A horse is a horse, of course, of course, unless it’s an unforgivable betrayal of the American working class.
Ann Romney co-owns Rafalca, a mare headed to the London Olympics to compete in dressage. This has sparked no small amount of mockery and even some righteous outrage. How dare Mrs. Romney spend so much money on a dancing hay burner? It’s not like Democratic presidential candidates ever buy $7 million yachts; 28,200 square foot mansions on 100 acres; or private jets, right? And it’s not as if the last Republican presidential nominee had a wife with a drift racing hobby requiring multiple expensive vehicles, right?
Even Barack Obama–one of few presidential candidates in recent memory to neither descend from nor marry into hereditary wealth–has an expensive hobby or two. He recently played his 100th round of golf since taking office.
That said, if you’d really like to object to Ann Romney’s horse habit, that’s your right, but you might as well have your facts straight. Let’s start with the big one:
Myth: Mitt Romney took a $77,000+ tax deduction for Rafalca’s upkeep.
Reality: Mitt took a $50 deduction after reporting $77,731 in losses from “Rob Rom Enterprises, LLC,” a corporate entity formed to own and pay for Rafalca.
Myth: Rafalca will one day earn millions in the breeding shed, allowing Romney to carry hobby losses forward, offset them against future hobby income, and take that $77,000 tax deduction.
Reality: Rafalca is female. At most, she’ll have one foal per year (and maybe a few more by embryo transfer, I guess). Selling foals is a much less lucrative business than selling breedings. A good chunk of mares aren’t even fertile by Rafalca’s current age of 15, so it’s very possible she’ll never foal.
Myth: Ann Romney owns Rafalca.
Reality: Ann Romney co-owns Rafalca with two other women: A “Beth Meyer” and Amy Ebeling, the wife of Rafalca’s rider, Jan Ebeling. The horse’s purchase price is not known, nor is the percentage of the horse owned by Ann Romney a matter of public record at this time. Jan’s wife has been described as a “family friend” of the Romneys. Syndication is common at the upper levels of equestrian sports, in order to share the substantial expense of importing and maintaining a top equine athlete.
Myth: Ann Romney owns Rafalca for the prestige and isn’t herself an athlete.
Reality: After being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, Ann Romney took up dressage for its therapeutic benefits, which have been recognized by the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. According to Ann Romney, when she began riding, her condition had weakened her muscles so badly that she could barely sit on a horse. Ann eventually received her gold medal rider award from the United States Dressage Federation. This isn’t a terribly unusual story; many MS patients, including a dear friend of my family who runs marathons, have found that intense and regular exercise is their most successful therapy.
From Dressage Daily:
Ebeling’s partnership with the Romneys began when the couple was living in Utah while Mitt was overseeing the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Jan was traveling to Salt Lake City to do clinics and Ann began to ride with him. At the time, Ann’s multiple sclerosis was so severe she could only ride for five minutes.
Myth: We’ve always been at war with East Asia, I mean always made fun of horse dancing!
Reality: Okay, even us fellow equestrians make fun of dressage sometimes. “Dressage Queens” are a barn favorite for their comedic value, as they carefully pick tiny shreds of manure out of the arena footing on the theory that their precious Hanoverian won’t be able to pirouette in anything less than perfect footing, even as that same Hanoverian is busy voluntarily rolling in manure in her stall. Also, this shit is hilarious:
But not so long ago, many of the same people now dismissing Rafalca as a useless “dancing horse” were oohing and ahhing over this famous dressage performance:
The mare pictured is now deceased and won’t be competing against Rafalca in London, but here are a few comments on her performance:
what a stunning partnership between man and mare and music .. just perfect
This performance is beyond any compliment and I can come up with. I know next to nothing about horses, but the dance he does when the rock music comes on, is so impressive.
Most beautiful thing I have seen .. not just spectacular in the timing and movements – but actually beautiful .. certain sections even brought tears to my eyes
I don’t generally watch this type of thing, but this is truly a thing of beauty.
So basically, dressage is deeply moving and a thing of stunning beauty when we’re passing around YouTube clips, but if the Romneys have anything to do with it, it’s useless horse dancing and just another way to flaunt their wealth. Got it!
Myth: We’d be better off if Ann gave her money to charity.
Reality: Guys, don’t give her any ideas! Shhh! The more she spends on her horse, the less she’ll have for a long list of anti-gay and right-wing organizations supported by the Romneys, whose $3,000,000 in 2010 donations amounted to 15% of their income. More than half of that went to the Mormon church, which requires generous tithing by all members. (To be fair, they did also give to cancer charities, a group building homes for veterans, camps for children with disabilities, and various other laudable organizations, through Romney’s personal Tyler Foundation.)
Myth: All equestrians are rich.
Reality: The average salary of a horse trainer is $34,000. On that money, you kinda need a few out of touch trophy wives to buy and keep up your horses if you’re going to get to the Olympics.
Myth: Jan Ebeling is some kind of out of touch elitist like the Romneys, and/or Rafalca is a dirty secret nobody talks about.
Reality: If you want to know about Rafalca’s personality, dressage scores, or general doings, you can read about it straight from Jan on a regular basis in the Chronicle of the Horse. Seems like a nice guy, at least in writing, and anyone involved in sports will recognize the attitudes and vocabulary of an athlete. There’s also an interesting interview with Jan here, where he discusses his childhood dreams of playing professional soccer, and how he ended up as a horseman instead.
Horses are an expensive hobby. Like yachts, 100 rounds of golf at exclusive courses, private jets, and luxury homes, they’re often out of reach for working class families, unless they’re willing to sacrifice an awful lot (as I have in order to keep my equine kids, who are about as close to the Olympics as I am to being Queen of England).
Ann Romney is an elitist, tone deaf rich bitch who genuinely thinks she’s just like you, despite her family’s estimated net worth of $200 million. Her husband’s economic policies would benefit Ann Romney and harm just about everyone else.
But do Romney’s policies matter, or do his wife’s hobbies matter?
The world’s most generous philanthropist, Bill Gates, spent $28,000,000 on this:
Ann Romney spent some portion of $77,000 plus a purchase price that might be some portion of $150,000 or so on this:
I don’t like Ann Romney any more or any less because of her six-figure horse, any more than I think more or less of Bill Gates, who has personally saved 6,000,000 lives through his charitable works, because of his eight-figure painting of a horse and some people.
Mitt Romney is wrong for America because Mitt Romney is a vulture capitalist, was a terrible Governor, and can’t propose a damn thing that would benefit anyone but the 1% to save his life. His wife’s horse has nothing to do with it, and I hope we’ll get back to talking policy after everyone’s had their laugh. Some more dressage videos, to help you get it out of your system:
Hip-Hop Horse Dancing:
Born this Neigh?:
Just a really good freestyle:
Dressage with no bridle:
Taking “Dressage Queen” too literally:
(Note: I’m not front-paging this myself because it’s more of a personal rant that’s too long for a comment, and this is a pretty small issue in a huge campaign. I just figured I’d put my thoughts down in one diary instead of 10 more comments.)