Thowback Thursday: When Totilas Ruled The World

Dec 17, 2020 - 3:00 PM

Did you ever construct your dream horse in your imagination as a child? Was it a black stallion? Four perfectly matched socks and a star? Maybe a little white “boop” spot centered perfectly in the middle of his kissable muzzle? A horse that would perform only for you?

Now if we’re being honest, that fantasy horse could probably clear massive obstacles, outrun Secretariat AND prance like a prima ballerina, but while Totilas was in fact a mortal horse who was only the world’s best in one sport, he was basically every child’s (and many adults’!) dream horse brought to life. Beautiful, extravagant, he played a massive role in moving dressage into the mainstream by performing the movements with a precision and energy so visible that you didn’t have to know anything about the sport to appreciate him. It also didn’t hurt that he was ridden by Edward Gal, a man who sits on a horse as if he was born in the saddle, and the pair seemed to be egging each other on to greater and greater heights.

For two years, Gal and “Toto” made magic happen whenever they entered at A. Totilas was the first horse to break 90 percent in Grand Prix CDI competition, scoring that astronomical number first in the freestyle at the 2009 FEI European Championships (England) and again that winter at London Olympia, where he broke his own world record with a 92.30% in the freestyle. Watch that test.

The next year Totilas was practically unbeatable, claiming the FEI World Cup Final on home turf in the Netherlands and then bringing the magic to the Kentucky for the first FEI World Equestrian Games on American soil. Toto and Gal didn’t disappoint, winning all three Grand Prix tests and scoring 91.80% in the freestyle. See the Grand Prix test that carried the Dutch team to gold.

Of course, while Toto’s story may have started as a fairy tale, we all know it didn’t quite end that way. Owner Cees Visser sold Totilas to famous German breeder Paul Schockemohle. Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff purchased a share, and her stepson, German rider Matthias Rath, took over the reins. Rath enjoyed plenty of success with the black stallion, but he never achieved the results of his predecessor in the saddle. Totilas retired from competition in 2015 and spent the next five years as a breeding stallion before a colic ended his life on Dec. 14. Linsenhoff and Rath kept him in light work in his retirement, sometimes sharing videos of the grand old man.

But while dressage fans around the world have spent this week mourning the legend’s passing, his story may not quite be over. This past summer, Gal debuted Glock’s Toto Jr. at Grand Prix (see video below), and he also has an Olympic contender in Glock’s Total U.S., both the offspring of Totilas. Gal even told a Dutch newspaper about Total U.S., “I have the feeling that he can become better than his sire.” Wouldn’t that be fun to see?

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