Former first lady of Massachusetts and dressage rider Ann Romney has been recognised for her passion for the sport – and overcoming obstacles in pursuit of her equestrian goals.
Romney, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, juggles her roles as a horsewoman, mother, grandmother, and avid philanthropist. She received the Piaffe Performance Adult Amateur Achievement Award at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida, accepting the award from Dr Cesar Parra, owner of Piaffe Performance.
Riding her new horse, Dalhems Diomedes, a 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Belissimo M x Ferusa, Flemmingh), Romney won a Prix St. Georges class and was second in another in the national/amateur division of the 2017 Palm Beach Derby at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. Romney is also an annual sponsor of the festival.
Romney said she didn’t think she would be taking Dalhems Diomedes into the show ring so soon, but they have bonded remarkably quickly. “It was only our second time down the centerline together. He is just doing so well and seems to be really comfortable with me,” she said.
“He is by Belissimo, and they are known for their really good brains, and he sure has one. He was the first horse I tried in Germany and I just fell in love with him.”
The story behind Romney’s path to the world of dressage is truly a remarkable one. After she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, Romney became determined not to let her battle with the debilitating disease keep her from achieving her goals of becoming a rider. Despite considerable physical difficulty, Romney fought her way into the saddle day after day, and eventually found a renewed sense of peace and replenishment in riding.
Not surprisingly, working with horses continues to keep the disease at bay, and Romney maintains that working with horses was just the medicine she needed.
After riding with dressage Olympian and trainer Jan Ebeling in clinics, she was struck with the beauty of dressage and began learning from Ebeling as often as possible. Romney not only became a successful rider herself, but also became a sponsor of Ebeling’s international riding dreams. He rode on the US dressage team at the 2012 Olympics in London on her mare, Rafalca.
Romney’s tenacious spirit and strong sense of fortitude stem from a deep and unwavering perspective of gratitude. “For people who have a need of nurturing – either emotionally or physically – that is always the best thing you can do, to get on the back of a horse. They bring you joy, they help you heal, and they give you such excitement – it’s just the sense of pure love that they emanate. As soon as I put my foot in the stirrup, all my cares dissolve. I always come back to this – it just nurtures me, it feeds my soul.”
In addition to maintaining an active riding career, Romney also finds time and energy to devote to her family and political life, having been an active participant in her husband’s US presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012, when he was the Republican Party nominee. Romney is also a committed philanthropist, championing The Ann Romney Center for Neurological Diseases at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The center of 250 scientists focuses on research into Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and brain tumors.