On June 3, Dan McCarthy squired the young equestrians of the walk-trot ground rails equitation class around the Roberts Ring during the World Equestrian Center Ohio Spring II show with his trademark, “Children, we are going to walk now” direction. Just five days later, on June 8, McCarthy celebrated his 90th birthday with his family and a picnic day.
“My son came in from Santa Fe; my brothers came in, and my sister came in, and then my [other] relatives,” said the Clayton, Michigan, resident. “We turned it actually into a small family reunion of people who were available on short notice.”
When a job at Ford sent him over to horse-saturated Ireland in his 20s, McCarthy felt pulled to foxhunting and steeplechasing. When he returned stateside he got involved with the Waterloo Hunt Club (Michigan), and when he remarried into a family involved with horse shows he started volunteering there. He began by working the gate, and then in the 1970s, he started announcing.
“I took vacation from my work in order to do that because I enjoyed it, and my family was still showing at the time,” he said. “It was something I enjoyed, and I actually got paid for it.”
Even after his family stopped riding, he continued announcing. But as those in the Midwest who have heard his calm, encouraging voice can attest, he says more than just horse and rider names. He uses his time in the announcer’s box to inspire positivity, sportsmanship and excitement.
“As I’ve grown older and stopped riding, I feel that I can contribute to horse showing with experience, and [I] try to use good judgment,” he said. “I’ve had people tell me that I’m not just an announcer; I am also commentator. I know the risk that there is about saying additional things, so I try to be positive. When I notice things that are heartwarming and of good value to people—like when a child ran out into the ring when her friend got dumped—when I notice things that are spontaneous, I feel I need to reward the person by saying how exemplary it is, how kind, and how the sport of horse showing brings out the good in people.
“I try to make the exhibitors feel important as I have learned in my lifetime how influential it can be,” he added. “I try to recognize the people as individuals, and [tell them] that they can make a contribution to the sport as well as receive things from it.”
In 2021, the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association named him one of the winners of the Vital Horse Show Staff Award, and that same year the Waterloo Hunt Club hunter/jumper shows named their announcer’s tower in his honor. The show’s 77th anniversary, held June 27-July 2, will be McCarthy’s next gig behind the microphone.
“What I get out of it, that’s my joy,” he said. “That’s why I’m still doing it. I have found that it is meaningful.
“As long as I make people aware of how lucky we all are, that’s a good thing,” he added.
This article appeared in the June 26-July 17, 2023, issue of The Chronicle of the Horse. You can subscribe and get online access to a digital version and then enjoy a year of The Chronicle of the Horse and our lifestyle publication, Untacked. If you’re just following COTH online, you’re missing so much great unique content. Each print issue of the Chronicle is full of in-depth competition news, fascinating features, probing looks at issues within the sports of hunter/jumper, eventing and dressage, and stunning photography.