Totilas, foaled 23 May 2000, is considered to be one of the best dressage horses in the world. The Dutch stallion became the first horse to score above 90% in a dressage competition and is a former world-record holder in the Grand Prix Freestyle Dressage. Totilas was retired from competition in August 2015.
Maternal grandsire: Glendale
Country of origin: Netherlands
Totilas entered the competition circuit at the age of five. He was entered at the 2005 World Breeding Championships for Young Horses in Germany where he placed fourth in the final ranking of five-year-old dressage horses.
In the same year, owners Jan Schuil and Anna Schuil-Visser asked Edward Gal to ride and compete Totilas. In 2006, Edward’s sponsors, Cees and Tosca Visser, purchased the horse, after which he competed under the name Moorlands Totilas.
Affectionately dubbing him ‘Toto’, Edward rode the striking black stallion to Grand Prix level. In 2009, the pair broke the world record in Grand Prix Freestyle with a score of 89.50% at Hickstead, England. In the same year they broke their own record with a score of 90.75% at the 2009 FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships. Later in the year they broke their record again at the FEI World Cup Dressage series at Olympia in London, finishing with a score of 92.30%.
In 2010, Edward and Totilas won three gold medals at the FEI World Equestrian Games, becoming the first pair to win all three available dressage gold medals at a single World Games event.
Moorlands Totilas was approved for breeding by the KWPN in 2009. In 2010, he stood at stud for a fee of €5,500 (approximately R60,500*). While the dressage community leapt at the opportunity to produce a ‘Toto’ baby, just 175 mares were approved for covering that year. Meanwhile, South African fans were delighted to learn that local breeders, Dominey and Karen Alexander of Cellehof Stud, had secured a covering to their mare Cellehof Ballerina (Baroncelli (HANN) x Regazzoni (HANN)). The pairing produced a filly, Totaleur, a striking dark bay who has already seen success on the local breed circuit.
In October 2010, Moorlands Totilas was purchased by German breeder Paul Schockemöhle. The news was a shock to the Dutch dressage community as it meant that they would be losing their Olympic hopeful to their close rival, Germany. The Dutch described the sale as a devastating loss for the country’s equestrian team. Rumours abounded of vast sums exchanging hands – while the sum was never officially confirmed, figures of between €9m and €15m were bandied about.
In March 2011, Schockemöhle changed the horse’s registered name back to Totilas. Schockemöhle and co-owner Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff employed Matthias Alexander Rath to ride and compete the stallion. The overall public opinion was that Matthias had not managed to achieve the same level of performance that Edward Gal had when he rode Totilas. Matthias and Totilas missed several major competitions, including CHIO Aachen, mostly owing to both horse and rider being unwell.
Eventually, the decision was made to move Totilas back to the Netherlands where Rath could receive instruction from Dutch team coach Sjef Janssen, who was familiar with Totilas’ training. After the pair’s performance in Rotterdam, allegations were made regarding the welfare of the stallion.
In August 2015, Totilas and Matthias competed at the FEI European Dressage Championships in Aachen, Germany. In spite of high hopes, the horse showed irregular steps. It was later discovered that he had a bone oedema (fluid found in the bone) and was consequently withdrawn before the Individual Grand Prix Special.
On 18 August, Schockemöhle and Linsenhoff announced that the 15-year-old would be retiring from competition. “How much the international dressage sport owes to this horse is almost impossible to put into words. Never before has a dressage horse moved and thrilled these masses,” read the statement.
Totilas’ retirement is a sad loss for the dressage community. The remarkable stallion certainly deserves to live out his retirement in the most comfortable and peaceful way possible.
*Based on exchange rates at the time.
Text: Charlotte Bastiaanse