they had seen Totilas. Every hoof step drew the paparazzi of not only the equestrian press but a growing legion of mainstream media.
The Vissers resisted cashing in–producing some baseball caps and a few other items for supporters and as gifts. They limited the amount of breeding, not wanting to interfere with public appearances. With children, they wanted to stay out of the limelight. Word was out, though, that Totilas was for sale though the owners were willing to wait a while for a Dutch group or syndicate to put together a deal.
Totilas, meantime, was loving the adulation.
Tosca and Kees Visser with Totilas and Edward at Aachen in 2010–the photo shoot was requested by dressage-news.com and came a month before the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010.
Kentucky was not onlythe scene of Totilas’s greatest competition success–but was also where the deal was made for the horse to change hands.
Paul Schockemöhle along with Ann-Katrin Linsenhoff, a wealthy heiress and stepmother of Matthias Alexander Rath paid what probably was a record price at the time to own the ultimate equestrian prize–THE black stallion the world had fallen in love with.
A new style of riding with Matthias coached by his father Klaus Martin Rath. New maintenance people and procedures–such as farriers and other craftspeople critical to the health and wellbeing of a top performance athlete.
The start was not auspicious. A hoof abscess delayed the debut of what was now a German partnership from Horses & Dreams event in Hagen organized by Ullrich Kassellmann, a partner of Paul’s in Performance Sales International.
Totilas and Matthias made their debut at Munich, where Edward and the stallion had been the hit of the show a year earlier.
The appearance was accompanied by a trade stand of Totilas clothing and other souvenirs, a giant tractor trailer with the name “Totilas” on the side–actions that had the scent of hubris as the new combination had not yet performed in a competition, behavior that was later decried by German jumping legend Ludger Beerbaum.
But the overwhelmingly German crowd turned out in even greater numbers than they had for Edward a year earlier, and were rewarded with a pair of victories.
A month later the pair were in Aachen, the show grounds that are to horse sports what Wimbledon is to tennis. The CDIO5* Grand Prix and the Special were applauded by the packed Deutsche Bank Stadium. But for the first time in his life, Totilas heard boos, directed at the judges for placing the German pair ahead of Steffen Peters of the United States on Ravel that the crowd thought should have been given winning marks.
Then, at the European Championships in Rotterdam a month later Totilas did not win any of the three Grand Prix classes and finished out of the top three in two of them for the first time in his international Big Tour career.
An eight-month break to the next competition, at Horses & Dreams in Hagen, Germany in April 2012.
Just four weeks before the Olympics in 2012 came the news delivered at Aachen that Totilas was injured and would not be available for the German team.
Change of trainers to Sjef Janssen, who was the Dutch team coach when Edward Gal was riding Totilas.
But the break from competition this time is two years, and the return does not yield the reward the Totilas team hoped for.
A year later, Totilas and Matthias return to competition again, qualifying at the Nations Cup in Hagen, Germany where it was moved because Aachen was to host the European Championships.
This time, the horse came in under a cloud of suspicion that it might be able to compete in the Grand Prix and thus help Germany to gold at the Europeans. If that was true, it backfired. Totilas did not produce anywhere near 80 per cent and the home team had to settle for the bronze medal behind the Netherlands on gold and Great Britain silver.