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The Olympic Equestrian events are an acquired taste that I have yet to acquire. The outfits, however, I can get behind.

Sure President Obama says he is in favor of gay marriage. But when it comes to supporting ‘the gays’, Mitt Romney puts his money where his mouth is. Or at least where his mouth would never be caught going. He’s devoted hundreds of thousands of dollars to promoting the gayest sport at the Olympics. While stumping on the campaign trail Mitt may sing his own praises about his involvement with running the Salt Lake Olympics, but Team Romney is in the pink for the London Games, standing firmly behind the Equestrian, which historically has had more openly out gay competitors than any other Olympic sport, including diving.

And shame on conservative political pundit Stephen Colbert for holding the Romneys up for ridicule during his broadcast Tuesday night for their involvement with a sport that demonstrates genteel foppery at its finest. Colbert deserves a stern wag of his own finger for pointing out that Team Romney shills for an event that some describe as ice skating for horses while neglecting to mention that by doing so Romney is merely practicing an understated pacifist Mormon approach in championing a sport filled with gay Champions. It seems Mitt likes the gays more than anyone ever suspected. And don’t get me started about his love of show tunes . . .

. . . and I bet he’s hung like a horse too.

Sure everyone loves horses; I mean what lesbian doesn’t? But just how gay is the equestrian world you may ask. Well, what other Olympic sport can boast of a medal ceremony where of the 12 athletes given medals, all of the men were gay? And until U.S. divers David Boudia and Thomas Finchum come out in London, what other Olympic sport can claim participation by an openly gay couple? Not to mention that any sport called dressage has got to be pretty gay just on general principles.

Matthew Mitchum may get all the press for being the reigning openly gay Olympic medal winner, but out gay men have taken home medals in the equestrian events from the Olympic Games in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008. Expect the 2012 Olympics to be no different. Dutchman Edward Gal and his stallion Moorlands Totilas (nicknamed Toto), who have been dubbed ‘rock stars of the horse world’ are heavily favored for medalling in London as is Gal’s boyfriend and teammate Hans Peter Minderhoud. And Mitt wants to be there to cheer them on.

You know those knee pads are staying on, right?

The current Olympic equestrian disciplines are Dressage, Eventing, and Jumping. In each, both individual and team medals are awarded. In Jumping, riders complete a course hurdling over about 15 fences. In Dressage, riders perform a series of pirouettes and other dance-like moves while wearing tails and top hats. And Eventing is a combination of dressage, jumping, and cross country. Team Romney is drawn to the gayest of the three: dressage.

Traditionally seen as the exclusive domain of the privileged – Captain Mark Anthony Phillips ex-husband of Princess Anne is an Olympic Gold medalist in the sport and the Queen’s granddaughter Zara will be competing at the London Games – Dressage, often referred to as horse ballet, is a classical equestrian dance competition that passes as sport among the 1%. Rightly so, it comes with enormous expenses. The horses alone often carry a six-figure price tag (The Romneys have owned eight dressage horses, including their current mount Rafalca). Add in vet bills, insurance, staff wages, and enormous transportation costs for shuttling horses and riders to major competitions around the world and you can see why Romney got a tax break on his reported $77,000 loss for his involvement in the sport in 2010.

That’s one lucky pony.

But even that pales in financial comparison to the $500,000 investment the Romney’s hold in Rob Rom Enterprises, Inc – the corporation that holds title to their horse – and the $250,000 to $500,000 loan they floated to Ann Romney’s dressage trainer Jan Ebeling for the horse farm he runs in California where the Romneys stay in a Mediterranean-style guesthouse they use often as a getaway.

Dressage enthusiast Kenneth J. Braddick says the Romneys are regulars at dressage events and travel to Europe together to purchase horses for their California stable. When Ebeling was preparing a dressage routine to try and qualify for this year’s World Cup, Braddick said it was Mitt Romney who picked selections from the soundtracks to Rainman and The Mission as the music that would accompany the horse and rider’s performance. Braddick says this is not an unsubstantial contribution – many riders have music specially composed for competition, and some even hire an orchestra to play a version that will precisely fit the prancing of their horse. Elton John just might land a gig during the Olympics after all.

The look in that horse’s eye is saying, “I saw him first!”

And it looks like the pocket change the Romneys have thrown into the family’s athletic pursuits may finally be paying dividends. Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it can buy a horse and entry into the gay world of equestrian competition. Rafalca, ridden by Ebeling with musical scoring by Mitt, came in third last weekend at the United States Equestrian Federation National Dressage Championships in New Jersey. The Grand Prix competition is a qualifying event for the U.S. Dressage Team for the 2012 Olympic Games, and will finish next Saturday. The Romneys are hoping they finish better than Mitt did in many republican primaries, and are looking forward to joining their gay friends and fellow equestrian enthusiasts at the Summer Games in London, scheduled to be held between 28 July and 9 August at the Greenwich Park venue.

The Olympic Equestrian events proudly champion horses of every color. Particularly pink ones. “I would say that many gays are involved in the horse world. . . . It is certainly no secret,” says distinguished equestrian and out athlete Mason Phelps, Jr. who was a reserve member of the U.S. Olympic Eventing Team at the Mexico City Games. “It’s a very accepting community.” And a community that the Romneys have enthusiastically embraced.

William Levy shirtless. There’s a horse in the picture too.

In fact, the absence of an out rider on the U.S. team at the Beijing Games was more noteworthy than that there were openly gay athletes at the Games. “Strangely, this year there are no out riders competing on the team,” commented four-time Olympic medalist and openly gay rider Robert Dover, who was the equestrian team Captain at the Sydney Games. “There is one rider who is married, but is having an affair with a guy, but so far he’s not coming forward about it” he added.

Dover himself has competed in six Olympics and his partner Robert Ross, a jumper, is an Olympian too. He hopes that athletes in other sports will someday feel free to identify themselves publicly as gay. And he says that there are many who could. “I wish that all gay athletes would come out in all disciplines – football, baseball, the Olympics, whatever,” said Dover. “After six Olympics, I know they’re in every sport. You just have to spend one day in the housing, the gyms, or at dinner to realize we’re all over.”

My little pony.

Gay Olympians in the Equestrian, however, are a horse of a different stripe. Many well-known athletes are publicly out within the sport. Carl Hester, a British rider competed in both the Sydney and Athens Games and achieved ‘pin up’ status with horse-loving teenagers that made him the biggest name in British dressage in his day. And Guenter Seidel, a German who immigrated to the U.S. in 1985 competed in dressage for his adopted country winning team medals at the Atlanta, Sydney, and Athens Games. Even more unusual are the equestrians who have combined their love of sport with their love of men. Several well-known pairs have partnered up both on and off the field.

New Zealander Blyth Tait, who competed in Eventing was the number one ranked competitor in the world from 1992 to 1998 and was also given the honor of being selected to bear New Zealand’s flag in the opening ceremony at the Sydney Games where he competed with his partner of ten years, Paul O’Brien. Tait won an individual bronze and team silver at the Barcelona Games, and a team bronze and individual gold at the Atlanta Games.

I believe that’s what they call a horse’s ass.

Tait met his partner while both were in England, originally serving as a mentor to O’Brien. ”He has trained me from day one, so he has been the main influence on me and my riding career,” said O’Brien. “And then the relationship grew into a loving one.”

Though no longer competing at the Olympic level, the pair took part at the Beijing Games, O’Brien as Olympic selector and Tait as team manager for the Kiwis. Fellow out equestrians and Dutch riders and partners Edward Gal and Hans-Peter Minderhoud, however, still actively compete and will be participating at the London Games.

Time to saddle up I’d say.

The high profile celebrity couple collaborate to become stronger in their chosen sport. “We ride together every day and once in a while Hans-Peter helps me by watching and telling me how it looks,” says Gal. Hans-Peter says the duo is versatile, sometimes even ride each other’s horses to check how the horse feels. They feel that having a partner who is also a competitor is a big advantage.

“Competitions are a way of life and it is so much fun if you are with someone who precisely understands that and knows what you are doing, dedicating all your time to horses,” says Hans-Peter. “And we only need one hotel room now,” Gal adds jokingly.

Cool. A stable that delivers.

Proving they are champions off the field too, former Olympian Robert Dover too paired up with a fellow equestrian, Robert Ross, and the two joined with Equestrian Mason Phelps, Jr. to found the Equestrian AIDS Foundation in 1996 which provides financial assistance for medical treatment, housing, food, and other necessities to members of the equestrian community with HIV/AIDS. The impact that AIDS has had on the equestrian world is not a documented subject. However, U.S. Olympian Darren Chiacchia was outed and made the news in 2010 thanks to a nasty break-up with his boyfriend that involved the HIV virus.

Chiacchia, who competes in Eventing, jokes he is the second most famous person from Ocala Florida after John Travolta. The gay part is left unsaid. An Olympic bronze medalist at the Athens Games, he gained national attention in 2008 when while preparing for the Beijing Games he was thrown from his horse in an accident that put him in a coma. While being treated for his injuries at a hospital in Gainesville, Chiacchia tested positive for HIV. Chiacchia, however, called the test results questionable, stating, “I am 100 percent healthy.”

You might call it kink, but I’m going with lust at first sight.

On the road to recovery from his injuries, Chiacchia met a man on a gay dating site in February 2009 and they dated and had sex regularly until June of 2010. On the morning that Chiacchia broke up with the man, his ex went to the police and filed a criminal complaint against him, which led the district attorney to charge Chiacchia with violating Florida’s disclosure laws about people infected with the HIV virus.

In Florida, if an HIV positive person knows that he is HIV positive and has been informed that HIV may be transmitted during sexual intercourse, and has sexual intercourse with any other person without disclosing his HIV status, it can be prosecuted. It is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If a couple has sex on multiple occasions, and the infected partner continues to fail to disclose his or her status, the crime can become a first-degree felony.

Okay, this time you are right. That is kinky. But look at that ass! Ya know what? Fuck PETA.

When asked if Chiacchia thought the charges were nothing more than the result of a bad breakup, he replied, “Absolutely, absolutely. I sent him an e-mail that said enough’s enough. I sent the e-mail at 9:30, it was read at 9:35, the police report was filed at 10:00 a.m. What do you think, what do you think?”

Note to self: breaking up by email might not be a good idea.

The case gained national attention serving to out Chiacchia and to complicate his plans to earn a spot on the team for the London Olympics. But then last year all charges against Chiacchia were dropped. The state of Florida’s homophobic legislature’s refusal to provide equal rights to gays and lesbians worked against them. An appellate circuit court in Tampa found that since intercourse is legally defined as ‘the penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ,’ and that under Florida law, ‘intercourse’ is only defined as sex between a man and a woman, then a same sex couple could not be prosecuted.

Come on, it’s dick. Do you really need a mildly funny caption?

Chiacchia, who claims the charges were fraudulent from the start, is now directing his attention toward London and the 2012 Games and the possibility of sharing an equestrian moment with the Romneys. With luck, Mitt will have ample time to spend with his gay friends and fellow sportsmen in the near future.

[‘The XXX Games’ are a series of posts about hot Olympians, gay competitors - both present and past - and general articles about the 2012 London Olympics of interest to gay men. So, yeah, lots of hot male eye candy. Click the XXX Games graphic below for additional news, stories, and pictures.]

The XXX Games of the Olympiad