EXCLUSIVE! TOTILAS & MATTHIAS RATH TRAINING PHOTOS

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Klaus Martin Rath coaching Matthias on Totilas. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

MUHLEN, Germany, May 6–Totilas, the superstar dressage stallion, is moving from Paul Schockemöhle’s stables to the home of Matthias Alexander Rath near Frankfurt on Monday as they prepare for their first competition bearing the German flag.

While Matthias hopes to make the German team for the European Championships in Rotterdam in August, the main prize is the Olympic Games in London in 2012.

Paul’s Performance Sales International and Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff, her husband, Klaus Martin Rath and Matthias, agreed to allow www.dressage-news.com to photograph a training session at PSI in Muhlen. Matthias moved to Muhlen to ride Totilas daily in training with his father while the stallion was bred three times a week to fulfill orders for about 300 breedings around the world this year.

Totilas, now only 11 years old and having been trained for four years by Edward Gal of The Netherlands then competed by him at Grand Prix for two years, was sold to Paul last October. Edward and Totilas, still at the top of the FEI World Rankings more than seven months after the sale, won three gold medals at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky and holds the world records at all three Grand Prix levels.

Matthias, himself a relative “kid” in high performance dressage at age 26, established his credentials as a star in his own right as a member of the German team that won a bronze medal at the 2009 European Championships despite being written off as having no hope after Isabell Werth, synonymous with German dressage supremacy, was suspended for illegal drug use.

Matthias and Totilas will start in two shows in Germany before the German national championships in Balve in mid-June.

Although under a microscope–the word around Europe is that if the pair succeed it will be because of the horse, but if they fail it will be the fault of Matthias–neither Matthias nor Klaus Martin placed any restrictions or asked to preview any images before being posted on dressage-news.com. Father and son were welcoming and free with information.

The much talked about abscess in Totilas’s left hind foot took the horse out of training for eight days, but the decision not to start at the hugely popular Horses & Dreams show at the Hagen base of Ullrich Kasselmann, Paul’s PSI partner, was to insure no trace of medication remained in the horse’s system.

Left hind foot of Totilas. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

During the hour-long training session in a big jumper field at the sprawling PSI facility, exercises ran the gamut from walk to trot to canter and included extended trot, piaffe and passage and pirouettes.

Throughout, Totilas appeared relaxed and the jaw-dropping gaits for which the horse became a legend while being trained and ridden by Edward Gal were clearly still just a split second change of riding aids away.

This correspondent has observed Totilas ridden by Edward at small tour in Aachen, Germany, in 2008, Hickstead CDI5* and the European Championships at Windsor in England in 2009, the CDI5* at Munich Germany, the CDIO at Aachen and the WEG in Kentucky in 2010 as well as some days at Edward’s training stables at Herskamp, The Netherlands in November, 2009.

Admittedly neither a rider nor trainer, it seems to this correspondent that the Raths are building on what they describe as the “fantastic” training by Edward.

Although father and son have nothing but praise for Edward’s training and accomplishments, one gets the impression that when Totilas changed hands at the age of 10, few doubted that as brilliant as Totilas was there was room to further develop his incredible talents.

Noticeable in the current training are more developed hind quarters and more open in front.

Matthias Alexander Rath and Totilas. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Over the next few days, dressage-news.com will post series of photos of different movements so readers can make up their own minds as to training–or wait until the first competition with Matthias in June and see how the judges score it.