Totilas: the Demise of a Superstar.

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.

Edward Gal and Totilas at Olympia .

21 Comments Add yours

  1. This is great writing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you ever decide to write a book, Anne, I would totally buy it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you Gayle. that is a a wonderful compliment! I feel strongly about Totilas and his treatment so it is easier to write about things you feel strongly about .

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Irene says:

    This makes me so sad. A horse or any other animal is worth so much more than the money. 😢

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Emma Cownie says:

    Fancy booing the horse, that’s terrible. Perhaps the horse didn’t like his new owners in Germany. It must be very hard for a horse to lose the people (and other animals) you have worked with and be expected to just carry on with new people in a new setting. They are performers, after all!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      The audience was booing the judges who have the power to stop a ride when a horse is clearly lame. Everyone could see Toto was in real difficulty and the judges did nothing so that is why they booed. And yes different stables, training, rider all took a toll on him.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        I see. Thank for the explanation, glad to hear they werte booing the humans and not the horse!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. iScriblr says:

    Oh, my heart goes out for him! If only we could respect and appreciate our athletes (human, non humans) a little more than we do and not just consider them as a “source” to more winnings! Sigh!


    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you for this comment You are right all the superstar athletes deserve respect and appreciation not just for their monetary value.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. dprastka says:

    Awe, brings tears to my eyes about Edward Gal and you are right, I’m glad I shared my story as I’m sure this happens way too often to these magnificent animals. There’s no such thing as perfect humans but maybe, just maybe people can not be so greedy. Thank you Anne for sharing his story! ❤️🥰

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a sad statment on our society. Champions should be admired and cherished. I have seen so many athletes play one season or prize fight too many. Not a pretty sight.

    I always say we should watch our superstars as if they were treasures. Too many people are always ready to dissect them and point ut their flaws instead of basking in their majesty.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Thank you for this wonderful comment. Since we have the whole NBA thing going on like mad here in Ontario with the Raptors in it to win it I am watching some star athletes in the spotlight. When one star player from the opposing team got injured in the last game the audience cheered! The Raptors players gestured for them to stop which they did .When the player was taken off the court the audience gave him a standing ovation. But to me it was a bit too little too late after the cheering when he was down. They are treasures and for most it is a short career that can be over in a blink of an eye.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Beautiful reply. I watched that moment on tv. The Raptor players made me proud. They understood the moment when Durant could play no more.
        This was a beautiful post.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. dprastka says:

    Awe, what a Superstar. I personally feel like he lost his herd by being sold to Germany. By herd I mean his people. The horse trainer I worked for had an absolute BEAUTIFUL Bay with 4 white socks that his wife rode, it was her horse and they were a team. A team that got broken as they sold him to someone in Florida for a lot of money back in the day. The sad story is he wouldn’t jump for the girl who bought him, she probably was scared. Whatever the reason, he did terrible, so much so to save his reputation he found another horse for these owners and took this beautiful but broken horse back.

    He was damaged after that but not lame. Psychologically his mind was gone having no trust in humans when jumping fences. I was lucky enough to ride him, was actually chosen from 3 other girls as I seemed to get along well with him. The trainers wife was so busy, didn’t reconnect like they once were and I believe they kept him forever. Sorry to go on so, but horses are more sensitive then we realise I think. And sadly this Superstar was only a Superstar with those special in his heart. ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      Don’t worry about “going on” about this topic. I am glad you left this comment. As littlepiecesof me said it happens more often than we would like to think about. Totilas was such a spectacular horse and he knew he was a star and to see him at the end he looked like a broken down school horse. And it was all about money and medals. I saw Edward Gal start to cry in a press conference after he was sold. Anyway…. thanks for sharing your story. At least the horse you knew go to come home.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. map195 says:

    real superstar….good one nice post….thanks for share

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My heart breaks for him as well. Totilas is one of the more famous horses that this has happened to and so many people are aware of his demise. What is even sadder is that there are many more horses this happens to that are just less in the spotlight.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      You are so right. It happens all too often. thank you for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Committed he lived Loveably retired

    Liked by 1 person

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