Rafalca’s Horse Sense: What Dressage Can Teach Mitt Romney About Politics

If the Republican presidental candidate had watched his wife's horse Rafalca going through her paces in the dressage competition, he'd have acquired valuable wisdom.

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David Goldman / AP

Jan Ebeling of the U.S. rides Rafalca in the equestrian dressage competition at the London 2012 Summer Olympics on Aug. 2, 2012. Rafalca is co-owned by Ann Romney, the wife of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney‘s political nemesis is called Rafalca. She wears her black ponytail long and luxuriant, sports an immaculate brown coat and, despite being only 15 and born in Germany, far from U.S. soil, has already entered this fall’s U.S. presidential horse race. The Oldenburg mare, owned in part by Romney’s wife Ann, qualified for the Olympics in June.

As a living, breathing, clippety-cloppeting, velvet-nosed and liquid-eyed avatar of Romney’s extreme wealth, she’s given her uncle Mitt the kind of handicap his advisers fear might make his path to the White House heavy going. That may be why the Republican presidential hopeful betrays scant interest in his wife’s four-legged protégé. During Romney’s accident-prone sojourn in London in late July, he told NBC‘s Brian Williams that he didn’t even know when Rafalca would be appearing at the Games — “I have to tell you,” he said, “this is Ann’s sport.” And he left the U.K. the morning after the Games opened, missing by six days Rafalca’s Aug. 2 Olympic debut in the grand prix dressage test; she competed both for individual glory and as a member of the U.S. Olympic team, scoring 70.243 and finishing in 13th place out of 25 after the first of two days of such tests.

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Rafalca did make a few key errors. She seemed to lack a little oomph in the hindquarters; she fumbled a move known as a flying change, in which the horse swaps her lead leg midcanter. But Ann Romney, with justification, declared the steed she sponsors “consistent and elegant. She did not disappoint. She thrilled me to death.”

Consistency and elegance. Not disappointing. Thrilling someone to death. How many pols dream of inspiring such responses in voters? That’s why, among the mistakes Romney committed on his foreign tour, distancing himself from Rafalca may be the most serious. (Insulting Britons in the NBC interview by calling into question London’s readiness to host the Olympics surely still rankles. The British daily the Guardian hailed Rafalca’s performance with the following headline: “Ann Romney’s Horse Fails to Win Dressage but Avoids Offending British.”) Because if the former Massachusetts governor had watched Rafalca going through her paces in London, he’d have acquired valuable wisdom. There’s much that the political arena could learn from the equestrian one, especially from dressage.

Patience is a virtue exemplified by the sport, says Claudia Fassaert. The Belgian dressage star, riding Donnerfee, another Oldenburg mare, scored 71.793 to achieve seventh place. That means that, unlike Rafalca and her rider Jan Ebeling, Fassaert and Donnerfee have a good chance of ending the second day, Aug. 3, in the top 11 and qualifying for the next phase of the individual competition. The performances of the rest of the Belgian and U.S. teams will determine whether either makes it into the top seven and qualifies for the next phase of team competition.

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Fassaert, 42, has been perfecting her technique since she was 16 and has been working with Donnerfee for eight years. Strolling outside the arena after her impressive performance, she readily agrees that dressage provides a template for good politics, “especially the balance between doing what you want and not overdoing it, because if you overdo things you will ruin everything.” She says what is important is trust and relationship building. You can see it when a rider is trying to force a horse to do something it doesn’t want to, she adds: “The beauty gets out of it” when that happens. This is horse ballet, a display of creativity and technique, in which horse and rider aim to work in perfect harmony, trotting, pirouetting, smoothly transitioning from one gait to another. The horses arch their necks, prance, dance. Persuasion, not coercion; good communication; a sense of direction; accuracy; honesty: these are the bedrocks of dressage. Reining back, in a good way, is marked high.

It costs a lot to develop and maintain a great dressage horse, but in other respects, dressage is an equal-opportunity sport. Male and female riders, geldings, stallions and mares all compete on the same level. Veterans can hold their own against much younger participants, as seen with Japanese rider Hiroshi Hoketsu, who, at 71, is the oldest Olympian to fight for a medal in London. Atop a gorgeous chestnut mare called Whisper, he scored 68.739 and ended the day in a respectable 17th place.

One mount — a gelding called Capital — was disqualified after exhibiting histrionics that may have been provoked by a sudden torrential downpour. As Capital failed, drenched spectators sympathized. The judges showed no mercy. Dressage is about avoiding mistakes where possible and handling them well when they happen. At the top of the table are two Britons, Carl Hester on Uthopia and his teammate Laura Bechtolsheimer on Mistral Hojris, who displayed exactly these skills, leaving Britain and its riders in pole position to win the individual and team medals.

Rafalca, by contrast, is far from certain to make it through to the next rounds, on Aug. 7 and Aug. 9. Mitt Romney’s advisers may have breathed a sigh of relief at the thought that their boy wouldn’t be coming under pressure to return to London and risk being photographed next to his wife’s pricey hobby horse. Such a reaction would be, quite frankly, manure. No politician should resist the opportunity to acquire a bit of horse sense, and London 2012’s equestrian arena is the place to do just that.

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11 comments
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Song Sophia
Song Sophia

The horsedates.org is made up of equestrian,countrysidelovers,horse and rider,offer members a great way to find

that special someone,find meaningful,loving relationships and friendships that will last a lifetime.

James
James

Sounds like the writer is envious.  But as far as I can tell the rear end of this horse reminds me of Obama's better half.

Orville Hahn
Orville Hahn

Personally as an American, I'm proud we have such talented

riders and horses to represent the United States of America at the Olympics.

The reason why this horse Rafalca is in the news, is not because of who owns

it.

 

What makes Rafalca a new story comes from a track record of

failure. Record spending and debt with nothing but record unemployment to show

for it. The Obama care that was passed with the corn husker kickback, The

Louisiana Purchase, the procedural changes in the Senate, so the newly elected

Scott Brown would not be able to vote against it.(to keep from passing)

 

Then there are the presidential executive orders that do a

end run around the Constitution and Congress, then there is the Attorney General

Eric Holder. I'll leave it at that, if you need the details contact me at http://cloudshorsetackblog.com...

.

 

The whole point of all this is there is a factual record,

that some don't want to talk about. Class warfare is much easier to talk about,

it's emotional. The top 5% of American taxpayers, pay for 80% of America's

yearly expenditures. I think they already pay their share. I'm ashamed to say

there's a slice of Americans that don't educate themselves to find out what the

truth really is, and unfortunately there's a slice of the media that doesn't

report the truth.

 

God bless America

Orville

Orville Hahn
Orville Hahn

Personally as an American, I'm proud we have such talented

riders and horses to represent the United States of America at the Olympics.

The reason why this horse Rafalca is in the news, is not because of who owns

it.

 

What makes Rafalca a new story comes from a track record of

failure. Record spending and debt with nothing but record unemployment to show

for it. The Obama care that was passed with the corn husker kickback, The

Louisiana Purchase, the procedural changes in the Senate, so the newly elected

Scott Brown would not be able to vote against it.(to keep from passing)

 

Then there are the presidential executive orders that do a

end run around the Constitution and Congress, then there is the Attorney General

Eric Holder. I'll leave it at that, if you need the details contact me at http://cloudshorsetackblog.com...

.

 

The whole point of all this is there is a factual record,

that some don't want to talk about. Class warfare is much easier to talk about,

it's emotional. The top 5% of American taxpayers, pay for 80% of America's

yearly expenditures. I think they already pay their share. I'm ashamed to say

there's a slice of Americans that don't educate themselves to find out what the

truth really is, and unfortunately there's a slice of the media that doesn't

report the truth.

 

God bless America

Orville

Yankee Doodle
Yankee Doodle

This article is nothing more than manure.

It is product of a conjuring and weak mind trying to create an allegory where none exists. It is a sample of pathological mind bending in an attempt to make something appear to be what it is not.

Most experiences in life are just what they appear and have no symbolic meaning.

ActLocal
ActLocal

Rafalka already taught him how to sidestep.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Ann Romney's horse performed moderately well in London, but her husband's performance was first-class ... as an undiplomatic jackass.

Format_Police ☆
Format_Police ☆

Please explain to me what diplomatic errors Romney made. I will refute your claims.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Thanks, Catherine. I saw Rafalca’s event and was impressed. If nothing else, Romney’s Rafalca connection probably got more US viewers to watch dressage today than ever before. Now if we only know the hell one judges that sport is another matter. Diving is already hard to figure out, though we can safely guess less splash = more points. (Of course, I wonder if football players would make great olympic divers, but I digress.) Bring back croquet and tug-of-war to the Games.

.

As for Romney, his sense of entitlement and lack of empathy / common touch may prevent him from understanding the finer points of political dressage you’re gently hinting at, but we swampland readers do get it. On the other hand, Ann Romney did NOT call the Royal Family “you people” today, so maybe not all is lost.

Brandt Hardin
Brandt Hardin

 

The amount of tax credits the Romneys receive from this

horse alone exceeds the average annual salary of an American household.  Is there any doubt that a Romney

administration would favor the rich and increase the income gap in our

country?  Mitt is a pariah in Mormon

Clothing and will stop at nothing to expand an empire of greed for the rich in

this country.  Can his sacred Mormon

underwear gain him enough donations to buy this election?  See for yourself as Mitt dons his

tighty-whities from the Good Lord Himself at

http://dregstudiosart.blogspot...