Jan Ebeling, Mrs. Romney’s longtime riding tutor, and his horse Rafalca, co-owned by Mrs. Romney, earned a berth on the United States Olympic dressage team on Saturday.
Mr. Ebeling, 53, who has spent a decade knocking on the door of top international competition, made his first Olympic team with a third-place finish here at the United States Equestrian Team Foundation headquarters, a century-old stable built by the financier James Cox Brady to adjoin his 64-room mansion.
While Mr. Romney was barnstorming on a bus tour of swing states, Mrs. Romney watched from a V.I.P. tent as Mr. Ebeling executed a smooth “test” of flying changes, in which Rafalca seemed to skip down the arena, and piaffes, an in-place trot.
“I only looked at the scoreboard one time, and it looked good, and I thought, don’t look again,” a pleased Mr. Ebeling, who entered the four-day competition ranked No. 9 in the United States, said afterward.
As the wife of the presumed Republican presidential nominee, Mrs. Romney, through her involvement as a deep-pocketed patron, has brought dressage more attention than it has ever received in the United States, despite celebrating its 100th year in the Olympics. The comedian Stephen Colbert was the latest to focus on it, with a skit on his Comedy Central show last week that ribbed the sport’s fussy, elitist image.
“Folks,” Mr. Colbert said, “the image of Romney as a privileged princeling ends today, because now Mitt is just your average blue-collar fan of dressage.”
To show it can take a joke, the United States Equestrian Federation distributed 500 foam No. 1 fingers here, a cheeky reference to a prop Mr. Colbert used in his skit as he clutched a beer bottle in his other hand and cheered, “Woo!”
The equestrian federation even recorded spectators waggling the red foam fingers for a YouTube video it planned to offer as a “rebuttal” to Mr. Colbert. Mrs. Romney, too, put one on.
“I think having someone like Mrs. Romney so interested in horses is certainly helpful for our sport, and we’re all very happy,” Mr. Ebeling said. “Bring it on.”
But as Mr. Colbert’s satire suggested, the scrutiny may not be entirely a blessing for Mr. Romney’s image as a man in touch with the concerns of average Americans. As millions tune in to the Olympics in prime time this summer, just before Mr. Romney will be reintroducing himself to the nation at the Republican convention, viewers are likely to see “up close and personal” segments on NBC about the Romneys and dressage, a sport of six-figure horses and $1,000 saddles. The Romneys declared a loss of $77,000 on their 2010 tax returns for the share in the care and feeding of Rafalca, which Mrs. Romney owns with Mr. Ebeling’s wife, Amy, and a family friend, Beth Meyers.
In her only public role here, Mrs. Romney, wearing a blue Team U.S.A. jacket, awarded a trophy to the winner of an earlier competition for disabled riders.
Otherwise, she mingled casually outside and in the V.I.P. tent, where the dress code included white pants for men and women, with various breeds of small dogs as popular accessories.
Mrs. Romney declined an interview request through a press secretary, who said she would attend the dressage competition in London beginning Aug. 2. In addition to Mr. Ebeling, the other riders qualifying for the team, which is to be confirmed on Sunday, are Steffen Peters, who finished first over all, Tina Konyot, in second, and Adrienne Lyle, in fourth.
The top three riders and their horses compete in the team event in London, and the fourth combination will enter the individual event. The competition takes place at Greenwich Park, London’s oldest Royal Park, which dates to 1433.