Ralfaca as therapy

I wrote this as a long comment on FB, but don’t see any reason not to post it here.

Something has been bothering me about the whole Ann Romney / Ralfaca thing, and I finally figured out what it was. Everyone is taking the “Ralfaca is a therapy horse” at face value. But she’s not a therapy horse, she’s a high end performance athlete. At the level Ralfaca competes at putting someone who needs riding therapy on her is going to harm her performance. That’s not a criticism, there are people that have horses shown by their trainers and they Do Not Ride them during the competition season.

In the back of my mind I’ve always wondered what kind of therapy Ann Romney does on Ralfaca. Riding a grand prix dressage horse is not easy. The dressage barn I interviewed at for an instructor position (oh these billion years ago) had one grand prix horse that was used to teach riders what the proper moves felt like. But not just anyone was allowed to ride him.

Also, therapy horses need to have certain personalities. “Bombproof” would be the colloquial term for it. Particularly for someone with MS, who may not have the muscular control that is needed to stay in the saddle when something scary happens. And we’ve seen that even grand prix horses can spook and have a bit of a issue (see: David Marcus at the Olympic dressage competition).

I’m pretty convinced that Ralfaca is not an actual therapy horse for her. This doesn’t mean I have any problem with her owning an expensive Grand Prix horse, or backing Jan Ebling and his farm, or supporting the team. That’s how many of the really great riders make their living. But just because she owns the horse doesn’t mean she rides her. And I don’t think she does, at least not regularly enough to “get relief from MS.”



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