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Ann Romney's "Let's Ride!" Pushes Kids Into Dressage
MIAMI (CAP) - Ann Romney has come under fire in recent days for her assistance in developing Let's Ride!, an initiative which encourages children to explore the Olympic equestrian sport known as dressage.
"Ann is a huge supporter of dressage, or horse ballet," said Bridget Morehouse, a long-time friend of the Romneys. "She feels strongly that it is the sort of sport every child should participate in. It builds character, and it's also a great way to get exercise and fresh air."
Parallels have been drawn between Mrs. Romney's project and Let's Move!, a program developed by First Lady Michelle Obama to combat childhood obesity by encouraging children to be more physically active. However, critics claim that the forms of exercise recommended by Let's Move!, which include playing organized sports and riding bikes, are far more realistic activities for most American children, particularly those who lack horses.
Many have also noted that a suitable dressage horse starts at $10,000, and that beginners' lessons are upwards of $75 an hour - which is arguably unaffordable for many American families who are already having trouble budgeting for food and medical costs.
Information on the Let's Ride! website suggests that parents worried about the cost of a horse replace their family car with one.
"Buying horses is fun!" Ann Romney tells viewers in a brief video clip. "I've bought nearly a dozen! Sometimes I travel to Germany to buy them." Mrs. Romney pauses, and then adds, "But from now on, I'm going to stick with American-made horses."
For those families who live in urban areas without access to stables and pastureland, the idea has been met with incredulity.
"If Let's Ride! is an example of type kind of cause Ann Romney would be championing as First Lady, then it's a clear indication of the extent to which the Romneys are out of touch with the lives of most Americans," said political analyst Margaret Kent.
"The idea that parents should provide their kids with 'horse-dancing' lessons, when in today's economy many families are struggling to pay their mortgages, is frankly laughable," she added.
Still, the Let's Ride! program, which has been introduced to several hundred youth programs across the country during informational sessions complete with colorful slideshows, has received early support from parents.
"I think it's a great program, and my girls can't wait to take riding lessons," said Tina Schwartz, a Washington, DC-area mother of two. "It's a dream come true for them. I never thought they would have this opportunity. Thank you, Ann Romney!"
Upon learning that dressage lessons were not actually available through her daughters' school, Schwartz revised her opinion. "Are you f#$&% kidding me?" she said. "I'm supposed to buy a horse so they can do this?"
Schwartz later reported that she had instead bought her daughters an Xbox.
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