A clean, well-lit place to vent
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I'm no fan of Ann Romney, and certainly not of Mitt or Paul Ryan, but I would like to contribute my two cents. I have a lovely daughter with special needs; she is moderately mentally challenged, mildly autistic, and has an extremely profound auditory processing disorder, plus a bunch of learning disabilities. We are very far from wealthy. She does therapeutic horse riding in Special Olympics and other horse shows -- in which she does dressage, as well as equitation. I'll grant, my daughter's dressage level isn't exactly Olympic quality. We do not own her horse; her coach owns a small stable of therapeutic horses and cares for them deeply, with the help of a lot of volunteers and donations. (And in response to a poster who claimed that dressage is cruel to a horse, the horses where my daughter rides have never been abused in any sense of the word; our coach would be absolutely horrified at anyone treating a horse with anything but love.)
I'm not defending Ms. Romney (and if the horse is that necessary to her physical needs, why did she let it go overseas for an extended trip?), but I would like to say that I've seen what riding has done for a great many people with physical and/or mental needs. It's brought immeasurable joy to my daughter, as well as marked improvement in her balance, physical strength, equilibrium, confidence, and compassion for other living beings. And, as I said, we're not wealthy. Please don't dismiss the sport as being snobby or only for the wealthy.
I wonder if RomneyCare will offer a dressage horse and a garage elevator to everyone who experiences adult-onset MS.
Today's strip about the tax returns is just precious, and so what I love about G.B. Trudeau -- his Americanism!
I don't buy the idea that because Ann Romney got a horse for therapeutic benefit after her M.S. diagnosis, that somehow lessens the implied privelege. When my sister was diagnosed she was advised to take up swimming, as that was considered "cheap therapy." But when you're on a tight budget, the extra bus fare and the cost of a couple of swimsuits and bathing caps and flip-flops for the pool, and the $3 pool fee, can all feel like/actually be insurmountable obstacles. A million dollar horse and a $70,000 medical write-off reek of privilege!
I used to muck stalls, groom horses, clean tack -- any job around the stable I could find just to get the chance to ride for an hour a day. Got my first horse at the age of 35. He was a 20-year-old, free to a good home. It's pretty much the story of thousands of young girls and boys that have a passion for horses. Dressage is a learning tool that helps you to become one with your horse. And yes, it's fun. Don't paint with a broad brush: Dressage people come from all walks of life.
The best description of the equestrian world I know: "A horse is a hole in the stall you throw money into."
Ann Romney doesn't just ride this horse for therapeutic reasons. She owns the horse. How many people in America can afford to own their own horse? And it's an Olympic level competition horse, no less. Sorry, these are not people like you and me.
Training an intelligent mammal to move with an unnatural gait through the use of painful and sometimes dangerous methods is not sport. It is animal cruelty. Therapeutic horseback riding should not be confused with dressage nor used as a justification.
Yes, Ann Romney got involved in horses and dressage because of her dagnosis with MS. Luckily, she never had to worry about health insurance or being able to afford her medications, about how to get to the doctor or having assistance in her home. She is also able to deduct over $70,000 a year in medical expenses for her horse. The vast majority of Americans will never make $70K in a year.
The butch-ness of dressage isn't the issue (dressage is simply what remains today of medieval horseback combat techniques) -- dressage on an Olympic-level horse is the issue. It goes along with the car elevator and the multiple Cadillacs and the core of entitlement and how completely oblivious Romney is of reality for the people he seems to want to govern.
From some comments here, you'd think that dressage is as working class as bowling. I've been in the feed store when the Horsey People come in, all done up in their riding habits. They speak to 'the help' only when necessary. These are our betters, at least that's how they see it, I'm sure. Around here, the cowboys use beat-up pickup trucks unless they work at a dude ranch. Even before the automobile, not many people owned horses. Either you owned one to help make your living, like a farmer, or you were wealthy.
I ride dressage in blue jeans on a $1 ex-racehorse. I live on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. No piaffes or tiaras, but we have fun.
So Ann Romney has been getting some flak for her co-ownership of an Olympic caliber dressage horse. Does anyone know how this came about? She had been diagnosed with MS back in 1998. She got interested in dressage/horseback riding as a therapy. If you are not a horse person, you don't know the symbiotic way human and horse bodies work together, a lot of times very therapeutically. Not only that, dressage is a beautiful dance between two brains working differently but together. It is such a wonderful thing, and since she does have money she probably decided to support a sport that does not have a rabid following, such as football or baseball.
So what. Dressage is a sport supported largely by middle-aged, middle-income women, riding in the very lower levels (where Ann undoubtedly was at with her riding). No big sponsors, no big stadiums, and on and on. I don't picture her on a "shopping trip" to Target, then turning around for a 4 million dollar vacation. And, if she did take a vacation like that, she would pay for it herself. You go girl.
She doesn't even have her own first name? Speaks volumes to me.
Oh, for most people for whom dressage is a fantasy, so are staying at home from work to raise kids and volunteer. For my part I would rather hear about a wealthy woman doing something beautiful than pretending to be ordinary.
Today's strip makes it sound like dressage is some hoity toity European sport. In reality, anyone can enjoy it. You don't even need to own a fancy horse or any horse at all, just pay a few bucks an hour at a nearby stable. I know two real, hard working cowboys who have studied dressage because it teaches important skills, like how to calmly and precisely sidepass away from that rattler you just realized was coiled up in a bush right next to your horse as your horse was about to drink from a spring. I saw this happen!
I worked for two years at Bain and Company during the reign of Bush the First. (At that time manufacturing jobs were disappearing from the East Coast while Bush said there was nothing wrong with the economy. Remember?) I just read today's comic. Bain does not downsize, they "rightsize."
It's striking how fit your mature-age characters are. There are very few beer-bellies on the men, even fewer bingo-wings on the women. Must be something in the water.
I wish Joanie weren't so busy writing the convention speech! While I know it's a BFD, I'd love to have her come back to Worcester to campaign (as she did earlier this year). Worcester County is basically the Ohio of Massachusetts (in the middle, up for grabs), and no day spent campaigning here is a waste for the Warren team. Maybe a day door-knocking around here would provide Joanie a spark of inspiration?
A belated comment on last week's for-profit-college theme: GBT has made bales of hay with Walden as an example of the sad state of too much of the college world, but the sort of corruption he exposed is not limited to investor-owned colleges. Sad to say, I have had close knowledge of a State University that prays at the Altar of the Full Time Equivalent (FTE). My wife taught at this "university" for some time and encountered considerable pressure to pass students who should have been somewhere other than an "academic" institution. Employers know this -- too many qualified students don't. And the unqualified are complicit in the growingly transparent lie.