Moorlands Totilas

2013.10.02 17:43

Totilas, also known from 2006 to 2011 as Moorlands Totilas, and nicknamed "Toto", is a Dutch Warmblood stallion standing 17.1 hands (69 inches, 175 cm) high[1] who is considered to be one of the most outstanding competitive dressage horses in the world, the first horse to score above 90 in dressage competition,[2] and the current holder of the world record for the highest dressage score in Grand Prix Freestyle Dressage. Going into the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG), Moorlands Totilas and his rider, Edward Gal, had amassed multiple world-record scores in international competition, leading one American journalist to call them "rock stars in the horse world".[3]

Totilas was bred by Jan K. Schuil and Anna Schuil-Visser in Broeksterwâld (Broeksterwoude) in the Netherlands. They gave him his basic training. Upon entering major competition at age five, he was ridden by Jiska van den Akker and exhibited at the 2005 World Breeding Championships for Young Horses at Verden, Germany. There he distinguished himself as the best horse from the Netherlands, and placed fourth in the final ranking of five year old dressage horses.[4][5] Also in 2005, his owners contactedEdward Gal and asked him to ride and compete Totilas.[6] In 2006, after Gal began working with the horse, his sponsors Cees (also spelled Kees) and Tosca Visser purchased Totilas in the name of their investment company, Moorland BV.[1][6][7] After this purchase the horse competed under the name "Moorlands Totilas".

Totilas was ridden throughout most of his international Grand Prix career by Gal, under the flag of the Netherlands. Gal first began working with Toto in 2006 and the pair started to compete in 2008. Gal and the team of people who worked with the horse understood that Toto was "something special" after their first Grand Prix (GP) competition,[3] with Gal later stating, "He has an incredible amount of talent; it’s simply a pleasure to ride him."[1]

In July 2009, Gal and Toto broke Anky van Grunsven's world record score in Grand Prix Freestyle[8] with an 89.50% mark atHicksteadEngland, and shortly thereafter followed it up breaking their own record with a score of 90.75% at the 2009 FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships.[9] In December 2009, at the fourth leg of the 2009–10 FEI World Cup Dressage series at Olympia in London, they extended their record in GP Freestyle to 92.30%, more than 10 points above the second-place finisher.[9] They won that season's FEI World Cup final with a win in GP Freestyle at home in the Netherlands, winning by more than 7 points with a score better than their first world record.[10] The pair also have a world-record score in the Grand Prix Special discipline to their credit, having recorded 86.460% at Aachen in July 2010.[8][11]

The horse is not free of controversy, particularly due to his training using the highly controversial "LDR" (Low, deep and round) hyperflextion training technique also known as Rollkur, which faces claims of causing physical harm to the horse,[12] and is considered "mental abuse" by the FEI.[13] Critics claim his extravagant paces are anything but natural, but rather a product of harmful training. Thus, the critics accuse Totilas' trainers of artificially inflating dressage scores and corrupting the fundamentals of the sport. One German equestrian magazine compared his performances to those in a circus.[14][15] While the head of the World Cup judging panel at the Olympia competition in London dismissed such criticism, saying, “People should be big enough to recognise brilliance when they see it."[15]

While some give primary credit to the skill of Edward Gal as the primary reason the horse has reached such a high level at a very young age for a dressage horse,[3] and at least one writer has wondered if Toto's success is because he is a Gemini,[14] Anne Gribbons, dressage technical adviser for the United States Equestrian Federation, assesses the horse as having simply taken the sport 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."[3]

The pair were triple gold medalists at the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games,[11][16] becoming the first horse-rider partnership ever to sweep the three available dressage gold medals at a single FEI World Games.[11]

Breeding status and sale[edit]

Moorlands Totilas was approved for breeding by the KWPN in 2009,[17] and stood at stud in 2010 for a stud fee of €5,500,[2][6] or about $7,000 (US), considered a very high fee for a warmblood stallion.[7] A total of 175 mares were approved for the stallion, including US Olympic medal-winner Brentina.[2] His first year at stud generated fees of nearly €1.4 million.[2][18] In September 2010, an embryo by Totilas sold for €32,000.[6] His first foal, a seal brown-colored filly named Moorlands Guinevere, was foaled January 23, 2011 in Utrecht, Netherlands.[19]

In October 2010, it was announced that sport horse breeder Paul Schockemöhle had purchased Moorlands Totilas.[6] The sale price was not disclosed,[20] but rumors have circulated that the price was in the range of €9.5 million[2] to as high as €15 million.[18] At the World Equestrian Games, Edward Gal strongly denied that the horse was for sale, but his owners stated that after his wins at the WEG, "we could no longer ignore the interest in the stallion."[6] Though the official press release stated the Gal "understood" the Vissers' decision,[6] other news sources quoted him as stating, ""I'm absolutely devastated...It's like I'm struck by lightning."[18]

The news sent considerable shockwaves thought the dressage community, with the Dutch national dressage team expressing intense disappointment that their Olympic hopes had been shattered with the horse being sold to an individual from the nation that is their closest rival, Germany. Dutch team trainer Sjef Janssen described the sale as "a huge blood-letting" for the team,[21] expressing concerns that the horse will perform for Germany in the 2012 Olympics."[18] The online community was also set abuzz, and the Eurodressageweb site crashed due to an overload of visitors.[18] Comment included heated criticism of Anky van Grunsven from Gal's business partner Nicole Werner for posting the news via Twitter prior to the official news release, and a resulting public exchange between the two camps on Facebook.[22] The Vissers have stated that they will continue to make promising and talented horses available to Gal.[23]

German ownership[edit]

In March 2011, Schockemöhle changed the horse's show name with the FEI to "Totilas".[24] Schockemöhle and promoter Michael Mronz market the horse under the new name.[25][26] Schockemöhle and co-owner Ann-Kathrin Linsenhoff selected Matthias Alexander Rath, a 26 year old German rider and stepson of Linsenhoff, to be the new rider of Totilas. In November, 2010, Totilas and Rath had a public appearance in Mühlen, Germany, at Schockemöhle's stallion station. In full show gear, the 26-year old Rath sat on Totilas for the sixth time and rode to the music of Era's Ameno. After this brief session and a photo opportunity for the press, Paul Schockemöhle, Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff, Klaus Martin Rath, Matthias Rath and Sönke Lauterbach (secretary general of the German Equestrian Federation) made public statements. Linsenhoff stated "This horse is important for our breeding and for our sport. I’m proud that our son has been asked. We hope they will come to a harmony."[27] However, while the stated goal was for the pair to compete with the German team for the European Dressage Championships held in Rotterdam in August 2011,[19] they failed to medal in that competition individually, though their scores assisted the Germans to win a silver team medal.[28]

The general public opinion was that the pair had not yet achieved the level of performance that Totilas had when ridden by Edward Gal.[29] Totilas also suffered an injury during the winter.[28] However, Rath and Totilas were pointed to compete in the 2012 Olympics and placed in the top three at the 2012 German Championships. However, shortly after, Rath developed a serious case of mononucleosis which caused him to withdraw from competition at CHIO Aachen in June and ultimately from the German Olympic team.[30] While initially there was talk that Rath could compete in spite of missing Aachen, the possibility gave rise to charges of favoritism as two members of the German dressage committee, Klaus Roeser and Ullrich Kasselmann, have close business ties to Schockemöhle.[28][31] However, a downturn in Rath's health and orders of his doctors to not compete settled the matter. Rath expressed hope the pair would both be sound and healthy enough to compete in the 2016 Olympics, though by that time Totilas will be 16 years old.[30] Following the withdrawal of the pair, they moved to the Netherlands to work with Sjef Janssen, coach of the Dutch team and of gold medalist Anky van Grunsven, presumably to obtain experience the training techniques that Totilas was familiar with while in the care of Gal.[32]

Allegations of abuse arose soon after the pair's 2011 performance in Rotterdam. A public showing where Totilas stuck out his tongue while performing, viewed as a sign of stress, caused public concern.[28] Further controversy arose in October 2012, when the German branch of PETA filed a legal complaint against Rath, Schockemöhle and Lisenhoff, alleging that Totilas was being abused due to the use of rollkur in his training and management that kept him confined in a box stall, isolated from other horses. PETA alleges the horse's treatment violates the free-movement requirements of the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection. However, prosecutors have yet to determine if PETA's allegations are sufficient to allege an actual violation of German law.[33] As the bulk of the complaint focuses on the issue of Rollkur training, which PETA is attempting to ban in Germany (though it is already prohibited by the German Equestrian Federation), the charge is viewed within the dressage community as a means by which to bring the issue to public attention via a high-profile case.[12]


Moorlands Totilas is sired by a Trakehner stallion, Gribaldi that was approved by KWPN, the Dutch Warmblood registry, and noted for elegance and refinement.[17] Gribaldi had also been shown at the Grand Prix level by Edward Gal.[14] Toto's dam, Lominka, a KWPN approved Dutch Warmblood, comes from bloodlines that have produced both show jumpingand dressage horses, many of whom were noted for good temperament.[14][17]


Enrico Caruso
Gondola III
Gloria VI
Moorlands Totilas
Lominka (KWPN)
(Groningen (NWP))