Memories of Totilas on 20th Birthday of Black Stallion

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Totilas ridden by Edward Gal at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky for team, individual and freestyle gold medals–and the last competition for the Dutch paratnership before heading to Germany. File photo. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

May 23, 2020

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Totilas became a superstar for equestrians of all stripes and perhaps millions more enthralled by the horse’s athleticism and entranced by the charisma the black stallion displayed. Live prime time television, adoring crowds and a fascination that brought tears and some carping that it was more circus thaN classical dressage.

The first time this correspondent saw Totilas (Gribaldi x Glendale) was at Small Tour at the World Equestrian Festival of Aachen, Germany in 2008, where Edward and the stallion won the Prix St. Georges on 73.250% and the Intermediate 1 on 72.450%. Cees Visser, the always gentlemanly owner with his wife, Tosca, had bought Totilas to give Edward a mount when he needed one.

Edward Gal on Totilas celebrating victory in Small Tour at the World Eqeustrian Festival in Aachen, Germany in 2008. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Wherever Totilas appeared–and frequently when he didn’t–the buzz was as palpable as for any celebrity–in fact celebrities came out to see for themselves what the buzz was about.

Ringo Starr of the Beatles at Hickstead in England in 2009 to witness the first Grand Prix appearance of Totilas outside the Netherlands. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The first international championship for Edward and Totilas was the 2009 European Championships on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

It seemed as if as many jumper riders as dressage fans showed up for the Grand Prix Freestyle, and many wept openly. As did Edward when he and Totilas scored 90.750%, the first time that 90% was breached.

Edward Gal on Totilas shedding tears after the Grand Prix Freestyle performance on Totilas at the 2009 European Championships. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

At Munich, Germany in 2010, adulation was at such a level that fans could not seem to get enough.

Totilas and Edward Gal immersed in a sea of fans at Munich, Germany in 2010. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

At the same event, Totilas shared a warmup arena with a future superstar–Bella Rose ridden by Isabell Werth to expose the six-year-old gelding to show atmosphere.

Edward Gal on Totilas and Isabell Werth on Bella Rose at Munich, Germany in 2010. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

After the World Games in Kentucky in September, German horse mega breeder and dealer Paul Schockemöhle, a former jumper champion, bought Totilas. Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff, an Olympic team gold medalist for Germany and the stepmother of Matthias Alexander Rath became co-owner.

The much-publicized debut of the new partnership did not begin well; an abscess caused a scratch from the Horses & Dreams tournament at Hagen, Germany.

But by June 2011, appearances at Munich, Wiesbaden and the premier Nations Cup at Aachen led to six victories in seven starts and the pair was selected for Germany’s team at the European Championships. Although the top scoring combination on the team, Germany took silver–and no individual medals–behind Great Britain’s squad led by Carl Hester on Uthopia and the emerging combination of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.

By Hagen in 2012, Matthias and Totilas were clearly in sync. Their Grand Prix Freestyle score of 88.025% was the highest in their career of five years.

Matthias Alexander Rath at the Horses Dreams tournament at Hagen, Germany in 2012, where the pair swept the Grand Prix and Freestyle and looking to make their Olympic debut at London in late summer. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Matthias suffered glandular fever that led to the pair dropping off the team for London.

Even so, with the 2012 Hagen victories, Matthias and Totilas logged 12 straight victories through the same event in 2015.

Then came the European Championships at Aachen in 2015 and eyes on Totilas for the German team for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and a prospective challenger to the firmly established Olympic gold medalist and world No. 1 duo of Charlotte and Valegro.

Instead, Totilas appeared uneven in the Grand Prix, and many in the crowd made no secret of feeling the bell should have been rung and the black stallion disqualified. The bell wasn’t sounded. Four judges scored the pair in the low 70s and three above 79%. They were booed as they emerged from their huts.

Totilas, resting his left hind in the halt after completing the European Championship Grand Prix in 2015, the last competition for the black stallion. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Totilas was not competed again.