The man who will ride Ann Romney’s horse, Rafalca, in the Olympics insists that dressage is not a sport solely for the upper class, and that any family on a, “normal budget” could afford to buy, train and feed their own horse for competition.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, Jan Ebeling, the 53-old who will ride Rafalca, pushed back against the notion that the sport is elitist, saying that he and others on the Romney’s riding team are not all millionaires. Riding lessons aren’t too expensive, Ebeling said, nor is the cost of buying a young, cheap horse.
An analysis by Current.com estimated that it costs on average $28,800 to shelter a dressage horse annually, or more than half the roughly $52,000 median household income nationwide from 2006-2010. That figure does not include the costs of feeding, clothing and transporting a dressage horse either, which bring the total ownership costs to around $55,000.
Critics have assailed Ann Romney’s partial ownership of Rafalca as another sign that she and her husband are woefully out of touch with average Americans. For his part, Mitt Romney has done little to assuage that concern when it comes to sports. In February, Romney told a reporter in Florida that though he didn’t follow NASCAR, he had good friends who owned racing teams. One month later, despite being heavily lampooned for that miscue, he said the same of NFL team owners.
Dressage is an equestrian sport in which riders take their horses through a series of specific trots and maneuvers, each of which are then rated by a panel of judges.