Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker Defends Ann Romney’s Million-Dollar Horse Habit, Calls it “Therapy”

At first glance, it reads like a parody. But no, it’s a serious column in the Washington Postby Kathleen Parker (lately of CNN's "ParkerSpitzer"), who waxes indignant at “lefties” who have the audacity to resent what she terms “the horse crowd.”

Parker is hopping mad atcertain irreverent remarks made about Ann Romney’s co-ownership of a horse named “Rafalca” that will join the Olympian dressage team. Last weekend, while Mitt Romney was touring swing states, Ms. Romney was in Gladstone, N.J., watching her fancy steed compete at the Federation National Dressage Championships.

Gushing on Twitter, Ms. Romney wrote: “It’s great to be part of the Olympics again,” adding, “Now let’s bring home the gold!”

If there’s one thing the Romneys excel in, it’s bringing home the gold! Forbes magazine reports that if elected, Romney would be the wealthiest White House occupant ever in terms of total dollars, with a net worth of $230 million.

Back to upper-crusty equestrian pastimes. For the uninitiated, dressage, a.k.a. “horse ballet,” is an elite sport in which horses costing up to seven figures perform pirouettes and other complex moves for riders decked out in top hats and tails. Popularized by one percenters like William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the sport is a favorite of today’s moneybags, like the daughter of New York’s billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Talking down from her high horse, Parker insists that dressage not only an art form, but also a form of therapy:

“Dressage and horseback riding in general offer other rewards, including therapy for people who suffer maladies from physical disabilities to emotional imbalances. This should not be surprising, given the millennia-long relationship between humankind and horse that transcends mere transportation. Anyone who has ridden knows the deeply satisfying synchronicity between the movements and rhythms of human and horse. The emotional bond that also develops is not insignificant.”

Parker notes that Ann Romney uses horseback riding as a treatment for her multiple sclerosis. “Indeed, horseback riding is a commonly recommended activity for MS sufferers.” Okay. But dressage may not be so therapeutic for the actual horse: Practices like “over-bending,” which strains the neck, have been called out by veterinarians as abusive. And we’ll never know how Ms. Romney’s horse Marco Polo felt about being flipped over in a trailer while being transported.

According to the New York Times, Ms. Romney was ushered into the rarefied world of dressage-therapy by German-born trainer and equestrian Jan Ebeling:

“A taskmaster, Mr. Ebeling pushed Mrs. Romney to excel in high-level amateur shows. He escorted her on horse-buying expeditions to Europe. She shares ownership of the Oldenburg mare he dreams of riding in the Olympic Games this summer. Mrs. Romney and her husband, Mitt, even floated a loan — $250,000 to $500,000, according to financial records — to Mr. Ebeling and his wife for the horse farm they run in California, where the Romneys use a Mediterranean-style guesthouse as a getaway.”

Is spending gargantuan amounts of money on an elite sport also therapeutic? Maybe it is! But that is a forbidden question for Parker, who huffs that the Romneys’ “only sin” is “having been successful.”

In Mitt’s case, I could think of a few more sins, including massive layoffs, avoiding paying U.S. taxes, advocating off-shoring jobs, war-mongering, attacking women, gays, and immigrants, and oh, several dozen other things.

But in ParkerWorld, we are to congratulate Mitt Romney not only for his investing acumen, but his noble generosity:

“Romney’s opponents seem to be aghast that he has made money for investors (aren’t we all investors?), though they studiously ignore other greed-less facts: He never took a dime in salary for heading the Olympics in Salt Lake City nor as governor of Massachusetts, to mention a couple.”

Very reassuring. It has also been reported that the Romneys’ dressage horse-related tax deductions last year surpassed median U.S. household income.

But Ann Romney is doing God’s work, insists Parker:

“Should Ann Romney become first lady, perhaps she can promote the therapeutic benefits of horseback riding and encourage a culture that funnels the countless unwanted or retired horses to riding farms where emotionally or physically distressed people can enjoy the special communion between human and horse.”

Mm-kay. I like horses. And I don’t resent people riding them. But here’s what I do resent:  Fatcats who favor a system that shovels wealth towards the very top and leaves the rest of us high and dry.

That’s a horse of a different color. And one I don’t want anywhere near the White House.

AlterNet / By Lynn Stuart Parramore

Posted at June 23, 2012, 4:38am

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