WaPo: Dressage’s other rewards

In the midst of Rafalca-Romney, Horse-Ballet Fever (it is the Summer of Dressage, after all), Kathleen Parker’s recent Washington Post column, “Ann Romney has a horse. So what?” provided an interesting take.

Though refreshingly devoid of top-hat-and-tails, elitist-image mongering, Parker’s column at times swayed a bit too pro-Romney for my taste (“…why this war on success? People who are struggling through rough economic times didn’t suddenly become stupid, and surely most see through this absurd, sustained attack on the Romneys, whose only apparent sin is having been successful”)–but if it’s possible to put politics aside for a moment (ha!), Parker’s take on dressage went beyond many of the mainstream outlets’ I’ve encountered:

Dressage, sometimes called ‘horse ballet,’ is the ‘highest expression of horse training,’ according to the International Federation for Equestrian Sports. It may not be as stimulating as a horse race with bets and booze, but thus it has always been with art.

Dressage and horseback riding in general offer other rewards, including therapy for people who suffer maladies from physical disabilities to emotional imbalances. This should not be surprising, given the millennia-long relationship between humankind and horse that transcends mere transportation. Anyone who has ridden knows the deeply satisfying synchronicity between the movements and rhythms of human and horse. The emotional bond that also develops is not insignificant.

Forget Donner and Blitzen. Give me Trigger, Fury and Flicka.

For Ann Romney, riding has been helpful in dealing with her multiple sclerosis. Indeed, horseback riding is a commonly recommended activity for MS sufferers. Because the natural walking gait of the horse is similar to a human’s, riding helps restore balance, coordination and posture, all of which can be affected by the disease’s assault on the spine and central nervous system.

And for that, Kathleen Parker, regardless of our political affiliations, I salute you.

Read the rest of Parker’s column at the Washington Post.

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