‘Mistake’ to select Totilas: Germany calls for stronger fitness tests for squad horses

  • German team selectors have been criticised for failing to apply rigorous fitness tests to Totilas before naming him for their FEI European Dressage Championship team.

    Making only his second championship appearance with Matthias Rath since 2011, Totilas showed irregularity in the grand prix team test last month (14 August) and finished sixth with 75.971% — far below his best.

    The stallion was withdrawn from the rest of the competition. Connections later revealed that a bone infection had been diagnosed in his near hind fetlock joint and announced his retirement, aged 15.

    Now, in a statement published by the German federation, its equestrian Olympic committee (DOKR) says it was a “mistake” to select him without assessing his health, and insists on stronger pre-championship fitness tests for German horses in all disciplines.

    “We already knew, with the nomination of the horse, that he is susceptible to injury because of what we have seen in previous years. Therefore, we should still have paid attention to his current state of health. That was, in retrospect, a mistake, “said DOKR director Dr Dennis Peiler.

    The DOKR also regretted that Totilas’s Aachen appearance was still a “talking point.”

    The sad end to the super-stallion’s career follows a catalogue of injury-related absences from major competitions since he was sold in 2010, after winning triple World Equestrian Games gold under Edward Gal, to Paul Schockemohle and Ann-Katrin Linsenhoff. Her stepson, Matthias Alexander Rath, got the ride.

    In nearly five years together they have started at only 11 FEI shows and championships and have not attempted all three tests (grand prix, special and kur) since the Europeans at Rotterdam in 2011. They beat a below-par Valegro in the Aachen CDIO in July 2014, but did not compete internationally again till Hagen, a month before the Europeans, and were controversially excused from the German selection trial at Balve.

    Global dressage website www.dressage-news.com has a picture of the European Championship ground jury apparently in deep discussion before passing Totilas at the first horse inspection.

    DOKR has previously expressed misgivings about Totilas’ long absences from the ring. They removed him from the German A-Team in December 2012 — he had not competed since June that year and missed London 2012.

    At the time, Klaus Roeser, chairman of the DOKR Dressage Committee, stated that “of course we regret this very much, but we have to treat all team members equally. Naturally this pair will become a member of the championship team again as soon as we get a perspective on the first concrete show starts for the 2013 European Championships.”

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