Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: Of Dressage and the Romneys’ Special World

Had he not begun popping up in commercials for the down-market clothier, Old Navy, Robin Leach might have found fodder for a television program in today’s front-page New York Times story about Ann Romney’s love affair with dressage.

For those, like me, who had to look up that word, let me caution you that it has nothing to do with the $1,000 tee-shirt Mrs. Romney wore on CBS This Morning. (If only her path had crossed Mr. Leach’s, he might have told her that a reasonable facsimile could be had at Old Navy for about $15.)

Dressage is a rather rarified equine sport that involves coaxing very expensive horses into committing dance moves. In what will no doubt be decried on the right as an act of class warfare, the Times gives a glimpse of the Romney lifestyle through the prism of Ann Romney’s passion for the sport in which she has won championship medals.

The piece by Trip Gabriel, focuses on the relationship between the Romneys and Jan Eberling, Mrs. Romney’s dressage coach, and an aspiring Olympian who enjoys the Romney’s support. That relationship, Gabriel writes:

…also offers a glimpse into the Romneys’ way of life, which they have generally shielded from view.

Protective of their privacy, they may also have been wary of the kind of fallout that came after Mr. Romney’s mention of the “couple of Cadillacs” his wife owned and the disclosure of plans for a car elevator in the family’s $9 million beach house in California, which prompted criticism that Mr. Romney was out of touch with average Americans.

Not to mention the car elevator and the friends who own major sports franchises.

It’s important to note that the rap on Mitt Romney is not that he is rich, but that he seems to be clueless about the way in which regular Americans live. FDR and JFK were both wealthy (though not quite in the Romney way), but both conveyed a sense that they were aware of the trials faced by everyday people.

Looking past the class issues raised by Gabriel’s article, one finds a key to Ann Romney’s personality in the ferocity of her determination to overcome her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, an often devastating disease of the nervous system. That diagnosis is what led her to take up the demanding dressage at the age of 50, and when she was quite ill. She went on to win championships and see her disease go into remission. Pretty impressive.

People diagnosed with nervous system diseases and disorders are often told to combat their pain and fatigue with demanding forms of exercise. The less privileged take up running, yoga or other physical activities. Now that her dressage story has left the barn, Mrs. Romney may want to consider a visit to the YWCA for a little hand-shaking with the women practicing restorative swimming — and consider the fate of the uninsured M.S. sufferer.