Totilas: Coveted by His Neighbor

Oct 15, 2010 - 2:05 AM
Photo by Julia Wentscher.

Dear Rita,

Is nothing sacred anymore? Totilas is sold to Germany. Do you see the irony in this?

For more than a year, certain members of the German press (empowered not by public opinion but by specific canny professionals in the German dressage scene) have lambasted not only the “lack of classical” presentation by Totilas, but also the system of Rollkür in which he is trained. The Dutch hyperflexion system has in fact been so passionately torn down in the German media for so many years that some of us in this country have been astounded by the power of propaganda as we experience it firsthand.

Now we have the greatest dressage horse ever produced by any training system in the world—Totilas—and he was not only produced by hyperflexion, but also bred, born and raised in the Netherlands. Contrary to past Dutch successes, absolutely no credit could be given to their German neighbors who incidentally bred and sold both Bonfire and Salinero.

Every Grand Prix trainer KNOWS that Grand Prix horses are made, not born. We all know that the right raw material is indispensable. But we also know that to train, hone and present that material as a finished product is a tough job. It takes years of fine riding, fine tuning and often a complete leap of faith.

Edward was true to his country and his sport. He took a mere dream and turned it into a reality so powerful that the whole world sat up and took notice. Without Edward Gal, Totilas would not have taken the world by storm.

Well, most of the world. The German St. Georg magazine took exception to this ethereal athlete. They called his performances “circus” and unclassical and shameful. The media situation worsened after Totilas conquered all and brought home the team gold medal from the European Championships last summer.

Please understand, not all Germans were critical of Totilas. This could not happen in a country of educated horsemen and dedicated breeders. While the press railed against him, he got standing ovations in Neumeunster and Stuttgart. Most German horsemen were begeistert! Sadly, in dressage, when one wins, one often becomes a target.

And now after his latest overwhelming victory in Kentucky, this horse, this masterpiece, this beautiful living work of art, has been sold to the very nation whose journalists sought to destroy his image. And—if rumor holds true—he will be ridden by Matthias Rath, a pupil of Klaus Balkenhol, one of those canny professionals who prompted the media at every turn to denigrate the Dutch training method.

I wonder: What will the St. Georg say about Totilas now that he will be shown under the German flag? Will this highly successful product of hyperflexion, low, deep and round and the Dutch breeding machine now become a classical model of dressage because he carries the German colors?

All cynical speculation aside, I have lived in Germany for 17 years, and I can tell you that some of the best riders and horsemen in the world live in this country. I have learned most of what I know from this country’s best people in the sport and breeding industry. It is these German horsemen who have taught me to appreciate horses like Totilas.

Nothing is better appreciated in Germany than a good horse. And Paul Schockemöhle has just proven that by reaching across international lines of controversy to purchase the best dressage horse in the world: Totilas. He has shown that for good German horsemen, quality has no boundaries.

Good luck to you Paul Schockemöhle, with your purchase. From a business perspective, this horse could not have fallen into better hands, and I know that you will protect your investment and manage him well. And best wishes to Matthias Rath, who I also believe is a wise choice as the new jockey for Totilas. If the horse has to have a new rider, he is lucky to land in the skilled hands of Matthias.

Namaste to Edward Gal. My hat goes off to you Edward and my heart goes out to you. Remember that your signature will forever be associated with this masterpiece. Your horse was coveted by your neighbor. Consider this the highest compliment and know that Dutch training reigns supreme because you made it so.

I’m Catherine Haddad, and I’m sayin’ it like it is from Vechta, Germany.

Training Tip of the Day: If you can’t beat your best competitor, buy his horse. Hah.

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