Ann Romney’s deep interest in horses and, especially, in the elite sport of dressage — in which horses costing seven figures are trained to perform dancelike moves — is not unknown. A May 28th New York Times article notes that Romney began to ride at the age of 50 as therapy for multiple sclerosis and went on to compete (and win medals) in high-level amateur shows. Mitt Romney has also taken up trail riding and has a “familiarity with expensive, esoteric breeds, mentioning his wife’s Austrian Warmbloods and his own Missouri Fox Trotter.” Rafalca, a horse co-owned by Ann Romney, is to compete in this summer’s London Olympics.
Ann Romney, Co-Defendant in a Fraud Lawsuit
On its own, the Romneys’ investment in the rarefied world of dressage should, you’d think, be enough to make it clear how far out of touch they are with average American citizens. A lawsuit involving one of Ann Romney’s former horses casts a shadow on the activity, riding, that she has said “sings to my soul.”
The May 28th New York Times article noted that Ann Romney was among those sued in 2010 after selling a horse that had been injected with a number of powerful painkillers. Also sued were Jan Ebeling, a German-born-horse trainer who is now ranked ninth among American dressage riders, and his wife, Amy. Jan Eberling is also Ann Romney’s riding tutor of many years and the co-owner of Rafalca. The three had sold the horse, named Super Hit, for $125,000 in 2008 to a San Diego woman, Catherine Norris.
Claiming that the horse’s severe foot defect had been concealed, Norris accused Romney and the Ebelings of fraud in 2010.
What Was in Super Hit’s System?
Buzzfeed says that, when Dr. Steven Soule (the United States Equestrian Team veterinarian since 1978) examined Super Hit in a standard prepurchase exam, he found that she had three sedative pain killers and one narcotic pain killer in her system, Butorphanol, Delomidine, Romifidine, and Xylatine. Two of the drugs had been injected in the horse to steady her during x-rays, according to the New York Times. But “there was no documentation of the other two tranquilizers” and “how the additional tranquilizers got into the animal was never fully established.”
Dr. Soule’s toxicology report contained the following highly disturbing statement about the drugs:
In my 38 years of practice, I have never come across a drug screen such as this where the horse has been administered so many different medications at the same time.
Norris’ lawyers alleged that the Eberlings had given Super Hit the drugs to hide her condition, her defective foot. According to Norris, when she complained to Jan Eberling about the horse’s foot, he told her “it’s your riding.”
Another veterinarian diagnosed Super Hit with lameness in 2009 and she became a “pasture horse.”
The lawsuit was settled last September and Romney is no longer involved in the lawsuit.
Another Curious Incident Involving the Romneys and Their Animals
Given their track record with animals they own — the infamous incident of Mitt Romney securing the family dog, Seamus, onto the roof of their station wagon and driving 12 hours to Canada in 1983 — it does not seem so surprising to hear that a horse once owned by Ann Romney was injected with high levels of drugs. Little thought was given to Seamus’ discomfort riding for hours on the roof of the car; Super Hit’s foot injuries were addressed with painkillers. Rather than feeling their pain, the owners of these animals either ignored it or medicated — over-medicated — them.
First there was dog-on-the-roof-gate, now… dressagegate?
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Photo by Gage Skidmore