Every single horse ran immediately, except one. Alex, named like that after the leading character in A Clockwork Orange, had stayed exactly were he was and no matter how much the jockey on top of him kicked him, he didn’t move a single millimeter. Everyone in the team was seriously pissed. They had all invested something in the race and now it was all in the trash can just because a horse had decided to show his opinion during a very important event.
To be fair, it wasn’t that Alex was especially bright or anything, the point was he had been well trained by his former master. Lady Claire had been only ten years old when her parents had gave her that horse as a present for her birthday. It wasn’t exactly a surprise, considering the family had strong connections with horse that went for years. They had even provided the police and the army with horses and won several contests and shows with their best stallions.
Alex was, nevertheless, Claire’s pet. He was never supposed to run in any race or to be under scrutiny of any person ever. Yet, when he grew up and transformed into a very well formed horse, more than one person started telling Lady Claire’s father that he was wasting a great horse by letting his daughter have him just running around his premises every day. They saw how he played with the girl and how he ran when she asked for a mount and all the other instruments.
Those men were always around the house, normally just overlooking the training process for the horses that had been specifically raised to enter competitions or to serve certain institutions. But one of them, called David Byrne, got obsessed with the idea of seeing Alex run in a real race. The man insisted daily to Claire’s father that he had to make that horse run and that he could make a lot of money with him. He also proposed him to sell the horse to him and he would be the one to train him in the best conditions possible.
But of course, as soon as Claire heard someone wanted to take her away from her pet, she insisted to her father that he couldn’t simply take something he had given to her as a preset. The horse was hers and only Clair could be the one to decide if he ran or if he just walked around their estate. And she had no intention of selling or training Alex for anything, so the answer was always a negative one to Mr. Byrne.
Annoyed by the fact that a girl was on his way and that her father was a man that couldn’t even control his own daughter, he decided to do what he knew most: manipulate the context. He decided to end various deals he had reached with Claire’s father, which put him in very serious problems with a lot of people, like the government and a large amount of private investors that had invested their money in the very large and modern stables in which all of the horses trained and maintained by Claire’s father lived. Although the hit was not very strong at first, it became a problem after some months.
Byrne was a very bitter human being and he didn’t like to loose at all. He hated the idea of even stepping aside to make someone’s life easier. The moment he had the idea of making Alex his horse and making him run in various competitive events, he had decided in his head that it needed to happen and he wasn’t going to stop for details, like the horse not being his or the opposition of the real owner. Besides, he was rather accustomed to winning his arguments so he knew it was a thing of time until he had his way.
Claire’s Father, who she called Daddy even when she got older, came to her room one day and decided to ask her for Alex in the nicest tone possible. She was already a woman, almost off to college. She visited Alex every day in the stables and treated him more like a dog than like a horse. She even had the idea of going to study to a school where she could have him around in order to make some exercise and not to loose her connection to the horse. And it was then that her father realized what he had to do: promising something he wasn’t going to do, like taking good care of the horse.
The girl trusted her father because he was who he was. She left for college months later and once she was out of the picture, her dad attempted to deal with Byrne. The man was obviously beaming with pleasure when he received the call and he even decided to play dumb and not accept the man’s calls for a while. But he eventually went to the stables and talked to him, hearing his proposal. Claire’s father was not ready to sell the horse as, legally; the horse was his daughter’s property. However, he would let Mr. Byrne trained the horse and earn money that way.
The man accepted. Claire’s father was very glad because it meant they could do business again and he could access all of his former clients again. The money made from the horses was very important to him and his wealth. So Alex begun training under a very harsh woman hired by Byrne, who was supposed to be one of the best in the field. She was a very harsh person and used a whip to make her results even better.
She made Alex work a lot more than he had ever worked. Called Françoise, the woman was as big as a small horse and cracked the whip every time she thought the creature was not doing what she was asking or had been doing it wrong for a while. She made him run and jump for hours, until Alex was exhausted.
Even the other trainers, the ones supervising the horses that would go to other owners, seemed appalled by the way Françoise treated Alex and her energy around the stables. Every single horse got quite restless when she appeared and would only calm down after a while. Alex would always respond to her arrival by kicking the wall of his small room with his hind legs. He kicked so hard, he broke the wood once and that had to be mend by Claire’s father.
He witnessed one day how the woman did the job and was horrified by it but he didn’t say anything because it seemed Byrne was very happy with the results. Françoise stated that the horse would be ready for a race in just a month and Byrne had already booked him for three different events taking place just within days of each other. The only thing Claire’s father did was checking his calendar and making sure his daughter wasn’t going to be around for those dates.
He had dodged any questions about her horse for days now. He would always answer to her vaguely over the phone and change the subject abruptly to her studies and she didn’t say anything because she was grateful to her father that he had understood her choices in life and that she had chosen to study a liberal art and not the career he had always wanted for her. So she went along and never insisted on speaking about her horse or anything else really.
The last month of training was simply brutal. Françoise cracked her whip more times in those days that in all the others days combined. Her trained was becoming so intense, that some of the stable workers decided to ask her to relax a little and let the horse rest for at least a day or she would kill him from exhaustion. But she simply cracked her whip at him and they never insisted again.
The day of the race, Byrne and the whip women were really confident that Alex was going to win. They had run tests with him against other horses and he had won every single one of those. So there was no doubt they had a winner in their hands. So it was baffling, to say the least, when Alex stood still and didn’t budge one bit.
What they didn’t know was that Claire had found out some days earlier about the whole thing and she had visited her pet in secret. Having spent her life with him, enable her to just tell him what he had to do when he heard the gun going off at the racetrack. She claimed her horse back after that and decided not to forgive her father for his behavior. Claire just took Alex and moved him closer to her and away from betrayal.