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Jul 5

Written by: Diana West
Thursday, July 05, 2012 9:24 AM 

Rafalca and Jan Ebeling. Ebeling, Ann Romney and Beth Meyer each own  one-third of the 15-year-old Oldenburg mare, a dressage champion. With 53-year-old Ebeling aboard, Rafalca will be making her Olympics debut for the USA in August.


Robert Strauss, a longtime correspondent of this blog, writes in today concerning an anti-Olympics op-ed in the New York Times by two academics: Jules Bykoff, an associate professor of political science at Pacific University, "who is writing a book on dissent and the Olympics," and Alan Tomlinson, professor of "leisure studies" at the University of Brighton. Their piece critiques the commercialism of it all, the cronyism of it all, the privilege of it all (aha!) ... and "Ann Romney's horse," which is probably the raison d'etre of it all.

Bob writes:

Honestly, I don't have much concern for the Olympics one way or the other.  And gee, who'd a thunk that a major sports event would be overly commercialized!
But what's interesting about the Occupy-style tone of this article is that it could be applied perfectly to the Obama stimulus.  It's almost a parallel blueprint, especially the emphasis on cronyism and signage!

Eureka: It's the same anti-capitalist Agenda.

To improve the Olympics, the poli sci and "leisure studies" profs have a plan. They write:

Competitions drenched in privilege, like the equestrian events, should be ditched (with apologies to Ann Romney’s horse Rafalca, who will be competing in dressage in London). Pseudo-historical events like Greco-Roman wrestling, concocted in the 19th century, could also go. Events with high start-up costs could be swapped for those requiring fewer resources. Why not bring back tug-of-war (a hotly contested event in the early 20th century) and add more running events, like trail running and cross-country?

Can't you just see their rimless little Lenin glasses fogging up at the thought of "ditching" "privilege-drenched" equestrian events? And maybe the "p-d" equestrians themselves to boot! "Privilege" has no place in their brave new world; academic tenure, of course, is perfectly okay. Let them play tug-of-war!

Personally, I am all for privilege drenching society -- trickle-down and all that. In fact, since Marxists like economics so much, before the revolution, let's consider the relative economic impact of dressage and its apparently prole-approved replacement, tug-of-war.

To get a horse -- Rafalca -- to an international competition such as the Olympics takes a veritable army of working support staff: stable hands and sadlery craftsmen, blackmsiths and vets, horse air and truck transport companies, feed stores, trainers, teachers, riding clothes designers, fancy hatters, not to mention the gardeners, painters, carpenters, etc. whose labor is required to maintain a working horse farm. 

Tug of war, on the other hands, takes ... rope.

In other words, a lot of people could be out of work -- out of a way of life -- if Comrades Bykoff and Tomlinson are permitted to re-order the world to their Occupy-liking.

Meanwhile, in reading about Rafalca's rider-trainer and part-owner Jan Ebeling, I learned the German immigrant to the US is far from to-the-manner-born himself.


Jan grew up in the Oldenburg area of Germany as a city kid in a high rise apartment. His non-horsey family picked up on his love of animals, although he really wanted to play soccer. They couldn’t afford both sports, so they scraped together a way for him to ride. In return for riding lessons, he cleaned stables and to raise money hawked manure from a wheel barrow to families to fertilize their rose gardens. His riding was successful enough that he became an apprentice to the late great German dressage trainer Herbert Rehbein.

Then in 1984 he came to the United States much like a student tourist and met Robert Dover, one of the top American dressage riders at the time, who urged him to migrate. He moved, first to the East Coast, then Colorado and then on to California 20 years ago where he worked as a trainer at a barn for two years before joining Amy, now his wife, in business.

“The U.S. certainly has given me a fantastic opportunity which I might not have had if I’d stayed in Europe,” he said. “I think I have had access to horses that I may not have had I stayed in Europe.

“This is an amazing country. I just love this country. It has always been and still is a land of opportunity if–and a lot of people forget–you work hard.”

Like most professional horse people, hard work is his way of life and a routine shared by millions of other Americans no matter their pursuit.

Jan gets up at 6 a.m. to get their son, Ben, ready for school and typically is on his first horse to train at 7:30 a.m. He rides until lunch, grabs a sandwich which he usually eats while he starts teaching that goes up to 6 p.m. That’s five days a week. To earn enough money to pay the bills, most of his weekends are devoted to teaching clinics across the country, getting back home Sunday night ready to start again.

“For most of us trainers, we’re all in the same boat,” he said.

In sum, horse people are horse crazy.

True confession: I ride as much as I possibly can, which is not much. My love for horses began, as was customary, with reading Black Beauty countless times; was highlighted by one big year as a kid riding, jumping, tearing across country fields in Ireland a la National Velvet; and continues to this day as I longingly watch the odd rider trot by on a park trail. For the past ten years or so, I've been riding some in the summers. All of which I mention simply to note that almost without exception, the horse people I have known haven't been anywhere near "privilege-drenched."  

My riding teacher in Ireland, for example, was a 19-year old Cockney who never washed his hair and rode (dressage) like a dream. His claim to fame was that he'd ridden on the British Junior Olympics team (and, I later learned, had also run off with the local doctor's wife to set up the riding school). All he ever seemed to eat was cabbage soup.

My riding teacher now is the all-time hardest working field-hand, farmer, groomsman, exercise-rider, brush-clearer, horse-breaker ever. In other words, the only thing she doesn't do herself in shoe the horses, some she owns and some she boards. Aside from the horses, her inspiration for working so hard seems to be to make her annual (formidable) property tax bill. Some of her students, however, do indeed ride in "equestrian events" -- even competing in (gasp) dressage.

None of which is to say that the sport, the craft, the art isn't supported by the very rich. It has to be. But so, too, are countless trades and professions -- something you just can't say about "tug-of-war." Such is the social benefit of the privilege-drenched.

You'd think a prof of "leisure studies" would realize that -- if only the facts, the reality, the very human dimension were ever on The Agenda. But they never are, not when social engineers are at work, desperately trying to force everyone into boxes of their own totalitarian design.

I can't say I'm too much of an Olympics fan. But having written this post, I find I have developed a strong attachment to a horse.

Don't tread on Rafalca. 


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