Ann Romney Stays Loyal to Dressage, Plans to Breed Rafalca
Ann Romney, the wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, signaled she has no plan to exit the sport of dressage, which has led to charges that her husband is out of touch with ordinary Americans.
Romney said she will try breeding from Rafalca, the 15- year-old mare she co-owns, which was competing at the Olympic Games in London today. The earliest the horse could foal would be 2014 if it stopped competing this year, or later if she continues competing, as her owners intend.
“We’ll try that,” Romney said in an interview when asked if she planned to breed from the mare. “We just love her.”
Rafalca has at least another year of competition in her, rider Jan Ebeling told reporters after his performance today, and said he has discussed with the mare’s owners the possibility of breeding from her when she retires.
“Since she’s very sound, we’re probably going to see her for a year or two,” he told reporters. “There are thoughts about breeding from her, I think she’d make a great brood mare.”
Britain won the team dressage today for the first time, ending a run of five straight gold medals for Germany, which got silver. The Netherlands got the bronze. The U.S. was sixth.
Ebeling and Rafalca finished 28th place after two tests, which left the pair out of the individual freestyle final in two days. The top 18 riders advanced.
Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican presidential candidate. As Rafalca pursued Olympic glory, she became a political punch line. Former Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore’s Current TV put together a comparison of the costs of raising a family and raising a dressage horse. (Family shelter, $16,352; horse, $28,800.)
In June, Stephen Colbert opened his show on the Comedy Central network with a long Rafalca bit.
“The image of Romney as a privileged princeling ends today,” Colbert said, “because now Mitt is just your average blue-collar fan of dressage.” Colbert then donned a foam finger and trucker hat, chugged from a bottle of beer, and chanted, “Rafalca, No. 1!”
The equestrian breeding season in the northern hemisphere typically runs from March until the end of July and mares carry for 11 months.
Rafalca was more settled today than during her first test last week. The Oldenburger bay mare scored the highest points on accurate transitions and half-passes, while her pirouettes at the end were slightly too big.
After Rafalca came to a halt, Romney, who was sitting with co-owners Beth Meyer and Amy Ebeling, stood and applauded from the fifth row of the grandstand as the horse and rider scored 69.302 percent.
Ebeling blew a kiss to the women, who he described as “the three amigos,” and later joined them in the stand, where U.K. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt had also gone to sit next to them.
“Fabulous, it was wonderful, she is elegant and consistent again,” Romney said as she left the grandstand, wearing a red raincoat.
“He was great,” she said, as she put her arm on the German-born Ebeling’s shoulder.
Ebeling sparked Romney’s interest in dressage and it helped her deal with multiple sclerosis, she said.
“With this guy right here, helping me with my MS,” Romney said when asked how she got involved in the sport.
Romney added she was “very impressed” with Ebeling’s teammate Steffen Peters and Ravel, who are lying in seventh place ahead of the freestyle final with 76.254 percent.
“I’m really happy with the horse, she did great,” Ebeling said. “She’s been really good this week, she’s given it her all and that’s all I could ask.”
The U.S. Equestrian Federation, which wants to use the publicity around dressage from Romney’s involvement to boost the sport in the U.S., had handed out foam fingers and trucker caps to supporters in the first round on Aug. 2 in an attempt to redress its elitist image.
“I think having Mrs. Romney and having the visibility and having the mainstream media report on our sport so much has really been a great thing,” Ebeling said. “If just one kid takes up riding and makes their way to the Olympics, my job is done.”