If Mitt Romney wins in November, there's an important open question for him: Where will Ann Romney ride?
Ann Romney's love of horses and her Olympics-bound horse, Rafalca, have become a high-profile part of her public political persona as a symbol of her charity work, an example of how she lives with MS and fodder for the opposition to attack the Romneys' wealthy lifestyle. She stables her horses at the Acres in Moorpark, Cailf., just north of the family's home in La Jolla, which would obviously be a bit of a hike from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Nearby Virginia has some impressive horse country and there's even a bipartisan homestead there.
President John F. Kennedy and wife Jacqueline built an estate in nearby Middleburg while they were in office, one that JFK only got to visit twice before he was assassinated. And Ronald Reagan later stayed at the property -- called Wexford -- during the 1980 presidential campaign.
Horses played a role in Jacqueline Kennedy's life not unlike the one they play in Romneys.
"As many who have studied or followed the life of Jackie Kennedy know, she had a lifelong love of horses, something that began when she was about 5 years old following in the footsteps of her mother who was also an equestrian," said Vicky Moon, author of "The Private Passion of Jackie Kennedy Onassis: Portrait of a Rider."
Kennedy, who began riding in the English hunter style age 5, was winning blue ribbons at competitions in Southampton, N.Y., by the time she was 8.
She continued competing through her parents' marital separation until the age of 15. Competing became less a central to Kennedy's life during her teenage years, but her passion for riding never wavered.
While Kennedy did not ride dressage in her adult years, she likely had some sort of dressage background. "Any decent rider has had dressage lessons," Moon said. "But, of course, what Ann Romney does and what her horses do is way up there."
Throughout her adult life and particularly while living in the White House, Kennedy rode as a personal escape from the stresses of daily life. After JFK assumed the presidency, the Kennedy family purchased land in Middleburg, Va., where Jackie stabled her horses and often retired to ride. She generally rode hunters and "went foxhunting and rode cross-country," author Moon said.
Middleburg, a tiny country town about an hour outside of Washington, has long been a haven for first ladies who ride. The wife of former Vice President Dan Quayle, Marilyn Quayle, often fox hunted there, and the Reagans also enjoyed the area, Moon said.
Jacqueline Kennedy's favorite clothing designer, Oleg Cassini, had a close relationship with the first lady based on their mutual love of fashion and horses. As Moon originally expressed in her book, Cassini, who served as a horsemanship instructor in the Army and often hunted, "talked horses" with Jackie. In addition to using riding as a personal outlet, Jackie also used her passion as a tool for relationship-building throughout her husband's presidency. Jackie's "considerable skill and fearless style" helped her to impress foreign officials such as Queen Elizabeth II, Pakistani President Ayub Khan and any number of horse-riding ambassadors, Moon said.
While, generally speaking, she kept her passion for riding much more under wraps than has Ann Romney, the pair's love of riding is an easily drawn parallel between the two. Whether the comparison to such a famous first lady will bolster the Romney campaign in the next few months, Ann Romney certainly has a role model for continuing to ride and using it to her advantage in the White House if she is to get the chance.
If Mitt Romney wins the presidency come November, Ann Romney would join an A-list group of riding first ladies, particularly if she were to make Middleburg her equestrian home base. As Moon says, "I've even joked, well, you know, if they win would she be bringing her horses out here?"
The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, a historical society, verified that Wexford is still privately owned, although residents of the area did not respond to repeated inquiries for comment.
But maybe they'd be willing to sell if Romney wins.