The following is an excerpt from Mary Mycio | July 30, 2012 | Slate.com |
Mitt Romney’s Oldenburg mare, Rafalca, is off to London for Olympic dressage. Stephen Colbert has declared “competitive horse prancing” his Sport of the Summer, pointedly mocking the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for looking like a 1 percent aristocrat. After all, though Rafalca’s price is undisclosed, when the Romneys bought the horse in 2006, dressage prospects of her caliber cost as much as, if not more than, an average American home. Her annual overhead of more than $77,000 is double that of the average American family’s. No wonder the elite equestriennes gracing this month’s Town & Country are all billionaire princesses. Even at sub-Olympian levels, the animals are expensive.
(Full disclosure: I own a horse, but I am not a billionaire princess.)
The association between horses and wealth was forged millennia ago. In fact, the first people known to celebrate hierarchies of power, whose inequalities of wealth were integral to their society and culture—the people you could call the first 1 percent—were the first people to ride horses.
Horse domestication occurred before written history and left few clear archaeological remains. Based on Sumerian seals with the earliest known depictions of people on horseback, riding has traditionally been dated to the Bronze Age, around 2000 B.C., in Mesopotamia.
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