In DQ land, there is only one topic right now: Edward and Totilas. I’m at the Blainville CDIs and the judges here just can’t shut up about the fabulous 9 year old who has shot like a space shuttle into stratospheric scores. I must confess that until he won the Dutch championships a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know Totilas existed. Everyone else seems to have known about him though – it’s become a form of name-dropping. ‘I remember watching him at small tour and thinking that was the best horse I had ever seen in my life’ – things like that are popping out of all kinds of mouths. Sure. Then why didn’t anyone say anything until he smoked the pants off the rest of the field at the Dutch champs? Maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention.
And speaking of smoke, that’s the colour I would use to describe Edward’s coat. When I watched the youtube videos, I thought the coat looked loose and billowy (hence the ‘frock’ reference in my previous posting). In still photos I see the thing is form fitting, but I think the pale colour is what made it look loose – dare I say sloppy? If you are guessing I’m not a fan of the grey triple-breasted coat with the black piping and velvet collar, you are right. Besides the involuntary association it causes me to have with the Mad Hatter, I found that the coat’s light colour made Edward’s outline disappear into the background. It might be ok live, but on video it was a bit like a ghost riding. If Edward were a messy rider or fat, I could see the merit in wearing something that made him disappear. But the guy sits like a ramrod, and is as slender as can be. Why waste that profile with a coat which hides it? If you are a reader of Dressage Today, watch for my set of interviews in the September issue, in which I asked 6 of the big voices in dressage what they think of relaxing the colour rules (I also asked them a few other pointed questions whose answers might surprise, delight and scare you – all at once).
So how about that freestyle, anyway? Totilas’ I mean. At least it wasn’t pounding techno trance, but now Edward has gone to the opposite extreme and used music that basically doesn’t have a beat to match the horse’s gaits at all. If he gets 86.7% for that, what will the judges give him if he decides to change up to music with a beat that matches the footfalls and actually enhances the horse’s already spectacular paces? Right now his music is just emotion – nothing to do with fitting the visual presentation – and I’ll bet if a lesser combination ventured into the ring with music like that their artistic scores would tank.
I guess I have to count myself as one of the people who just can’t shut up about Totilas, because I’m still not done. I do find his name a bit awkward, and I’m not the only one. A judge here at Blainville referred to him as ‘Tortillas’ yesterday. Depending on which syllable you stress, you can get to-TEA-lass, TOE-till-as or (and no disrespect meant here) to-till-ASS. I Googled the name to see if it means anything and discovered that there was a foundation Trakehner sire by that name, born in 1938. I assume the name is a nod to this horse’s heritage; Totilas was his great-great-great-great grandpa.
I’m sadly not surprised to discover that the BIG QUESTION on everyone’s minds is ‘will he stay sound?’ I can be cynical from time to time but I do find it kind of sad that instead of just being happy to think ‘holy crap batman what a horse’ the human mind has to go looking for a potential scab to pick. I love the horse, love the buzz he’s creating, and who can’t love the boat rocking that he’s causing on the scoreboard? I do worry a little that the judges have nowhere to go when he improves (and surely, at only 9 he will get even better than he already is), but perhaps we will see our first 90% thanks to Edward and Totilas. Now that Mathias Rath has rocked the German boat too, it looks like the sport is more wide open to the up-and-comers than it has been in a very long time.