Rafalca, the horse famously co-owned by Ann Romney, performed strongly Thursday morning on the first day of Olympics dressage.
After eight previous pairs they earned a score of 70.2. There are still more riders to go tomorrow including the rest of Team USA, but they are in a good place to continue on to the next phase on August 7.
Ann Romney, the wife of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, cheered on co-owner Jan Ebeling riding Rafalca in the arena at Greenwich Park.
After the performance, Romney hugged Ebeling and said, "It was fabulous!"
Smiling, and wearing a red jacket, she was clearly pleased with their dressage test:
"We've come so far, Jan! Can you believe this?"
Ebeling, who did an interview with NBC News without co-owner, Ann Romney said;
"She was great, she was good," Ebeling said. "I knew she was peaking. Of course this crowd is not something you can ever recreate."
"It was awesome today. I'm so happy," Ebeling, smiling broadly, added. "This has been such an amazing experience."
In an interview with the Associated Press afterwards, Romney said she was "thrilled to death."
"She was consistent and elegant. She did not disappoint. She thrilled me to death," Romney said of Rafalca, who danced to a combination of classical and jazz music, including a saxophone solo.
Consistent she was, performing well-done piaffes, the signature move of the sport. At the completion of the performance, Ebeling took off his top hat, clearly ecstatic to huge cheers from the crowd. He broke out in a wide smile obviously pleased with their performance and he leaned down to give Rafalca a well earned pat on the neck next to her perfectly braided mane.
Audience members waved American flags after the performance and a loud, "Go Rafalca!" could be heard. A beaming Ebeling took a spin around the arena to cheers from the crowd.
In a nod to how the dressage riders can have a laugh at themselves, foam No. 1 fingers, similar to the one satirist Stephen Colbert uses in his skit to declare dressage the "sport of the summer" were on hand at the Olympic event. Ann Romney sported one during the Olympic trials in Gladstone in June.
Most Americans associate the Olympics with swimming and gymnastics and young, agile bodies, but at the Romney house, all the attention goes to a horse named Rafalca ridden by 53-year-old Ebeling wearing a top hat and tails.
She's part-owned by Ann Romney. And the sport is dressage.
"There will be sobbing and crying."
That's how foremost dressage expert Kenneth Braddick describes what the Olympic competition will be like for the 20,000-plus attendees. Those watching will be "awash in tears," he added, when they hear the patriotic music each rider dances to, and even "hard-bitten guys in the horse business are literally sobbing away."
Although it is celebrating its 100th year as an Olympic sport, dressage, a.k.a. horse ballet, was until recently relatively unknown in the U.S. Not anymore. Colbert named dressage the "sport of the summer." The equestrian discipline gained more attention that any of its enthusiasts could have anticipated when Rafalca, made the Olympics cut in June.
It's rider Ebeling's, as well as Rafalca's, first Olympics. Ebeling and Romney co-own the German-born 15-year-old Oldenburg mare with another woman, Beth Meyer. Ebeling, a German native, became a U.S. citizen in 1998. He is not letting anything shake his focus—not the campaign, not Mitt Romney's overseas trip gaffes, not the media attention.
Braddick says Team USA may be an underdog compared to Germany and Britain for the team medal, but says that the individual contest is wide open.
Keeping the Focus Off Politics and On Dressage