I write in praise of a horse and of his owner. Michael Moran’s McDynamo was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame on Friday, after a career that included winning the Breeder’s Cup Grand National five times and the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Steeplechase horse three times. He didn’t always look like a champion – he finished last in his first race and had such claustrophobia in a starting gate that he dumped his jockey, jumped the fence and ran wild for 20 minutes. That was McDynamo’s last race on the flat, and Michael asked Sanna Hendriks to train him as a steeplechaser. Most of horse racing is a shameful sport, in which the animals are routinely injected with performance drugs and painkillers, the races often fixed, and the horses run into the ground until, when they can no longer run at all, they are discarded as trash. They are, in short, treated the same way so many other professional athletes are treated, without the possibility of a big contract. Their role is to perform, and their bodies increasingly break down under the pressures of doing so.
But McDynamo loved to run and jump, and Michael and his wife, Anne, an Irish-born horse whisperer, treated him with something you don’t much see at the track: love. They admired his talent and honored his spirit; they never pushed him beyond his limits; and when his career was over, they brought him home to live out the rest of his life in peace.