Totilas: A First Impression

11 years ago ilse Comments Off on Totilas: A First Impression
impressions of Totilas © Ken Braddick/
Impressions of Totilas © Ken Braddick/


AACHEN, Germany, July 19–With the technology today, when there is a new sensation we can leap online and watch via YouTube, live video feed, video (if you are old-fashioned!!) and of course we look at photos. Consequently, I have watched every one of Totilas’ performances, live feed being more impressive than YouTube, but finally I had the chance to watch him “in the flesh.” I have to admit I was nervous. What if this sensation didn’t live up to my expectations when I saw him live? What if my  image of the fantasy “horse of a lifetime” really wasn’t?

As he passaged into the ring I thought “maybe he REALLY is as amazing as everyone has been saying,” suffice to say as the test progressed I could only sit in stunned silence, goosebumps, chills and the edge of tears. There really aren’t superlatives to describe this horse. I understand why Edward is, quite frankly, at a loss for words when asked to describe this horse.

On the centerline he went from passage for a “10” into an extension… it was like a plane taking off, the lowering of the haunches and elevation of the shoulders, the sheer power and ease through the transition and the complete and total lack of tension. The piaffe, the pirouettes, it seems hard to believe they could be performed any better. In addition the stallion exudes an intangible serenity and grace (sounds silly when I type it) that make the perfect execution of these movements more than exercises. It is Art.

I think it is safe to say that the experience exceeded my expectations.

Of course there were more horses than Totilas competing at Aachen and this was one of the strongest fields I have had the pleasure of watching. In the freestyle, 10th place went to Brett Parbery from Australia with 73.143 per-cent. In the Special, 10th place went to Tina Konyot of the USA with 70.333 per cent. I suspect such high scores for this placing are unprecedented. It was especially fun to see new faces in these upper placings so in no particular order follow my impressions of some of the other combinations.

I first saw Victoria Max-Theurer and her family’s stallion Augustin OLD when they competed in the Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire 1 in Aachen 2007. He was a young seven-year-old and wowed me then with his tremendous gaits and elasticity. To see him now as a still young, but somewhat seasoned Grand Prix horse was wonderful. He still has the elasticity and ground covering gaits. His piaffe sits so well his huge tail (the best tail at Aachen this year) virtually sweeps the ground! Victoria rides with such joy and accuracy and is justly proud of her still developing stallion. This is one combination I am especially excited to watch in Kentucky.

Victoria Max-Theurer and Augustin Old (August der Starke x Rohdiamant) piaffe their way to 74.458 per-cent and fifth place in the Grand Prix Special © Ilse Schwarz/
Victoria Max-Theurer and Augustin Old (August der Starke x Rohdiamant) piaffe their way to 74.458 per-cent and fifth place in the Grand Prix Special © Ilse Schwarz/

What of the other dressage “sensation,” Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival? I was really intrigued to see this combination again. I had seen them only once before, in Mechelen, Belgium, in December 2008. It was not one of Parzival’s good shows and, to be honest, I was underwhelmed and somewhat disappointed. All I can say is what a difference 18 months can make! Parzival looks happy, beautifully muscled, elastic, loose, focused and fantastic. He couldn’t have been more different from the horse I remembered. At any other moment in dressage history, his inspired, mistake-free Grand Prix Special would have won. To finish in second place with 82.542% is almost ridiculous!

Their freestyle was simply beautiful. Balanced and relaxed, huge piaffe that looked like it could continue ad infinitum. Extended canters that would make many a racehorse proud and such harmony with the music. Of her freestyle, Adelinde said that “today was the first time I could ride my freestyle as planned, Parzival doesn’t always make this possible!” Today she finished just over five per cent behind Totilas, but don’t tell her that it is not possible for her to catch him in the future.

Isabell Werth and Satchmo entered and I settled in for her familiar, somewhat operatic, freestyle. I was making a mental note of where she placed her pirouettes (for photos) when she signaled for her music to begin.

Imagine my surprise when a strong beat started pounding, Isabell indicated for the volume to be louder and then a male voice started singing!!!

She came down the centerline with a huge smile on her face as she debuted her new freestyle and the audience joined in with enthusiasm.  The music also inspired Satchmo and he showed his best passage  and most energy of the show. She received a huge roar of approval and a standing ovation from most of the audience. The surprise of this new freestyle was one of the most fun moments for me at Aachen 2010.

Isabell Werth obviously enjoys the debut of her new freestyle with Satchmo © Ken Braddick/
Isabell Werth obviously enjoys the debut of her new freestyle with Satchmo © Ken Braddick/