2012 Summer Olympics: Ann Romney's horse Rafalca makes an 'awesome' Olympic debut

ann-romney-horse-rafalca-olympics.jpgUntil a few weeks ago, most Americans had never heard of the word "dressage" - but now, whether you're an Olympic fan, a political junkie or something in-between, it's tough to remain unaware of the chosen pursuit of our possible soon-to-be presidential family. On Thursday (Aug. 2), the Romney family's horse took things one step further with a solid performance in her Olympic debut.

"She was consistent and elegant," Ann Romney tells the AP when asked about the event that had all eyes on her equestrian Rafalca. "She did not disappoint. She thrilled me to death."

Thanks to her husband Mitt Romney's pursuit of the Presidency, the ancient sport of dressage has been thrust into the spotlight alongside the 15-year-old German mare that the Romney's partially own. Mrs. Romney watched the event in the VIP section of Greenwich Park, observing the horse during its 7-minute Grand Prix test.

"She felt really strong and is peaking at the right time," adds Rafalca's rider Jan Ebeling. "She was amped up, a little stronger than usual. She had more oomph. The trick is to manage that."

Rafalca's score of 70.243 percent put them in 13th place with half the competitors yet to compete. "It was a good score," Ebeling says. "Overall it was great."

Dressage (rhymes with "massage," not "message") is a competitive sport defined by the International Equestrian Federation as "the highest expression of horse training" where "horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements."

Sometimes referred to as "horse ballet," the sport contains such tests as "Piaffe" (a calm, elevated gait), Passage (a collected trot), Pirouette (a turn in place, often set to music) and a Half-pass (where the horse goes diagonal and forward at the same time). The word "dressage" comes from a French term that means "training."

As reported by the New York Times, the crowd for Rafalca's debut was respectfully silent and engaged with plastic champagne flutes as the horse took her spin.

Raising her hands in triumph, Ann Romney greeted Ebeling with a big smile and embrace afterwards. "That was awesome," Ann Romney she said to the horse's rider.  
Photo/Video credit: Getty Images