Romney: still dogged by canine controversy

At least one Romney is getting some good animal press these days - or mostly good anyway.

Ann Romney's magnificent horse, Rafalca, competed in London as part of the U.S. Olympic equestrian team. Rafalca, with co-owner Jan Eberling, a seasoned Grand Prix dressage competitor aboard, came in way out of the ribbons - 28th place - but being named to represent the U.S. among the world's best horses and riders is an achievement and Romney's involvement put horse sports in the spotlight.

[Although we will note that Romney and her trainer were named in a suit that was settled out of court involving the sale of a horse, Super Hit, for $125,000 that was found to have "staggering amounts" of drugs in his system at the time of the pre-purchase vet exam.]

Some were offended by comedian Stephen Colbert's relentless routines mocking the sport as elitist.

Well, the fact is, not too many working stiffs make it to the upper echelons of competitive horse events - it just simply costs too much. Tens of thousands for starters. And that's just to buy the horse. Toss in tens of thousands more to care for him, train him, show him and transport him at that level. This is not to say that many cheap horses don't go on to perform wonderfully at high level events under the right trainers, nor that elements of dressage training can't be learned by all riders.

You just better have deep pockets - or a wealthy patron - to make it in the big leagues.

But hand it to Colbert for hopping on a top dressage horse in a sweet and funny sketch for The Colbert Report. In it, Colbert, looking the part in dressage coat and white breeches, survives a few spins around the arena under the tutelage of a former Team U.S.A. dressage coach, that included a moment when the horse, Conchita, shied from something, Colbert's camera crew perhaps, and he stayed put.

Not bad for a novice.

That Conchita then performed a highly-technical dressage exercise, the piaffe, beginner in the saddle was quite a sight.

Meanwhile, Ann Romney's husband can't shake that unfortunate summer vacation trip almost 30 years ago where he lashed poor Seamus Romney, the Irish Setter to the roof of the car in a crate for a 12-hour trip to Canada. (Nobody's ever told us how Seamus got home from that trip. So there's a good chance it was a 24 hour ride total.) 

Doggie defenders have positively come unglued. The website Dogs Against Romney is positively foaming at the mouth with stories, videos and ads for every Dogs-Against-Romney item imaginable: bumper stickers, lawn signs, T-shirts.

Then there's the new book - out just in time for the conventions - by political satirists Bruce Kluger and David Slavin: Dog on the Roof! On the Road with Mitt and the Mutt.

The little purse-sized book, illustrated by Colleen Clapp (who has created graphics for the Philadelphia Zoo) and written in verse, lampoons the now infamous family vacation, imagining a cross-country trip with stops at such landmarks as Mt. Rushmore and the Washington monument, in the Romney-mobile - with, of course, one very unhappy puppy on the roof.

(Rafalca photo/AP/Markus Schreiber)