Europeans: 'Totally Totilas' leads Dutch whitewash in dressage freestyle

August 31, 2009

It seemed impossible that the record-breaking week at the European FEI Jumping and Dressage Championships at Windsor, Great Britain, could get any better, but for The Netherlands' Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas the impossible is just all in a day's work.

Edward Gal, the new European Freestyle Champion with the record-beating Moorlands Totilas.
Last night, before a packed house and with Windsor Castle standing proudly as a backdrop, the most extraordinary horse-and-rider combination ever seen in the sport of dressage smashed the world record they established in Hickstead just a few short weeks ago when scoring 90.70% to win the Freestyle gold medal.

The excitement in the aftermath was palpable. All across the showgrounds equestrian fans, officials, supporters and competitors were saying the same thing - "this horse is something so special, we may never see his like again".

Grand Prix Special winners Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival had to settle for silver this time around while Anky Van Grunsven and Salinero truly rose the occasion with a vastly improved performance to take bronze. This week the bar has been raised so high however that somehow Gal's words after his opening appearance with the black stallion on Wednesday afternoon don't seem altogether fantastic any more.

That day he half-joked that this horse, who is only nine, had even more room for improvement and that he would like to keep riding Totilas until he earned a score of 100.000%. Anyone who witnessed last night's exhibition of controlled power and exuberance could see that perfection is only a short step away and that somehow 100.000% may be not be quite enough.

As the second tranche of riders got under way in front of the packed house of 8000 spectators it was Germany's Matthias Alexander Rath and Stertaler-Unicef who set the new target with a mark of 77.85% but Britain's Emma Hindle then lifted the home fans when earning a score of 81.750% with Mistral Hojris. Saturday's Grand Prix Special gold medallists Cornellissen and Parzival relegated her however with a test that scored 90% for artistic merit and a final score of 87.35% and with just three left to go it seemed she might be about to do the double.

But as Totilas entered the ring he brought with him that spell-binding magic that has followed him everywhere over the last few months and the crowd were already electrified even before he entered the arena. With "Totally Totilas" - a compilation of classical music with a modern and dramatic spin - ringing out across Windsor Great Park he produced a spectacular display - the extended trot so extravagant, the piaffe so elevated and the passage so graceful that it left those watching with a lump in their throats.

Van Grunsven followed with a lovely freestyle from Salinero, but there was no doubt where the gold medal was going.

"I don't know what to say anymore," said an almost speechless Gal after breaking another world record again,having racked up an unbelievable 29 perfect-10 scores. He speaks as if he is humbled by the creature who is taking everyone's breath away. "He feels so good you cannot describe it, you have to feel it but you cannot put it into words".

And asked how he felt when he came out of the ring and discovered what he had done he said "I started to cry".

Stephen Clarke, President of the Ground Jury said: "Tonight was the greatest night our sport has ever seen - congratulations to the riders and the championship organisers and to the rest of the Ground Jury who have done a great job this week".

Cornelissen said she knew something amazing had happened when she heard the crowd roar when her compatriot was in the ring.

"I know he is an amazing rider and this is an amazing horse" she said.

Van Grunsven was pleased with Salinero's result. She heard about the scores of her fellow Dutch riders "and I thought yes, I'll go in there and give it a try again" she said.

She admitted "bronze was not what I was hoping for," but she can see, like everyone else, that a new era has dawned in this sport and that a new super-star has been born.

The stats

A total of 15 horse and rider combinations competed in the Grand Prix Freestyle competition.

6 of the horses competing tonight were stallions, including the winner, the remaining 9 were geldings.

All of the medallists were representing The Netherlands.

The youngest competitor was Germany's Susanne Lebek who rode Potomac into 14th place.

The youngest horses were the new champion Moorlands Totilas and Augustin ridden by Austria's Victoria Max-Theurer who are both nine year olds.