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11 Facts & FAQs About Totilas, Dressage Horse

11 Facts & FAQs About Totilas, Dressage Horse

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To many, Totilas is considered the greatest dressage horse of all time. Like no other horse had done before, the grand black stallion dominated the sport under Dutch dressage rider Edward Gal.

Totilas and Edward Gal broke record after record, becoming living legends and inspiring millions.

Totilas was a Dutch Warmblood stallion who became one of the greatest dressage horses in history. Totilas was the first horse to score over 90% in the sport and holds the highest Grand Prix Freestyle Dressage score at 92.30%.

The dressage superstar foaled in May 2000 and passed away in December 2020. Affectionately called “Toto,” he stood 17.1 hands tall and was entirely black with four white socks. His ground-covering movements were praised by many and were considered unique in the horse world.

Stats About Totilas:

Breed:Dutch Warmblood
Sex:Stallion
Born:May 23, 2000
Died:December 14, 2020 (aged 20)
Country:Netherlands
Color:Black
Owners:Paul Schockemöhle, Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff
Rider:Edward Gal

Here are 11 fascinating facts about the dressage horse Totilas!

Totilas Was a Promising Youngster

Totilas was born on Jan K. Schuil and Anna Schuil-Visser’s breeding farm in the Dutch village of Broeksterwâld.

Totilas’ sire was the Trakehner stallion Gribaldi, who received praise for elegance and refinement from the Dutch Warmblood registry. His dam was Lominka, a Dutch Warmblood mare whose bloodlines have produced successful dressage and show jumping horses.

At the 2005 World Breeding Championships for Young Horses at Verden, Germany, Totilas earned the title of “Best Horse from the Netherlands.” Moreover, the promising young stallion placed fourth among the final selection of five-year-old dressage horses.

Totilas has undoubtedly shown his potential from an early age. After finishing his basic training, his owners began looking for the rider who would make the most out of his incredible talent.

Who Was Totilas Sold To?

In 2005, the owners of Totilas reached out to dressage rider Edward Gal and asked him to work with the horse. As it happened, Gal turned out to be exactly what Totilas needed to reach his full potential.

Totilas was sold to Edward Gal’s sponsors Kees and Tosca Visser in 2006. The new owners changed the horse’s name to “Moorland Totilas” after their investment company, Moorland BV.

Totilas and Gal made their competition debut in 2008, representing the Netherlands. Following their first Grand Prix competition in 2009, Gal said the horse has “an incredible amount of talent; it’s simply a pleasure to ride him.”

After many years of competing together, Edward Gal developed a deep affection for Totilas. According to his groom, Vanessa Ruiter, the horse returned his affection.

“Totilas looked for Edward the whole day, and Edward adored him. He really loved Edward. If he heard him, he’d prick his ears and look around for him. It was really special.” (Source: FEI)

Here is a video of Totilas’ and Edward’s first Grand Prix dressage test:

“Rock stars in the horse world”

In 2009, an American journalist addressed Edward Gal and Totilas as the “rock stars in the horse world”. Why? Because that year, the combination has set multiple world records by achieving the highest scores in dressage history!

Both Gal and some spectators were in tears as he rode off the arena with a score of 90.75%. No other horse had ever managed to score above 90 in a dressage competition. With his record-breaking performance, Totilas has shown the world that he is truly “something special.”

However, many dressage riders noticed the horse’s talent long before rising to such heights. For example, British dressage champion Carl Hester was astounded by one of Totilas and Gal’s early performances. “I was talking about him for days afterwards,” he revealed to the FEI.

Nick Brooks-Ward, the commentator at the London Olympia Horse Show, described Totilas as “quite simply one of the greatest horses the world has ever seen.” Moreover, Anne Gribbons, a dressage technical adviser at the United States Equestrian Federation, thinks Totilas took dressage to a new level. “He is capable of such power and balance while he’s in motion that it is almost beyond what most other horses can do,” she once said.

The Greatest Achievements of Totilas

The Dutch Warmblood stallion has dazzled the world, winning gold after gold under Edward Gal. His ownership changed in 2010, after which he represented Germany in international competitions.

Here are Totilas’ most significant achievements:

YearEventClassMedal
2009FEI European Jumping and Dressage ChampionshipsTeam DressageGold
2009 FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships Special DressageSilver
2009 FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships Freestyle DressageGold
2010CDIO Nations’ CupIndividual Dressage Gold
2010 CDIO Nations’ Cup Special Dressage Gold
2010 CDIO Nations’ Cup Freestyle Dressage Gold
2010FEI World Equestrian GamesTeam Dressage Gold
2010 FEI World Equestrian Games Special Dressage Gold
2010 FEI World Equestrian Games Freestyle Dressage Gold
2011European Dressage ChampionshipTeam DressageSilver
2015 European Dressage Championships Team Dressage Bronze

World Records

2009 was the year of milestones in dressage competition history. Totilas and Gal started by breaking the dressage world record of Anky van Grunsven with a score of 89.50% at Hickstead, England.

Later in 2009, the combination broke their record by scoring an incredible 90.75% at the FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships.

But wait, there is more. In December 2009, the pair set yet another record at the London Olympia Horse Show, scoring 92.30% on their Grand Prix Freestyle test.

They also won the final leg of the 2009–10 FEI World Cup Dressage series in the Netherlands by over 7 points. As a result, Edward Gal and Totilas became the FEI World Cup final winners.

The pair’s next stop was the 2010 CDIO Nations’ Cup in Aachen, where they set a new record of 86.460% in the Grand Prix Special discipline. Gal and Totilas finished the competition as the winners of three consecutive classes, becoming the 2010 CDIO Aachen Dressage Grand Champions.

Totilas and Gal’s journey culminated was the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG). To the world’s amazement, the pair finished as triple gold medalists! This made them the first combination to win all three dressage classes as the same WEG.

Here is Edward Gal’s and Totilas’ world record freestyle dressage test:

Allegations of Abuse

Beneath the surface, Toto’s career wasn’t all glory and success. His trainers faced widespread criticism for riding the horse in rollkur, a highly controversial training technique.

In rollkur or LDR (low, deep and round), the rider hyperflexes the horse’s neck and poll by pulling the head all the way to the chest.

When the horse’s neck is hyper flexed, the animal’s visual range is limited to the ground, blocking out the view ahead.

Many equestrians consider rollkur harmful to the horse and are highly critical of dressage riders using it. The FEI has deemed rollkur “mental abuse” and banned its practice in the warm-up rings of major events from 2010.

Some critics even accused Toto’s trainers of artificially increasing dressage scores, saying his paces are not natural. However, the head of the World Cup judging panel at the London Olympia Horse Show believed the horse was genuinely talented. He stated, “People should be big enough to recognize brilliance when they see it.”

Yet further scandals overshadowed the career of Toto’s new rider, Rath Schockemöhle. Following their performance at the European Dressage Championship in Rotterdam, the public raised concerns about Totilas sticking his tongue out during his round.

PETA also filed claims against the horse’s owners for using rollkur and confining Totilas to a stable.

Also read: 10 Most Famous Dressage Riders & Horses in History

How Much Did Totilas Sell For?

Following the 2010 WEG, the Vissers announced Totilas was sold to an individual from Germany. The news shocked the dressage community, sparking a high volume of discussions on Eurodressage that caused the website to crash.

Totilas sold for over $11 million to Paul Schockemöhle from Germany, making him the most expensive dressage horse on record. The sale caused disappointment within the Dutch national dressage team, who hoped to see Totilas represent the Netherlands at the 2012 Olympics.

Following Totilas and Gal’s victories at the WEG, the Vissers stated they could “no longer ignore interest in the stallion.” Sadly, this meant that Totilas would be taken away from Gal, with whom he has gone through so much.

Gal was devastated by the sale and even considered switching his nationality to German so he could continue working with his partner.

Although his heart was broken, Gal officially stated that he respected the Vissers’ decision. Kees and Tosca Visser assured him that they would continue his sponsorship, allowing Gal to bring on more talented young horses.

Totilas dressage horse during a dressage test

Totilas Helped the German Team to Silver

Toto’s new rider was 26-year-old Matthias Alexander Rath, who competed with him under the name of “Totilas.” Rath is the stepson of Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff, who co-owned the horse with Paul Schockemöhle.

While Rath was a talented young rider, Totilas seemed to be a shadow of his former self under his hands. The pair’s biggest achievement was helping the German dressage team win silver in the 2015 European Dressage Championship. However, they failed to place in the individual dressage class.

The Downfall of the Great Totilas

Unfortunately, Totilas sustained injuries in the winter of 2011/12 and took a 2-year break from competing. Although Rath had plans to compete with Totilas in the 2012 London Olympics, he soon fell ill with glandular fever. Because of his condition, Rath withdrew from the German Olympics team.

However, he still wished to compete with Totilas and moved to the Netherlands to learn from Sjef Janssen. Janssen coached the Dutch national dressage team and hence shared a history with Totilas. Rath hoped to learn the training techniques Gal used with the horse by working with Janssen.

Rath and Totilas resumed competing in 2014 and entered the CDIO Aachen event that year. However, Totilas had to withdraw from the freestyle class due to another injury.

In 2015, the pair helped the German team to a bronze medal at the European Dressage Championships in Aachen. Unfortunately, Totilas was withdrawn once again from the freestyle class after some observers pointed out he was lame.

Related: Take our ultimate dressage quiz to test your dressage knowledge!

What Happened to Totilas?

Following his outing in Aachen, Totilas was retired in August 2015 due to inflammation in his left hind hoof. He continued his career as a stud and was ridden by Rath and his stepmother. Totilas died on 14 December 2020 at the age of 20 from complications of colic.

Following his death, many dressage enthusiasts expressed their regrets about his early passing. The horse’s format rider Edward Gal stated with grief: “Heaven has a new star today, but my heart is broken. Rest in peace, Totilas. You will always be remembered.” (Source: FEI)

How Many Foals Did Totilas Sire?

Totilas stood at stud from 2010 until his death for a fee of around $7,000. While the racing industry commands much higher stud fees, this is a high price for a warmblood stallion. In his first year as a sire, Totilas covered 175 mares and generated a jaw-dropping $1.6 million!

It is unknown how many foals Totilas sired. His semen has been shipped worldwide and has also been frozen for future use.

The stallion’s first foal was a seal brown filly called Moorlands Guinevere, foaled in the Netherlands on 23 January 2011. Many of his offspring achieved impressive scores in Grand Prix dressage competitions.

Also read: 23 Best Dressage Quotes

How Old is Toto Jr.?

Glock’s Toto Jr. is one of the most successful foals sired by the grand Totilas. His dam is Desperada, whose sire Desperados won double silver medals at the 2015 European Dressage Championships in Aachen.

With rider Edward Gal, Toto Jr. won the Dutch Dressage Championships, scoring over 80% in the special and over 86% in the freestyle dressage classes.

Toto Jr. is a 10-year-old black Hanoverian stallion sired by the legendary Totilas. Foaled in 2011, he stands 16.5 hands tall and was approved as an Oldenburg, KWPN, and Hannoverian breeding stallion.

Toto Jr. was the first of Totilas’ sons to obtain a stallion license. He won numerous stallion competitions, and his overwhelmingly positive foal report proved his quality as a sire.

The Glock website describes his paces as ground-covering, light-footed, and balanced with a strong uphill tendency.

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