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  1. Barry G
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    Barry G Senior Member

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    The matter of Totilas - a very fancy horse

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Barry G, Nov 28, 2010.

    It was my 72nd birthday yesterday. One doesn’t make too much fuss about the event these days because I have already enjoyed a lot of birthdays. I ate and drank a few of my favourites and took a phone calls from old friends, two of whom are even more ancient than me. It was too cold a day to do much and my horse had been wrapped up in four layers (repeat four) layers of blankets. Her new carer has strong ideas as to how a competition horse should be kept. Eventually I sat down and wrote an article for a forum about a Dutch horse named Totilas.

    Totilas is a phenomenon who repeatedly scores in dressage competitions 10 points out of 10 points. He is an amazing horse to watch and even if the watcher does not know anything about dressage, the grace of this four legged black and beautiful creature can be recognised instantly. Totilas and a Dutch rider named Edward Gal have forged a partnership which will be in the record book for decades maybe centuries. However the horse is owned by a sponsor and recently he has been sold to a famous German show jumper named Schockemohle who is reputed to have paid about US$20 million for the stallion. Now it is very common for race horse to change hands for a fortune but this sum for a dressage horse sets new standards. A race horse only has to run very fast in a straight line whereas a Grand Prix dressage horse has to perform some very fancy movements in a very precise manner. The rider, Mr Gall, is probably upset at his horse being driven away to Germany. Personally I suspect the horse will be equally upset when he discovers that it is not going back home to his mates - equine and human - but that is a matter for debate.

    The confessed reasoning for the purchase is said to be that the Schockemohles want to ensure the success of the German dressage team for decades to come There is no doubt that there are some very clever German riders and the national team wins time after time, much to the chagrin of the British and now I suspect the Dutch. In the British national psyche we accept that we cannot always win even at the sports we invented and in which are supposed to excel but there are exceptions to this way of thinking. Luckily the Germans don’t play cricket or rugby and we can’t seem to play tennis. But there are two sports in which both the Germans and the British play well: namely ‘football’ or ‘soccer’ as an American might say and horse sports, so long as the saddle used is not fitted with a horn.

    For the English national football team (there is no longer a British team) to be beaten in a football championship is a disaster for the English. It is all a bit like Dunkirk, when having lost the battle, we conducted a glorious retreat in little boats to live to fight another day. Equally whenever we win a match between England and Germany, the German team slinks home in ignominious defeat to face the wrath of their countrymen. Yes, what I am saying is that the match is an extension of war by sporting means in which no one gets killed but the players might get hurt. Football can be a vicious game.

    As usual we Brits play the game according to our rules. Chelsea FC currently the premier club is owned by a Russian and the biggest share of Manchester United, the world famous club, is owned by Malcolm Glazer an American. The British will flog anything which commands a price.

    But returning to horse riding. Well the stage is set. Already semen from Totilas is being sent off to carefully selected mares, most of which will be warmbloods. The Germans are intent on breeding their way to victory One wonders whether a British breeder will be even given the chance to buy drops of precious genes even at an exorbitant price. We are allowed to buy the occasional Trakehner warmblood stallion because both Germany and Britain are part of the European Union and there are rules against restrictive practices. But my guess is that, under some pretext, we Brits won’t be allowed to acquire by fair means any Totty juice.

    The Olympic Games, which includes equestrian sports is coming up in London in 2012. Totilas will be there, bedecked in black, red and yellow. Herr Schockemohle expects to win. Methinks it would be an idea to form under some international alliance a team of Dutch, British and, may I suggest, American horses and riders to defeat these Germans who are adopting unfair practices in a determination to be masters of the world. The French won’t help us Brits. The Italians would side with the Germans and the Spaniards will stand by and watch. You Americans have come to our aid previously in times of stress, what about now? Perfidious Albion can’t let the Hun go unchallenged. Come to think of it, those Russians have some pretty smart horses.
     
  2. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    To be fair, they would at least change sides once the contest was underway.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    happy b'day, barry!

    my 72nd was sept 14, so i'm your elder by a few weeks, if that makes you feel any better...

    love and extra hugs, maia
     
  4. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm so envious that you own your own horse. :) I've been riding for years, and while in the past two years I had taken to considering one of my trainer's horses as "mine," he never was or will be...

    I'm more interested in show jumping than dressage, but I've heard of and seen Totilas in action (if only on YouTube) before, and what a beautiful horse! I suppose I could understand why some people might be upset at the transfer of hands, and I admit that there is the risk of Totilas not performing as well under a new rider ...but I've never been much for supporting a particular country when it comes to the Olympics --it should be about the athletes. :)
     
  5. Barry G
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    Barry G Senior Member

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    Mercurial

    As an afterthought:
    If you are an American athlete, holding an American passport and are competing in the Olympic Games, then you will be a member of the US team.

    If you are a German dressage rider competing in the Equestrian Olympics, then you will belong to the German team.

    But why should that same rider be allowed to ride on Dutch horse, with a Dutch passport and yet still belong to the German National team.???
    Surely he should not be able to buy success by purchasing a foreign bred horse??

    It ain't fair Momma - is it?.
     
  6. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Evening Barry

    My first thought is that - in spite of the passports - horses are citizens of the globe and are left unmoved by appeals to flags and crowns and histories, so the rules don't apply, but then I began to wonder..

    Barry, what do you reckon, do you think that horses take on something of the character of their riders/trainers? And, perhaps, just as we sometimes speak of stereotypical German or Dutch or British human characteristics, might we say the same for horses?
     
  7. Barry G
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    Barry G Senior Member

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    Art The horse Totilas is something really, really, special. It has represented Holland in many national competitions and is famous amongst the Dutch for doing so.

    Less than a year ago the horse was bought by the Germans to compete for them as part of their international dressage team and an enormous price was paid by the Germans to the Dutch for ownership of th horse.

    Now, a dressage duo is horse and rider - an expert rider and a less than expert horse doesn't perform to the level expected. One could say the skill breadown was 40% rider, 40% horse and 20% the combination - or some ratio of that order.

    Germany has a tradition of breeding and training German horses - particularly some breeds known as warmbloods.
    Holland has breed of horses to be found especially in Holland and are passported as being Dutch.

    How can it be that a German competitor can buy a 'foreign' horse and change its nationality - for the Olympic games - where nationality is important in defining the team.

    We'd get a little miffed if a Dutchman rode a German horse and represented the German team - why do we allow it the other way round???

    It seems illogical to me - how about you?
     
  8. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me, not illogical since I think horses are above rather dismal and very human conceptions of nationality and so on.

    How special is he Barry? I don't know much about this stuff but I do remember being almost mesmerised by the majesty and power of Milton (clearing fences by a good foot while most others scraped over - I'm amazed he just didn't win everything). Comparing a jumper with a dressage animal is probably not easy (or worthwhile frankly LOL) but what do you think?
     
  9. Barry G
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    Barry G Senior Member

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    Art, Totilas is something very special in the dressage world. He is a trend setter who regularly scores marks of 10 amongst the judges - 10 is 'perfect'

    But he has made his name as a member of the Dutch team - his career as a 'German' horse has yet to begin

    To create a dressage horse at Grand Prix level takes years of expert training.
    To a certain extent the horse must be gifted but the dressage world is so competitive at Grand Prix level that even gifted horses have to be schooled to a high level.

    It is even possible that the new German expert rider may not develop the rapport with the horse that Totilas had with his previous Dutch rider.

    Schokemohle a famous German trainer has bought success in buying Totilas who is a stallion. In future Totilas semen will be used to impregnate carefully selected mares. His genes will be used to found a whole new line of horses which hopefully will give the German dressage team an unassailable advantage for years to come.

    Well, - as a matter of principle - how can this be allowed in the spirit of the Olympics?

    If the horse had been born in Germany even of Dutch stock - then fine - it is German but Totilas was born in Holland and what is more it has competed as a Dutch horse.

    The question really revolves around the basic selection process of an Olympic athlete - can an athlete be 'bought' and re- naturalised?

    eg - If I bought a world class American Quarter Horse - previously known as a member of the US cross country team - would it be right for the pair of us to enter into the 2012 Olympic team as a British duo? - largely because I have a big cheque book?????


    PS Art, Type in Totilas in a Google search - you'll find videos of the animal which is truly magnificent. Even a non dressage person can recognise the grace of this very special animal.

    PPS In soccer, the British top class professional teams are largely made up of foreigners.
    So Man Utd can 'buy'members from around the world.
    But the National English team has to be players of English stock - so the international team does not do so well.
    In dressage, whilst the emphasis is on schooling the animal to be 100% obedient - its grace of movement of the animal is an inherited attribute.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    would you be as upset if the formula one car that won the monaco grand prix last year was bought by another team and entered under their 'flag' with their driver, for this year's race?

    would you think it unfair if an olympics winning, one-man luge made in italy for the italian team was sold to the german team and entered in the next olympics with a german sledder?
     
  11. Barry G
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    Barry G Senior Member

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    My own horse is an Irish Draught cross breed mare born in Southern Ireland. To my knowledge she was never registered in Ireland. At an early age she was shipped across to Wales UK where it is necessary for horses to have identification papers. Her British horse passport identifies her as an Irish Draught cross breed born in Ireland but now resident in the UK (a separate country). If she were to travel abroad, she would be a British (not Irish) horse.

    Neither the Dutch nor the German horse societies would register my mare as a pedigreed horse as both EU countries adopt a very rigid registration procedure under which horses are examined for breed purity. In matters of paperwork, they are far more strict than the British

    Of course, my horse, as a mare, can pass on her genes to her progeny in a similar way to that of any stallion.

    My horse is competent at dressage and wins at competition and were I to be far more skilled at the art of dressage maybe I might be invited to enter the British team.- an unlikely scenario I might add. But at least horse and rider would be documented as being of English nationality

    In 2012 the equestrian Olympics are to be held in London.
    The German Olympic dressage team will most likely include Totilas - who will be entered as a German competitor. Yet the last time he entered a competition of similar international level, he would have been described as a Dutch entrant. In the interim the Dutch entrepreneurial owners of Totilas have sold the horse to a German sports organisation owned by Herr Schokemohle. Presumably adjustments have been made to issue Totilas with German equine paperwork - whatever form that might take but it will include the issue of a new passport. Totilas will no longer be a Dutch horse but will become a German horse. The horse can then presumably compete therefore in the German team. But is this right and fair on other competitors.

    The horse is a living being. It has a mind of its own. It does not react to all riders in the same
    A piece of sports equipment is an inert object. In the same way, a saddle is a tool as is the bit which passes through the horse’s mouth.

    In equestrian events, the horse is as much as competitor as the rider. A a horse is not an inert object and it carries its own identifying paperwork - known commonly as a ‘passport‘.

    Do the Germans have any right to buy in from other countries ‘ unique foreign expertise’ and incorporate it with their own Olympic team?
    Could a similar policy be applied to human competitors?

    Personally I think not.
     
  12. Wryture
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    Wryture New Member

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    Horse riding and cycling are the most green, oil-less ways to travel. Even in 2011.
     
  13. theamorset
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    theamorset Contributing Member

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    This thread is old but it is very ironic to reflect back on the events of 2010 when Totilas was sold to German horse breeder Paul S.

    The ride went to Matthias Rath, courtesy of his mother-in-law, who bought the stallion in partnership with Paul S. The story goes that many other German riders were offered the ride, and refused. Matthias, say the gossips, didn't take the ride because he wanted it, but because it was his mother-in-law's horse. The internet declared that the other riders didn't want to be seen as the 'second choice' rider for Totilas, or be compared to the 'once in a century' team of Edward Gal and Totilas.

    I think most of the riders knew that Totilas had been to so many competitions over many years, that he probably was developing a few aches and pains, and would soon be retired. I think some of them didn't want to ride the way Edward had trained the horse(the top Germans generally ride dressage in a more traditional fashion than do the top Dutch riders, and the traditional way is widely regarded as superior and kinder). And I doubt anyone wanted to very publicly, attempt to switch the horse over to a more traditional system. The horse would object, and the internet would be in an uproar.

    Matthias tried to teach the horse the traditional methods. That meant publicly being seen with the horse going 'less brilliantly'(but actually more correctly), and the internet fired up again.

    It just didn't work, though not due to any fault of shortcoming of his. The habits had been set for years. Matthias accepted that the horse could not switch to a new system of training, and went back to the Dutch coach for help.

    The horse was rested several times, due to mild issues (even the mildest issue can interfere with top dressage). Matthias had the added humiliation of being required to present the horse publicly after long rests - something that made the horse as naughty and disobedient as any exuberant young stallion. Oh boy, did the internet light up and trash him.

    Online pundits shouted that new rider Matthias was a beginner, a lousy rider. That was all nonsense, of course. He'd been competing internationally since he was a child.

    The same people who had been criticizing Toto's old rider Edward for years, ironically now held Edward up as a God, and dished on the new rider, Matthias. Several pundits attempted to compare videos of both riders side by side, and invented ways that Matthias was lacking. I think they were rubbing their hands together, trying to look like experts on a world they had never actually been a part of, and set themselves up as highly paid 'consultants'.

    Publicly, Edward expressed dismay and despair that Toto was sold and would no longer be in his barn. But I think he better than anyone, knew the horse would be sold and that the horse was near the end of his competitive career.

    But in the end, it was all over. Totilas developed inflammation in one hoof, which would eventually be another one off the very mild and liveable-with 'aches and pains' old horses tend to get. But the international organization is meticulous. Horse welfare comes first, no exceptions, even for the mildest conditions. The slightest uneven stride, and the horse is 'excused' from the competition. The international organization does not allow horses to compete if they need medication to do so, either.

    In the world of top dressage, careers are ended by the mildest arthritis or inflammation, so mild that most horse folk, even experienced ones, would not notice them.

    The internet went utterly insane. Paul S. was painted as the worst, most callous money grubbing ruiner of horses. In reality, horses simply don't compete forever. They wind up just where they should be - eating grass, retired.

    So like most competition horses, Totilas will spend far more of his life retired in luxury, than in competition. He can't be turned loose in a field, because like some stallions, he runs the fence screaming, looking for mares to breed, and he tends to injure himself while doing so. He pays absolutely no attention to where he's placing his feet when he's that excited about doing what nature intended.

    So instead, he has a human slave who basically attempts to hold onto him, but allows him to wander where ever he pleases, doing what horses love best: eating grass. In other words, the human functions as a kind of mostly airborne kite, clinging to the very happy stallion. Totilas is right where he belongs after being a source of joy and delight to people all over the world for years. Toto gets what he needs: lots of attention from his grooms, and lots of 'jumping the phantom'(being 'collected' so his semen can be shipped world-wide).

    I've retired an advanced horse. They do not generally like it. They slowly adjust. They prefer being the center of attention. They prefer the intense relationship with the rider. They learn, over time, to eat grass and chill out, but they need an immense amount of human attention and fussing over, the rest of their lives.

    But of course the story isn't over. Edward Gal, Toto's original Grand Prix rider, has a little black horse in his barn. His name is Toto Jr., and he is sired by Totilas. As is traditional in Europe, Toto Jr. won't compete at the advanced levels for quite some time yet. The public is not likely to see much of him until he's 8 or 10. It takes that long to train a dressage horse, even by the Dutch method.

    The world of top horses isn't really like the nationalists paint it. No one in the horse world really deeply cares which country 'owns' a given top competitor, or even, which country the horse competes for. The top dressage world is a tiny group of less than 300 riders, all of whom basically ride and train exactly the same way. The horses are just about always for sale. Trainers and riders don't usually own the horses they ride.

    German rider Hubertus Schmidt owned some horses, but he sold every one of them when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. He took a break from competing and training, until she was well. People do what they must do. Most owners are only owners, and don't train or compete. They can't afford to campaign horses forever. It costs way up in six figures, per horse, to compete at the top level, each year. Most people can't do that forever.

    The top dressage riders generally keep their retired horses at their home barn. For example, Isabel Werth has a barnful of her old competition horses. They usually live far longer than other horses. Living 28 or 30 years isn't unusual for these horses.

    All they care about is that the horse is treated right, and is happy. Many people online thought it was 'horrible' that Toto was torn from Edward's arms. I know this is nonsense. Well trained horses aren't neurotic or dependent. They enjoy human attention, but it doesn't have to be Edward providing the attention.

    And, oh. Totilas got many 'tens', but ten doesn't mean perfect. It means excellent. In dressage, nothing is ever scored as 'perfect'. The score doesn't exist. Any dressage person will correct you if you say ten is a perfect score. Most of us accept that perfection is sought, rather than attained.

    Ironically, Totilas also got threes, and fours, and sometimes 2s. He was not scored equally well on all the movements.

    And yet. There were rides of his that I cried over. Just sobbed. He performed with a joyous energy.

    And a little secret: I have my own little black horse in my barn too. He's 3 months old.

    A promising youngster lights up the heart of all who see him. With such a youngster, all things are possible, and we see no limits.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2016

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