7 Jun



This started out with a shout-out to all the competitors at Gladstone this weekend, wishing them well in their quest for national championships and even a spot on the US Olympic dressage team. And then I realized that one competitor had more on his plate than nearly all the others combined.

First there was the strange piece in the L.A. Times on the even stranger lawsuit brought by an unhappy horse owner against Mrs. Ann Romney and her long-time  trainer Jan Ebeling.   Next, the piece in the N.Y. Times, with much of the same inconsistency and rather one-sided perspective.

Reactions to the pieces seem to be divided into those who are only interested in the politics and those who are only interested in the world of dressage.

The timing of the pieces is such—the U.S. is in the middle of huge political campaigns involving the Romneys  AND the U.S. Olympic dressage trials start this week, and Jan Ebeling is hoping to win a spot on the team– the intent seems pretty clear.


What bothers me:

The headline: “Rareified sport”.

There are many ways to describe equestrian sport, and outsiders nearly always use it to imply other-ness—the white breeches, the nearly incomprehensible etiquette and idioms. . But the perspective of this piece ,while clear from the headline alone, carries on in the same vein.

Sport at a high level always involves lots of hard work, sweat, frustration, mistakes, and repetition.In the case of horse sport, it also involves communicating with a different kind of brain, finding a way to get into sync, producing the effortless harmony we call success.

ALL high level sport is expensive; what makes horse sport such a target is that the horses have to live somewhere,and land—who has it,who does not—is a big divide in the world,. Always has been,always will be.


The description of Jan Ebeling:  “ at ease with the wealthy women drawn to the sport of dressage”

“taskmaster”  “he had a lucky break to get to know the Romneys”


How bitter (let alone woefully under-informed)is the person writing this?

ALL sport requires sponsors. In horse sport, the higher the level of competition, the fewer the equine athletes who can jump the jumps, endure the marathon, or dance in the sandbox of dressage. Every day, there are articles in equestrian magazines,telling riders that not only do they have to be skilled on the back of the horse, they have to develop social skills, the ability to attract sponsors, talk to the media, etc etc. Just like every other Olympic and Olympic-dreaming athlete the world over.


Buried in the article is also the following:

<<(the plaintiff) continued to ride the horse, named Super Hit, for more than a year after the purchase in 2008. >> Ride AND SHOW would have been a more complete sentence. In a sport where a judge can and will ring a horse out of continuing for lameness, this horse continued to show.


And then the attempt to cloud the names of the vet (also sued) and Jan Ebeling:


<< Before writing a check, Ms. Norris sought a standard prepurchase exam. The Ebelings recommended a veterinarian they knew, Dr. Doug Herthel, who identified the joint abnormality on an X-ray. He informed Ms. Norris of it but assured her it would not bar him from the upper-level show ring.


But Dr. Herthel apparently did not mention that a toxicology test reported four tranquilizers in Super Hit’s blood at the time of the exam. His records showed that he injected two of the drugs — to steady Super Hit during X-rays, he testified — but there was no documentation of the other two tranquilizers.>>


Alamo Pintado is one of the most well-known vet hospitals inside and outside California. They are one of the major places to go for a thorough PPE as they have both the technology and the staff to perform as thorough a PPE as may be desired.


Alamo Pintado was founded by Dr. Herthel, and a PPE at the hospital entails a LOT more than himself.

Alamo Pintado is not the vet resource normally used by the Ebelings–precisely one of the reasons that it was used for this PPE.


I simply do not find  questionable  watching the horse for the clinical exam, (longe on hard circle, flexions etc) then having issued a Pass on that part, move on to X-rays, discover the horse fidgets a lot, use tranqs –and then draw blood.

I wish the factoids in the research and the article had been presented to make more of an even-handed reality and not so much a personal bias.

Here is hoping the judging at Gladstone these next two weekends is on fairer ground than the NYT article, and a hearty wish to Jan Ebeling and Rafalca for success.



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