Totilas Pulled Out of European Championships–End of Show Career?

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Totilas ridden by Matthias Alexander Rath in the European Championships Grand Prix and showing the left hind where the cause of the horse's "irregularity" was found. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Totilas ridden by Matthias Alexander Rath in the European Championships Grand Prix and showing the left hind where the cause of the horse’s “irregularity” was found. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

AACHEN, Germany, Aug. 14, 2015–Totilas, the 15-year-old stallion that was a global superstar, was withdrawn from the European Championships Friday after a veterinary examination found the horse was irregular in the left hind end. The withdrawal from competition yet again was seen by many as the likely end of Totilas’s show career.

The withdrawal was announced by German Chef d’Equipe Klaus Roesser who said the black KWPN stallion will not compete in the Grand Prix Special Saturday but go to a veterinary clinic to determine the cause of the irregularity.

The future competition career of Totilas was left unclear and whether he would be considered as a prospect for Olympics such as next year’s Games in Rio de Janeiro. But the German selection process that allowed Totilas to compete in only one of two trial events for these European Championships would be studied closely.

The withdrawal came after Thursday’s Grand Prix that decided the Nations Cup in which Germany placed third behind the Netherlands on gold and Great Britain on silver.

The decision caused no surprise–but rather was confirmation of what had been widely discussed since the veterinary check of all the horses on Tuesday. Katrina Wüst, the president of the ground jury, was sufficiently concerned about Totilas’s condition to discuss with veterinarians Dr. Paul Farrington of the International Equestrian Federation and Dr. Hermann Josef Genn and fellow judge Jean-Michel Roudier of France whether to “accept” the horse.

Katrina Wüst of Germany, president of the European Championships ground jury, discussing with Jean-Michel Roudier of France, a fellow judge, and veterinarians Dr. Hermann Josef Genn and Dr. Paul Farrington the veterinary check of Totilas. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Katrina Wüst of Germany, president of the European Championships ground jury, discussing with Jean-Michel Roudier of France, a fellow judge, and veterinarians Dr. Hermann Josef Genn and Dr. Paul Farrington the veterinary check of Totilas. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Klaus Roesser faced a highly skeptical group of German news reporters to announce:

“After the test yesterday, we did a video analysis with the rider, the team coaches and the team veterinarian. We couldn’t really see what happened in the arena. With the video analysis, we could identify the left back side was irregular. You can imagine it was not what we expected but after the team vet did his job last night and this morning we determined there was a problem. We will have to do further investigation.

“We decided to withdraw Matthias Alexander Rath rather than go on to the Grand Prix Special.”

Uneveness during half passes was obvious, according to some eyewitnesses, during warmup for the competition and then became apparent during the competition ride in the Main Stadium with about half the 40,000 seats filled with spectators.

Questions centered around whether Matthias could not feel the horse was irregular or whether Totilas had been put on the team just to try to get 80 per cent in the Grand Prix that decided the Nations Cup and then withdraw, similar to the situation at these same show grounds a year ago when Totilas was pulled out of the show after the Nations Cup CDIO5* Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special and before the Freestyle.

“It’s possible to think that way,” he replied about the tactics of competing Totilas, “but it’s not so.”

Totilas placed sixth on 75.971 per cent, the second lowest Big Tour score ever for the horse in seven years of Grand Prix competition.

The problems were masked to some extent by controversy over the judging by the seven-members of the championship panel and a three-member Judges Supervisory Panel.

Susanne Baarup of Denmark at K awarded the pair 80.100 per cent, Katrina Wüst of Germany at E marked them at 72.900 per cent, Annette Fransén-Iacobaeus of Sweden at H was 74.600 per cent, Eduard de Wolff van Westerrode of the Netherlands at C was at 73.200 per cent, Jean-Michel Roudier of France at M was the lowest at 71.600 per cent, Anne Gribbons of the United States at B was at 79.300 per cent and Andrew Ralph Gardner of Great Britain at F was at 80.100 per cent.

Totilas’s celebrity status was created when ridden by Edward Gal of the Netherlands whose performances were so spectacular and enraptured fans around the globe.

Then Paul Schockemöhle and Ann-Katrin Linsenhof, Matthias’s stepmother, bought Totilas to compete for Germany after the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky where Edward and Totilas won three gold medals.

Since then, the record has been marked by injuries.

The ride in the German selection trial in Hagen last month was the first international competition for Totilas since July 19, 2014 when the pair competed on the German Nations Cup team at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen.

The start at the Europeans for the 30-year-old rider and the black stallion was only the second championship for the duo, the other being the Europeans at Rotterdam in 2011. They missed out on the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 World Games because of injuries.

The pair has dropped to 429th in the world rankings because of a lack of competition results.

The debut international competition in 2011 was delayed because of a hoof abscess but beginning in June that year the duo went on to perform at four consecutive major shows that ended after the Europeans in Rotterdam where Germany took silver.

They did not compete again until Hagen, Germany in April of 2012 then was forced to miss the Olympics with yet another injury and did not return to the competition circuit for another two years. Then after a string of four shows did not compete again for another year.

Matthias Alexander Rath toying with Totilas apparently oblivious of the jeers during the pair's ride in the European Championships Grand Prix where the black stallion showed some irregularity. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Matthias Alexander Rath toying with Totilas apparently oblivious of the jeers during the pair’s ride in the European Championships Grand Prix where the black stallion showed some irregularity. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com