Mitt Romney’s Dancing Horse: The ice skating of riding

Published 2:21 pm Friday, July 6, 2012

There is something, I think, every bit as sweet as eating a vine-ripened peach on the first day of summer.
That something is reaching a hard fought goal at middle age.
I speak of my former riding coach, Jan Ebeling, who, at 53, finished third in the national selection trials for the London Olympics and thereby clinched the last slot on the U.S. Team.
You probably haven’t heard of Jan but you may very well have seen him, either on late night talk shows or comedic emails forwarded to your inbox, labeled, “Mitt Romney’s Dancing Horse!”
The Romneys are comedic fodder for both David Letterman and Stephen Colbert as the sport portrayed is (also my life’s passion) dressage, and the Romneys own a string of these enormously expensive animals that, to the novice eye, look as though they’re prancing about to music with a rider guiding them through the movements, decked out in a silly outfit of top hat and tails.
Clearly, the footage of the Romney’s champion mare, Ralfaca, aired over and over is an attempt to illustrate another example of how ‘out of touch’ the multimillionaire candidate is with the rest of America.
Well, there’s a lot of truth to that but there is another side to be told as well and gird your loins, gentle readers, because this left-leaning southern gal is about to leap to the defense of this Republican family.
Dressage, a french word meaning ‘training,’ is often described by those of us engaged in the sport as ‘the ice skating of riding.’ Why? Because like ice skating, it should look fluid and beautiful and ever so effortless to do, but for anyone who has ever stepped on the ice or swung a leg over the back of a horse, you know very well how difficult it must be. I often tell my students that we’re rather like swans: above the water, pure grace. Below, paddling like mad.
Young dressage prospects begin around $50,000 and seasoned, successful, campaigners, easily a million or more.

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