Unforgettable is also the explanation of the rider that he didn’t feel anything of an injury in the saddle. And also the judges did not make a good impression. They could have ended the test. If only they had the courage.”– Isabell Werth
Isabell Werth has the courage to speak the truth about that last time dressage superstar Totilas appeared in the competition ring at the European Championships 2015. I saw it on video and even to me it was clear the horse was uneven. There were boos coming from the spectators. But the ride continued on, right to the end.
Then the next day, after Germany had won the bronze medal, Totilas was pulled from further competition and the world was told he would be retiring.
I saw Totilas first at Olympia in London when he was being ridden by Dutch rider Edward Gal. I was in the front row of the stands as he entered the arena for the Grand Prix. Next to me were a couple from Wales, not horse people, they were sheep breeders. Totilas came down the side of the arena, close enough that we could have reached out to touch him. “Oh my” said the man. ” He is magnificent!” Totilas had the kind of star presence that affected people.
The next day I watched the Freestyle. Edward and Totilas set a new world record score. When the score was announced the stadium erupted with cheering, shouting, feet stomping on the metal stands, and whistles. It was so loud we could not hear the announcer. But my son shouted into my ear: “He said they broke the world record. Who had it before?” “They did. ” I replied. With this my son sent out one of those ear splitting, two fingers in the mouth, whistles. Here is a video of that ride.
It was a grand evening and we celebrated afterwards with champagne. My son said that it was a very special thing to see athletes breaking a world record.
I saw Totilas again at WEG 2010. As he came through the chute into the arena the crowd began to buzz..” here he comes….look…there he is!”
Totilas was a superstar and he took dressage into a whole new era. There were detractors, there always are, who said his movement was too this or too that and not enough of the other. But none of that could dampen the star quality of this horse.
Then he was sold. He left the Netherlands and was sent to a breeder in Germany and to a German rider. No doubt they were expecting to get gold medals at the Olympics in London 2012. But that did not happen. The wheels fell off Totilas. There were difficulties with his behavior, lameness, etc etc etc. He was seen in competition at times but less and less.
Finally there was his last appearance at the European Championships. That was what Isabel Werth was referring to in the opening quote of this post. It is my opinion that he was not only lame but he was broken in spirit. The light in the star was extinguished and my heart still breaks for him.