Ann Romney's horse heading to London to go for Olympic gold

Brian Cahn / Zuma Press

Ann Romney's horse, Rafalca, under the sure-handed guidance of trainer Jan Ebeling, at the National Grand Prix Dressage Championship at the United States Equestrian Federation Festival of Champions on Friday.

It’s time to shine up those riding boots and break out the top hat Ann Romney’s dressage horse will be competing in the London Olympics this summer. 

Rafalca, Romney's 15-year-old Oldenburg mare that she co-owns, qualified for the U.S. Equestrian Team after placing well at the U.S. Equestrian Federation National Dressage Championships in Gladstone, N.J., over the weekend.

Rafalca placed third, securing one of five open spots on the team. She was ridden to victory by Ann Romney’s trainer Jan Ebeling, 53, who has been an active rider and trainer on the international dressage circuit since relocating to the United States from his native Germany in 1984. He owns Rafalca along with his wife Amy, Ann Romney and an additional owner, Beth Meyer.  

Ann Romney attended the Championships in Gladstone and tweeted from the event, “It’s great to be part of the Olympics again. We are so proud of Jan and Team USA. Now let’s bring home the gold!”

The odds seem to be in Rafalca's favor. She placed high in the qualifying competition, scoring an overall 73.169% out of a possible 100, which put her nine slots ahead of her other teammates on the U.S. Equestrian Team. 

While this isn’t the first time Ebeling has tried to get Rafalca to the Olympics, this is the first time the mare has qualified. In an article for Dressage Today earlier this year, Ebeling wrote that he attempted to qualify Rafalca for a spot on the team to compete at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Unfortunately, Rafalca sustained a severe injury that left her unable to compete, putting her training back a year.

Since then, Ebeling says Rafalca has “done a lot of growing up,” and that his journey with her has "been long and emotional with ups and downs and more than a few bumps along the way." A “bump” included a botched ride at a qualifying competition for the 2009 World Cup. Rafalca refused a command in the ring and Ebeling failed to qualify. Still, he finished the ride smiling. “That’s part of who I am,” he said. “I don’t quit.”

Perseverance is something Ann Romney and her trainer have in common. She began dressage as a way to treat her multiple scelerosis, which she was diagnosed with in 1998. What began as therapy became a hobby and then, as her husband Mitt Romney puts it, an “addiction.” He said recently, “She's convinced [dressage helped] her regenerate her strength and renew that vigor, and so she cares very deeply about this sport and about horses...I joke that I'm going to send her to Betty Ford for addiction to horses." 

According to the U.S. Equestrian Federation, dressage requires the horse and rider to "combine the strength and agility of gymnastics with the elegance and beauty of ballet. The result is truly the best blend of sport and art."

Dressage horses are trained to respond to the slightest of gestures. Through the squeeze of a calf or the closing of fingers around the reins, horses can be commanded into pirouettes, a slow-motion trot, or into a series of "flying lead changes" where the horse appears to "skip" around the arena.

Ann Romney’s interest in dressage has been criticized as an elite sport for the wealthy that further separates the Romney family from regular Americans. Trainer Ebeling disagrees. In an interview with, he said, “The visibility that Ann brings to the sport can be extremely positive, a real benefit for equestrian sport.” He called the partnership between the co-owners as something wonderful to share, with both joys as well as tears.  

Like any good dressage horse, Rafalca has remained poised throughout all the media attention. “She doesn’t understand what’s going on,” Ebeling said. “I do, of course, so it’s up to me to remain focused on what we need to do, to go into the ring just like we do every day at home and ride the best we can…and to take care of her.”

Ann Romney's horse Rafalca has qualified for the London Olympics and will compete in the sport of dressage. contributor Jillian Eugenios thinks that more animals should be taught how to skip. 


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Discuss this post

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I honestly can't believe how this article has turned into a politcal contest. No where does it state that there is a tax write off on the horse. For your information all Olympic equestrians are NOT, repeat, NOT financially supported by the IOC or major manufactuers. They ride on donated horses or their own and have to pay their own expenses. As for owning a horse being a "rich mans" thing. No its not. I have two horses and have a budget in which I live within. I am also a therapeutic riding instructor working with riders with all sorts of disabilities. You have NO IDEA of what being on a horse can do for someone who lives in a wheelchair. So people, get your facts straight. This article was about Ann Romney being part owner of the horse. Its not about a political debate or a tax write off. What a bunch of hippocrits.

  • 2 votes
Reply#26 - Tue Jun 19, 2012 11:01 AM EDT

Funny how the Repugs made fun of John Kerry windsurfing, but it's all okay to be a bunch of horse jockeys.

  • 1 vote
Reply#27 - Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:38 PM EDT

It's not funny. It's pathetic. Both parties are a joke. Of course they made fun of him windsurfing. Either side will do anything to gain an edge over the other. They are a bunch of whores.

  • 1 vote
#27.1 - Tue Jun 19, 2012 3:02 PM EDT

Any eight year old horse crazy girl knows what dressage is! Sheesh people, just because rich people take part in a sport doesn't mean they own it. Plenty of "average" folks have horses and take part in events that are expensive. They just work hard and scrimp in other areas of their lives to do so. Envy is ugly....

  • 2 votes
Reply#28 - Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:01 PM EDT

OMG!!!! Does every single story (and following comments) have to be compared to politics???

A story about priests fondling little boys, walking stone statues, just about everything has to have some sort of political reference to it.

Please just stop the madness.

    Reply#29 - Wed Jun 20, 2012 4:05 PM EDT

    I am happy the Romneys have a lot of money. What bothers me is that they act as if they are in tune with the average Joe. When they get publicity for the over the top items they own and then pretend they understand our plight, there is a huge disconnect. Instead of trying to walk the fine line between wealth and superwealth, I wish they would come clean, celebrate their good fortune and stop pretending to be one of us. I guess lying is in their genes.

    • 1 vote
    Reply#30 - Fri Jun 29, 2012 2:48 PM EDT

    get off your high horses, there are more regular folks that ride dressage
    than rich folks. it's all the winers that talk about the elite ones because
    it fits there agenda. sad state of affairs. hope they all bring home the gold!

      Reply#31 - Thu Jul 5, 2012 2:57 PM EDT

      This woman has never worked, I love Obama, but I don't think he understands that when a single woman has to raise her kids to the best of her ability-it's hard. Women get lower pay overall, child care is outrageous. I could not afford the things that most kids would love to do, football, baseball, summer camps, etc. When my oldest was signed up for high school, the school district wanted me to "pay" for his books (which was way over $100-my son is 42 now). I fought the district as we are afforded a "free" education. I won. What types of Charity Organizations could benefit if she were to "sell" her portion. I can think of one at the TOP of my list and that is St. Jude's. Both make me wonder what their "real" priorities are. Why isn't Ms. Romney on the campaign trail with her hubby? Instead she's spending her time having fun at the Olympics, not a good showing. Oh by the way where are the kids? I love horses, grew up going to horse shows where my friends were showing (I was i high school). Those who owned horses they could show had some bucks

        Reply#32 - Fri Jul 27, 2012 12:01 PM EDT

        Please tell me they did not tie that horse on top of an airplane to get to London

          Reply#33 - Fri Jul 27, 2012 12:24 PM EDT

          Being one of the 0.0001%, you can keep beach volley ball, and give me more equestrian events. The reason I even found this article is my constant search to find out the equestrian events. Bless you Mrs. Romney, maybe this year they will actually show some of them. As for the people that don't understand dressage, it actually comes from the time of mounted warriors, you had to be able to control your mount when both hands were full, and they had to be exceptional mounts to do it. Contrary to most of the people that posted on here, breeding doesn't matter, heart and honesty do.

            Reply#34 - Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:41 PM EDT
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