Olympic Dressage: Rafalca vs. Stephen Colbert

20 June 2012

It wasn’t in anyone’s script, but dressage at the London 2012 Olympics is front page news. It’s not about Totilas or Parzival this time, however. It’s about a horse named Rafalca. Who?

Can’t a woman just love her horse and want to make it to the Olympics? Maybe not, if your husband is running for President of the United States.

A week or two ago, “Rafalca” was just another name on the longish list of top US horses hoping to represent the USA at the Olympics in London. That meant that the California-based warmblood mare would travel east with trainer Jan Ebeling to impress the USET selection committee at the Festival of Champions at Gladstone, New Jersey. And Stephen Colbert had never heard of dressage, let alone Rafalca. Rafalca was a contender, but not a shoo-in, to make the team. She’d have to earn her ticket. And, to her credit, she did. But when the New York Times and other media began to publicize the fact that presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann were part owners in the horse, “Rafalca” was suddenly pronounceable and spellable. And Stephen Colbert, in his inimitable way, had done dressage a huge favor by making fun of Rafalca, the sport of dressage and the Romneys’ involvement. Colbert’s backwards compliment–by even featuring the virtually unknown sport of dressage on his popular television show at all–was a lemon that the US Equestrian Federation was delighted to make into a gourmet lemonade: Who knew that dressage riders had a sense of humor? Somehow, word reached Colbert this week that the USET-types–including Ann Romney–were having some fun of their own–at his expense. So, Tuesday night, Colbert shot back across the withers with a congratulatory monologue (with more great props) for Rafalca’s Olympic team placing.

Would you put this bumper sticker on your car? Stephen Colbert might. Rafalca Romney’s participation in the Olympics will put a media spotlight on the sport of dressage that it has never known before. But brace yourself for more comedians to poke fun at the sport and the Romneys’ involvement in it.

Meanwhile, Rafalca Romney has a very active Twitter account that is a steady stream of double entendres and political jabs. And it doesn’t end there: The Romneys are planning to be in London to watch their horse perform. What effect will their presence have on media coverage of the sport and of the equestrian complex at Greenwich Park overall? Totilas may not be losing any sleep over whether he can beat Rafalca. But when he gets to London, he may be wondering why, just this once, not all the cameras at a dressage event will be pointed at him. Totilas who? ????????? Fran Jurga is a freelance writer and editor from Gloucester, Massachusetts. Her award-winning blogs include The Jurga Report for EQUUS Magazine and War Horse News on the 2011 Steven Spielberg film. Fran is the founder of Hoofcare and Lameness Journal and writes a specialist Hoof Blog.? Fran wrote the WorldRides blog for the Hong Kong equestrian events of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Discover WEG blog for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010.You can follow Fran on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter for more news about the horse world.


What did you think of this article?

Thank you for your feedback!