Olympics and Elections

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The Summer Olympics and the Presidential elections are intertwined in my brain because they happen at the same time every four years (conveniently on years that are a multiple of four, like 2008 and 2004). This is a wild time for news organizations since they literally have to rush from one huge event to the other, with my colleagues and friends who are photographers and editors that work both sports and national news leaving home for months at a time.

Which all makes me chortle a bit about Ann Romney and the choice she might have to make this summer. Please, please don't think I'm making any type of political statement here, much less a prediction for the Olympic dressage team. But Ann is part owner of Rafalca, who is fourth on the long list for the Olympic dressage team in 2012. And the Olympics will take place in London just two weeks before the Republican convention.

I can just hear it now: ?Sorry dear, can't go campaigning with you. Have to go to London to cheer on my horse.? Everything in life is a matter of perspective, of course, but when I say, ?Sorry, Henry, dinner will be late tonight. I stayed longer at the barn than I planned,? or ?I can't go to a movie with you tonight because I need to get up early tomorrow to braid for a show,? it just doesn't present the same kind of dilemma.

Actually, Mitt Romney has been famously supportive of Ann?s riding and her interest in horses. For one thing, riding has helped bring her back to health. She found riding (which led her to dressage), when she was seriously debilitated by multiple sclerosis, and she credits riding as one of her key therapies. Her own riding led her to support California trailer Jan Ebeling with top competition horses. She keeps her own riding horses with him and returns to California to ride and compete herself when she can. She has accomplished a lot as an adult amateur, including earning a USDF gold medal at grand prix.

My path crossed with Ann?s several times in the past few years. I judged her once at Prix St. Georges, and her horse Baron still sticks in my mind as a horse I would love to see leave the show in my own trailer. What a lovely gentleman! We were both stabled near each other at Ox Ridge in CT maybe six years ago and I remember hosing down our horses side-by-side and chatting happily about the good rides we'd just had. Later that year, we were also stabled near each other at the regionals and she was again taking care of her horse herself. She was gracious and fun to have around that weekend.

Actually, at most dressage shows, I see people taking care of their own horses (often, with the help of family and friends) no matter what kind of resources they might have. The folks who use grooms are usually those who have too many horses there to do all the work themselves and still compete. Understanding your horse all the way from the barn to the ring seems to be part the nature of dressage and the kind of partnership needed to succeed.

Anyway, I'm cheering on Ann and Rafalca for this summer, at least as far as the Olympics are concerned.