Just the other day this blog was quoting the superlatives coming out of the European dressage championships at Windsor Castle in England. Things went from the greatest to the unbelievable last night when, for the first time ever, a score above 90% was awarded in the musical freestyle to Dutch rider Edward Gal and the nine-year-old black stallion Moorlands Totilas.
I don't know what sort of biomechanics study could be done on this horse to figure out how he does what he does. He doesn't seem large. Doesn't look massive in the hind end. He actually looks quite closely coupled, yet his strides in the extended trot and canter look to be ground-gobbling. I can only assume that all his parts are equally massive, equally developed in a harmonious unit and yet...how does he manage to be so light on his feet, so loose at the shoulder?
I know one problem with watching this horse is that the rider is a very tall man, so his frame gives the illusion that the horse is smaller than he probably is.
Maybe a scanning session would show that his tendons and ligaments are bionic, that he has the support system of a warmblood on the feather-light skeleton of a racehorse. Something's up with this horse--something wonderful.
Holland also finished in second and third place. I'm certainly not an expert or a dressage critic and nothing should be taken away from Parzival and Salinero, yet it is interesting to see how differently constructed they are, and how their frames appear larger and especially longer. These horses seem to be exquisitely (and successfully) focused in order to nail the exact movements, like a tennis player at Wimbledon taking exact aim, while the black seems to perform them in a more relaxed mode, a la Tiger Woods.
Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas performed to Celtic-type music, complete with echoing drums and ringing church bells, in the shadow of England's Windsor Castle. And it worked.(FEI photo by Kit Houghton)With luck, Totilas will stay sound and remain in training for a trip to the USA next September for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. A lot can happen between now and then, including the return of the top Germans who were sidelined for this week's competition.
Share this video, savor this moment, and celebrate this horse. This is what a sound, healthy horse looks like at the peak of condition without a thought of resistance or tension on his mind.
Watching Totilas brings to mind the fleet-footed racing star of this year, filly Rachel Alexandra, who seems to win her races for the joy of running fast because she can. It seems 2009 is a year of at least two great horses at the pinnacle of their respective sports. Enjoy them while they are here with us; we all know that soundness can be fleeting and they are two of the legends we'll remember in the future.
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