Rafalca, owned by Mrs. Ann Romney, was impeccably behaved and well received by Olympic equestrians in Greenwich
Short of mocking Shetland ponies over their lack of stature or laying into zebras for their failure to make a significant contribution to the world of equine culture, Ann Romney's horse Rafalca was always going to struggle to match the sheer incredulity that her husband managed to provoke on his recent overseas trip.
And in the event – the event in question being the individual dressage – the 15-year-old bay Oldenburg mare acquitted herself rather well. True, she and her rider, Jan Ebeling, may have been left well behind by Britain's Carl Hester, Germany's Dorothee Schneider and Denmark's Anna Kasprzak but, by Romney standards, her performance was a positive triumph.
Never for a second during her seven-minute performance did a hoof stray dangerously mouthwards, nor did she do anything at all to offend or upset the host nation. From the moment she entered the Greenwich Park equestrian arena at 12.15 on Thursday afternoon, the most famous political horse since Caligula toyed with making a consul of Incitatus seemed in her element.
She bowed her neatly plaited head on cue, trotted diagonally across the sand, did the jogging-on-the-spot thing, the skipping thing, the rhythmic boogying thing, the controlled trotting thing: in short, Rafalca did everything that the occasion and the peculiar rules of the dressage demanded of her.
At one point, she appeared to give a snort of exhilarated delight, although, to be fair, it's not easy to say precisely what emotion a huge horse is aiming to convey; it could equally have been a snort of ennui or a snort of frustration at the Obama administration's glee over Mitt's gaffe-spree. Perhaps it was just her way of telling the predominantly British crowd that, like the Romneys, she was just happy to be in the UK.
Her part-owner seemed equally delighted. Ann Romney, who was in the VIP section of the equestrian arena, rose to give Rafalca a standing ovation and a wave. "She was consistent and elegant," said Mrs Romney. "She did not disappoint. She thrilled me to death."
It was left to Ebeling to offer a more personal psychological profile of his mount. "She was amped up," he said. "She was definitely amped up. You can feel it: she felt a bit stronger than usual ... It's better, because she has more expression, but it's also a little bit harder to control the whole thing. She gets a little bit amped up and the trick is to manage that."
To calm her down and help her deal with the crowd noise, said Ebeling, he had talked to her and scratched her neck with his finger.
And how had he dealt with the pressure of riding such a high-profile horse?
"There certainly was a lot of media attention going on, but I think it really ended up being a good thing for the sport, and I don't really get distracted by these things," he said. "I have a pretty good way of focusing, and if I don't want to talk to anybody, then I just don't answer my phone."
While he chose not to impart any information about Rafalca's voting intentions, the 53-year-old US rider did confirm that Ann Romney had given him "many words of encouragement" before the Olympics.
She had not been in touch on Thursday morning, he added, but her last message had been full of good counsel: "Do what you know to do and do what you do best. Just ride like it's a normal day."
Fine advice indeed. If only her husband had heeded it.