The Political Equestrian: Ann Romney's Comments Hit Home for Horses

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The Jurga Report is strictly apolitical, but today's CBS News footage featuring Ann Romney at?Marion Therapeutic Riding Association in Ocala, Florida, begs to be seen far and wide in the horse world.

Here are two brief clips provided by CBS:

When was the last time you saw anyone connected with politics speak to the world from the saddle?

Ann Romney has been ridiculed because of her involvement in dressage, which some people insist on calling "dancing horses" or "horse ballet". I actually think that her husband used those descriptive terms initially to simplify the concept for reporters.

But in reality, the roots of dressage are in military training for horses. And if horses in history performed to music in parades and ceremonies, they were perhaps dancing--but still on serious duty.

I think the sport of dressage needs to hold a press conference and defend itself. The entire horse industry would do well to speak out against the slander of the Romneys for being elitist because they own horses. Horses are part of the lifestyle for people of all economic strata in the USA. I realize that that might not be true in all countries in the world.

Remember the carriage mules who swam out of New Orleans after Katrina? Have you ever been to a small town rodeo or a 4-H horse show? Are the handicapped children riding with Mrs Romney in Ocala snobs?

I don't think so.

Horse are part of the fabric of America. So are horseowners. We are not any more elitist than any other sport that has many levels. Golf has local pay-per-rounds public courses and it has the Masters. Is golf elitist? Is tennis? Skiing?

We need to defend ourselves--and maybe earn some publicity for the benefits that horses bring to people and the communities where we live. Most of the horse people I know are far removed from the upper echelon of the stereotyped "horsey set".

In the past month, we've reported on the selection of Equestrian Conservation Land Resource (ECLR) for the horse industry's "Equine Vision" award. A woman has finally broken the gender barrier and graduated to rider status at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Blue-collar eventer Oliver Townend, a milkman's son, may well beat out Zara Phillips, grand-daughter of the Queen, for a place on the British Olympic team. I'll Have Another, poised to win the Triple Crown on Saturday in the Belmont Stakes, was purchased for $35,000. Most of the horses who will line up against him cost ten times that--or more.

Are there elitist pockets of the horse world? Certainly, and they deserve criticism if they are not opening their ranks to a wider group of participants and fans. What is your sport, breed or discipline doing to attract new riders, new fans, a broader base of owners or a more secure future in the communities where you live, ride or compete?

Mrs Romney's comments today are a start but I hope not the end of the conversation.

What would you like to add to Ann Romney's soundbite? If someone stuck a microphone in front of you as you walked your horse around the arena the next time you ride, what would you have to say to the world about owning horses? Do you think anyone would listen?

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