One of the highlights of the Rancho Valencia Dressage Affaire in Del Mar California was the solid and confirmed performance of the lovely mare Rafalca, the 15-year-old Oldenburg mare by Argentinius x Rubenstein, owned by Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Beth Meyer and Jan’s wife Amy. That makes Jan the lone man on a team of woman including the horse. “Yea, but I’m the one who gets to ride her,” he says with a smile. Ebeling and Rafalca’s performance culminated with a 74.800% in the Freestyle, securing their spot to represent the USA in The Reem/Acra World Cup Final in the Netherlands being held in s’Hertogenbosch April 18-22, 2012. Ebeling plans on staying on to train with Wolfram Wittig in Rahden, Germany and compete in Europe before returning to the USA for the National Championships and Dressage Olympic Selection Trials being held over two consecutive weekends June 8-10, and 15-17.
During the 2009 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas Rafalca suffered the luck of the draw following an arena break, which included loud fireworks in a performance. The mare was so frightened it broke Jan’s wife Amy’s heart that she had to go through such a bad experience.
“She is such a wonderful and honest horse,” recalled Amy. “For her to have had to face such an unusual challenge in a Dressage competition did not seem fair. “ The mare and Ebeling showed their consistency In 2011 improving their scores with each outing to qualify for the 2011 Reem/Acra World Cup Final in Leipzig, Germany earning their way into the final and finishing 11th in the world standings with a at 72.589. While the result was at the time a new personal best, for Ebeling it was more about Rafalca’s bravery in overcoming the frightening experience she had in Las Vegas. At Aachen in July 2011, Rafalca once again was one of the first to go each day of the competition not the best starting position for any Dressage test, let alone the all important Nations Cup team competition, but her confidence was bolstered by the event as well as by her skillful rider gaining more international experience making her more confirmed with each outing.
Rafalca’s co-owner Ann Romney, wife of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was able to slip away from the earlier days of the campaign for the week of Aachen in July of 2011, her first time attending the number one dressage competition in the world. In spite of the early morning start time for her horse, Rafalca, Romney sat with co-owners Beth Meyer and Amy Ebeling and stayed throughout the entire day undetected in the grandstands, watching in awe the world’s top rider and horse combinations in person. Undeterred by several cold wet days in the stands, “Team Rafalca” bundled up under horse blankets and newly purchased fleece lined jackets they never expected they would need in July, determined to make the most of the once in a lifetime experience.
At the Rancho Valencia Dressage Affaire, Rafalca handled the sold out crowd in an electric atmosphere like the veteran she is, putting in “The best ride I have had have ever seen her,” said American 4* Dressage judge, Lilo Fore. Though Romney with the Republican primary campaign in full swing was not able to attend, she was in close touch with the Ebeling by phone and thrilled at the promise Rafalca holds for the American Dressage team. Ebeling’s partnership with the Romneys began when the couple was living in Utah while Mitt was overseeing the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Jan was traveling to Salt Lake City to do clinics and Ann began to ride with him. At the time, Ann’s multiple sclerosis was so severe she could only ride for five minutes. But Ann was determined to ride. “What willpower,” Jan said. Romney credits riding and dressage for helping her MS which is now in remission, and shares with her good friends in supporting one of America’s leading Dressage riders in his Olympic dream. Rafalca has proven she has overcome her experiences and will be one of the top contenders in an admittedly tight race for the three horse American Olympic team being selected in June.
Announcer Brian O’Connor bestowed the nickname on Rafalca of the possible future “First Horse” during the prize giving.