The Atlantic Wire has conclusively proven that it is 100 percent okay to make fun of Ann Romney's fancy horse sport, dressage, but the time for mockery has passed. It's the first day of dressage at the Olympics, so we must now celebrate the beauty of Rafalca. The Olympics bring us all together -- right and left, old and young, Internet meanies and horse lovers. Rafalca competed today. Lets look at her dancing in GIFs.
Dressage is about beauty. "There will be sobbing and crying," dressage expert Kenneth Braddick told ABC News. Before he ran Dressage News, Braddick was a former war correspondent, so he can cry at whatever the eff he wants to. Even "hard bitten guys in the horse business are literally sobbing away" to the patriotic music, Braddick said. The 15-tear-old Rafalca is an underdog, which means if you don't root for her, your heart is cruel and un-American.
In dressage, the rider tells the horse what dance steps to do with subtle movements of his body that the horse can feel but we can't see. A really great dressage horse has a very sensitive back. In a test -- the horse's ballet routine -- Rafalca is graded on several movements on a scale from 0 to 10. Most of Rafalca's scores appear (we are non-experts) to have been in the high 6s and low 7s -- "satisfactory" to "fairly good."
Here's Rafalca doing the piaffe, a trot in place. She's doing well because she's not moving forward.
Here's her tempi change, which is a kind of skippy step. She's changing canter in the air mid-stride.
Rafalca must show symmetry and stability. This is a half-pass, when Rafalca moves sideways and forward at the same time. She's supposed to move her head in that diagonal direction.
This, I believe, is a pirouette.
As of this writing, Rafalca has dropped to 11th in the Grand Prix. Cross your fingers for her!
Note: I did not spend my entire childhood re-watching VHS tapes of European dressage championships, so my expertise is more limited than in other GIF guides. I've done research, but I don't have the feel for the sport of a longtime fan. Any input from dressage-loving readers on what makes Rafalca special -- and what her weaknesses are -- would be greatly appreciated.