Who's Not Afraid of Totilas?
On Thursday 14 October 2010 a bomb of cataclysmic proportions exploded in the dressage world. The Netherlands' world record breaking horse Totilas, also described as "the horse from another planet", has been sold to Germany's biggest horse dealer and stallion owner Paul Schockemöhle. The sudden news prompted immediate speculation: who will be Toto's next rider and who can imitate the gigantic success Edward Gal has achieved in the saddle of the black pearl?
Who's Not Afraid of Totilas?
Even though Schockemöhle still waits for the blood tests to return as part of the vet check before sealing the deal ("a horse is mine when he stands in one of my stalls," Schockemohle told Dieter Ludwig), in principle the transaction has been done as confirmed by former Dutch owner Cees Visser in his press statement on Thursday.
So which rider will have the guts to put his foot in the stirrup and mount Totilas in an attempt to near, parallel or exceed the accomplishements of Edward Gal who trained the horse to greatness?
American dressage rider Catherine Haddad put oil in fire in her blog on the Chronicle of the Horse by echoing the rumour that Matthias Rath has been the chosen one. The trigger happy German magazine ST.GEORG jumped the gun by posting the message that stepmom Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff acquired the Sports rights to the horse, but this was never confirmed by Linsenhoff. All of a sudden Rath was branded at "The One" and his skills and achievements so far were put in the balance sheet by a ravenous online community which assessed whether the 25-year old German would be worthy of riding Toto. So far Rath refuses to speak on the matter and his parents are on holiday in Dubai. Salaam.
Cees Visser's press agent Semira Norman told Eurodressage that she heard the names of Emma Hindle and Victoria Max-Theurer being mentioned, but neither of the two has come forward to claim their position in the saddle. All wealthy dressage and stallion owners in Europe have passed in review: Hindle (and her Brookhouse Stud) would be a strong contender to grab the reins as Great Britain wants to claim gold at the London Olympics but so far Emma is lip synching "nein". Max-Theurer's press agent also debunked the claim that Toto would go to Tirol (as a figure of speech). Isabell Werth's mighty sponsor Madeleine Winter-Schulze is not involved either.
One of Schockemöhle's stallion partners, the Danish Blue Hors Stud, reportedly told Danish reporter Charlotte Mogensen that they are not interested in the stallion. However Blue Horse is no longer the sole key player in the Danish dressage world. The independent Andreas Helgstrand, who is backed by several wealthy sponsors, already has several of Schockemöhle's stallions in training and I'm sure he would clear a stall to teach Totilas some Danish. Helgstrand himself remains tight-lipped.
The only one opening his mouth so far in this whole rider-guessing-game is German dressage chef d'equipe Holger Schmezer. "I hope it'll be a German rider," Schmezer told the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung patriotically. "And not Andreas Helgstrand, Emma Hindle or Victoria Max-Theurer or whoever else is rumoured to be in discussion," he added.
Haddad did raise an interesting point. 'If you can't beat your best competitor, buy his horse." Welcome to the world of show jumping (as Karen Robinson also suggested in her blog)
Support Edward Gal and Totilas
Totilas' fans gave a gigantic outpour of support for Edward Gal and have started a campaign in support of the rider to convince potential buyers not to separate "the inseperable duo". Eurodressage's mailbox has been flooded with requests to draw attention to a new Facebook group "Steun Edward Gal and Totilas". There are talks of establishing a charity fund to raise money to co-own Totilas and bring the duo back together.
Edward Gal and his business partner Nicole Werner were in Oslo, Norway for a CDI competition when all hell broke loose. Though they were aware that Totilas was being sold and respect the owner's decision, they are nevertheless devastated by the loss. On Monday the twosome returned from the show and took the time to react to what has happened the past few days.
"Everything went so very fast all of a sudden," Edward and Nicole admitted. "We realised that we probably wouldn't make it to the 2012 Olympic Games because of the constant interest in Totilas, but we never expected it to go this fast. We are deeply touched by the hundreds of messages that have been sent to us and are moved that people are trying to keep Edward and Totilas together. We appreciate this tremendously."
The sale of Holland's number one horse has also given rise to many negative reactions. Why sell the best Dutch horse to biggest competitor Germany? What inspired Cees Visser, who is extremely wealthy and a member of the Dutch Fortune 500 list, to sell his horse? More money? Avoid the risky business of extended horse ownership?
Werner and Gal refute all negativity. "We are very grateful to Moorland that we had Totilas at our disposal. We respect their decision to sell Totilas and disprove the sometimes negative coverage concerning Moorland."
Maybe Schockemöhle will not find a co-owner and will have to regain his spent fortune with the stud fee and breedings. In 2010, Totilas covered approximately 180 mares at 5500 euro a piece. Venture capitalist Schockemohle is known to push for more and maybe he can lift the number to 700 or 800 a year? Testostilas.
All will be revealed in the next few days.
-- Astrid Appels