An article last Sunday about Mitt Romney’s wealth described incorrectly the horses Mr. Romney bought for his wife, Ann. They are warmblood horses, not thoroughbreds.
Whoa! How could a journalist ever commit such a towering error?
That’s a question for Michael Barbaro, who co-wrote the fascinating Dec. 10 story titled “Two Romneys: Wealthy Man, Thrifty Habits.” Amid anecdotes about how the multimillionaire Romney told a colleague he couldn’t afford a Porsche and went diving to dredge up a lost and inexpensive anchor, the story mentioned that Romney “has acquired six-figure thoroughbred horses for his wife, Ann, yet plays golf with clubs from Kmart.”
The New York Times’ community of unpaid fact-checkers jumped on it. “We have equine-savvy readers,” says Barbaro. Those readers, he notes, know that Ann Romney is into dressage, a horsey competition heavy on precise movements. Dressage competitions are open to all breeds of horses, though warmbloods tend to dominate the scene these days. After sampling the complaints from readers, Barbaro did some additional investigation. Sure enough, Ann Romney rides warmbloods.
Just what does that mean? According to all-around equestrian expert Kelley Holly, warmbloods lend themselves to the balletic prancing required in dressage competitions. “It’s more of their natural tendencies and abilities, their natural carriage,” she says. “That’s what they’ve been bred for.” Thoroughbreds, as all well know, are commonly bred for racing, though there’s plenty of crossover among the breeds and the sort of competitions in which they participate.
Whether or not Ann Romney’s six-figure warmblood horses were better suited than thoroughbreds for the piaffe or the canter or the half-pass is probably more than Barbaro ever intended to bite off. Merely saying “six-figure horses” might have been the way to go. Either way, Holly says not to get too uptight about the distinctions. “Breed of the horse is a teeny, tiny little factor, more of something you’d mention in passing, like the color of somebody’s shirt they wore to the party,” she says.