The second coming
The highly anticipated second career comeback of dressage mega-star Totilas took place at the CDIO4* in Hagen, Germany in mid-july, where Matthias Rath and the black stallion scored over 80% to win both the Grand Prix and the Special. To cap it off, the pair were named on the German team to contest the upcoming European Championships.
Totilas set a swathe of records and mesmerised judges and dressage fans worldwide when he burst on to the scene with his former rider, Dutchman Edward Gal, winning three gold medals at the 2010 World Championships.
But Totilas was then sold to Germany’s Paul Schockemöhle and Ann-kathrin Linsenhoff, and the ride given to AnnKathrin’s stepson, Matthias Rath. It took considerable time for the pair to cement a partnership, and the horse was then sidelined with injury.
After Toto briefly returned to form, Matthias developed a severe case of glandular fever which meant he had to withdraw from the 2012 Olympics.
Following that, the pair moved to the Netherlands to work with Sjef Janssen, coach of the Dutch team, presumably to experience the training techniques that Totilas was familiar with while in the care of Edward.
It seemed to pay off – Matthias and Totilas burst back on to the world stage at Aachen last August, where they famously beat the golden duo of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.
But once again, Totilas was sidelined with injury soon afterwards, withdrawing from the World Equestrian Games.
Now 15, Totilas has emerged from his year-long hiatus looking fit and strong, according to Eurodressage’s Astrid Appels, though she believes that like other “godhorses-among-mortals”, he gets more credit from the judges than his performance always warrants.
“Was the comeback ride in Hagen a bad one? Of course not,” she wrote. “Was it a brilliant 80% earning test? Not really!”
Astrid says the trot extension remains a weak point, with the front legs flying in the air but the hind legs not tracking up, the half-passes uneven in rhythm, and the horse “bops his head”, especially in passage.
But she praised the passage in general, the extended walk, most of the canter work (especially the pirouettes), and Matthias’s light contact with the bit.
“He deserves commendation for a very good ride and for his nerves of steel… but for the fairness of the sport and out of respect towards the other competitors, the judges need to stay sober and focused on Toilas’s tests and judge what happens in front of them instead of rewarding name and fame.
“If Totilas can stay fit until the European Champs, the fight for medals will be a very exciting one. He makes the sport more exciting and it’s great to have him back!”
Joining him on the highly rated team for Germany are Kristina Broring-sprehe and Desperados FRH , Jessica von BredowWerndl and Unee BB, and Isabell Werth and Don Johnson FRH.
Sadly, Isabell withdrew her sensational stable star, Bella Rose, from contention for selection as she has yet to recover from a knee injury sustained last November.
The NRM Rider of the Month receives a voucher for two bags of NRM feed, redeemable at any stockist of the NRM range.