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Olympic Equestrians  
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At the elite level of sports there are very few out gay male athletes. Some who have come out after retiring have cited fear of a reaction by others in the sport as a reason for remaining closeted while they competed.

The atmosphere in the sport of equestrianism is different from most, however. "I would say that many gays are involved in the horse world. . . . It is certainly no secret. This is a very accepting community," stated distinguished equestrian Mason Phelps, Jr.

Gay equestrians are among the most successful and respected athletes in their sport, and a number of them have participated in the Olympic Games.

Mason Phelps, Jr.

Mason Phelps, Jr. (b. 1949) has played a wide variety of roles in equestrian sports. He began riding at an early age and was soon competing in eventing and jumping both in the United States and abroad. In 1968 he received the double honors of being named to the Olympic team on the Three Day Eventing squad and chosen as the U.S. Combined Training Association's Rider of the Year.

Four years later he embarked on a career as a trainer. Eventually he opened his own stable for training hunters and jumpers.

In addition, Phelps became an event manager, producing equestrian shows around the country, founding such popular events as the "AA Rated Xmas Show" in San Antonio, Texas and the New England Horsemen's Association Hunt Seat Medal in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Phelps, who retired from competition in the late 1990s, now works in equestrian media. He established the Phelps Media Group in 2001 and launched the equestrian news web site five years later.

Phelps has a long record of philanthropy. His "Denim and Diamonds" fundraising parties, first held in 1997, have benefited the United States Equestrian Team (USET).

In 1996 Phelps joined with fellow Olympic equestrian Robert Dover and Dover's partner, show jumper Robert Ross, to found the Equestrian AIDS Foundation (EAF) to provide financial assistance for medical treatment, housing, food, and other necessities to members of the equestrian community with HIV/AIDS. Melissa Etheridge and Deborah Cox have been among the celebrities to perform at EAF fundraising events.

While offering help to persons with HIV/AIDS remains central to its mission, the EAF has recently extended the range of its work to assisting people who have suffered calamitous injuries. In reflection of this additional function, the organization has changed its name to the Equestrian Aid Foundation.

Robert Dover

Robert Dover (b. 1956) received his own first horse as a Bar Mitzvah present from his parents. An avid rider from an early age, he trained in various equestrian disciplines but was especially drawn to dressage. His mother, Jean Dover, attested to his dedication to his sport, recalling, "When Robert was a teenager, I never had to worry about where he was. He was always at the barn . . . cleaning his tack with my best olive oil."

Dover enrolled at the University of Georgia. While there, he had his first sexual encounter with another man, an experience he described as "a new life begun." He subsequently "began slowly to socialize with the gay community . . . and ultimately joined the close-knit family of gay students there."

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