I haven’t seen much discussion of a story quietly circulating around the Interwebs (and apparently mentioned in the NYT recently) about a fraud case involving Ann Romney selling a lame horse allegedly doped to the eyeballs to hide the injury:
On the one hand I tend to view negative stories getting little media traction as suspicious. On the other hand, those look a lot like legal documents on that website. Anyone know any more about this story, and whether it’s even vaguely making any difference to Mitt’s campaign?
I posted the following at Booman Tribune when the issue arose; being a lazy sumbitch I’m copying and pasting here:
As much as I despise Romney and all he stands for, I feel compelled by fairness to partially defend Ann in this. I’ve read up on the case as much as possible, and from that, and what I know of the horse world (quite a lot), it appears to me that her longtime trainer and the horse’s vet were more likely responsible for the pain-masking drugs that fooled the purchaser’s vet in judging the horse’s soundness. I doubt they briefed Ann on every detail of the scheme; from what I’ve read it appears that Jan Ebeling, the German-born trainer, is a typical Teutonic dressage control freak and dominates his clients. He’s far more likely to dictate what will be and only tell her what he thinks she needs to know.
I could, of course, be wrong. But everything I’ve read on it points that way.
Oh, and you could riposte that hiring that kind of person says something about the Romneys; but I gotta tell ya, the upper echelons of dressage are chockful of control-freak Europeans (and Americans), not to mention drugging, abusive training, and lame horse selling. Even nonabusive training takes years and is physically tough on the horses.
So does the trainer still work for the Romney’s? I agree that if the trainer drugged the horse without Romney’s knowledge, she can’t really be held responsible. But one hopes that if the alligations in the lawsuit were true, she’d at least fire the guy.
The law suit seemed to indicate that it was Jan Ebeling that was the trainer in charge of the horse, and this article from May makes it sound like Ebeling is still working as Mrs Romney’s trainer.
There are some things about this story that I don’t understand.
Why would Ebeling do this knowing (and surely a professional trainer would know) that toxicology tests would be performed?
Why was there even a lawsuit? Before resorting to that, wouldn’t you first contact the seller, inform them of the test results, and demand your money back? Wouldn’t the seller, knowing that they don’t have a leg to stand on, agree to take the horse back and make a refund? Of course, I’m not super rich nor involved in dressage so maybe a lawsuit is normally the first course of action in these instances, but it strikes me as strange.
Not only is Jan Ebeling still Ann Romney’s trainer, he’s riding a mare she owns in the Olympics.
The Romney/Ebeling vet, as I recall it, did concur that the horse had two of the four drugs aboard, claiming that they were necessary to make the horse docile enough for the examination by the buyer’s veterinarian.
For a more balanced view of the Romney connection with Ebeling, take a look at this NY Times story on Ann’s involvement with the dressage world. Relevant quotes:
Unlike horse racing, where the moolah’s* in the purses for winning and the stud fees post-career, the sport horse world has far different economic drivers, where winning competitions is a much smaller part of the money scheme. Professionals like the Ebelings make their living buying and selling horses, getting fees for buying and selling, and charging fees for care, training and lessons. Latching onto wealthy patrons is quite helpful in such endeavors, especially if, as in Ebeling’s case, said patrons will purchase a world-class competitor for you, pay for its keep and training, and pay your way to world-class competitions, where you can burnish your credentials and expand your clientele.
I have two horses; I do the daily-drudgery care of them and observe them closely every day; and I can tell immediately if one of them is even slightly off, and whether it’s a new problem or an old, ongoing issue. An owner like Ann Romney, who parachutes in now and then to ride, confers on show plans with the trainer, hands out a carrot or two, and leaves, isn’t going to have anywhere near the same level of knowledge about her horses’ condition, and will rely on her trainer to inform her. As long as everything appears to be going fine, she’s not likely to question things.
Well, yes, the trainers do make their money more in the Ebeling mode, I admit, but they also profit on purse shares.
Seems to me that the effect on Romney’s campaign would be to highlight the uppercrusty out-of-touchosity of the Romneys. She isn’t out there skinning moose or bulldozing wetlands or any of the folksy country pastimes of other major Republican figures.
The horse-doping scandal is not going to affect the rural vote much, in my opinion. Could affect the animal-lover vote though. Those who vote for the most ethical candidate aren’t going to vote for Romney in any case.
Except that my original point was that no hay was being made of this at all, despite the fact that if it were the other way around Fox would have “OBAMA HORSE DOPER” on permanent crawl. Which is why it has been hard to get the facts of the case.
But I can certainly see how this could all be down to the trainer’s behavior, even if the Romneys ultimately stumped up the cash to settle the case.
I think the horse is a gold mine for Democrats. Should we attack Romney on the $77,000 tax deduction for the horse, the $2000 they deduct for health care for the horse, or the prissy nature of the “sport” of dressage itself?