Some animals capture my heart...actually LOTS of animals capture my heart. But one of the standouts was Barbaro. Everyone loves a winner and everyone loves to root for the underdog (or I should say: "Under Horse!") Barbaro was both of those.
Barbaro was born on April 29, 2003. He was bred and owned by Gretchen and Roy Jackson at Lael Stables in West Grove, Pennsylvania. He was only the 6th undefeated horse to win the Kentucky Derby when he bested the field of 20 by six and a half lengths in the 2006 running of the roses. However, tragedy struck just 2 weeks later at the running of the Preakness. Barbaro broke through the starting gate prematurely. But the second start appeared fine. Within a short distance, right in front of the grandstand, Barbaro shattered his right hind leg in more than 20 places.
Dr. Dean Richardson at Univ. of Penn's New Bolton Center performed a difficult five hour surgery the next day. He fused the fetlock and pasturn joints by attaching a steel plate with 27 screws. Barbaro was then put in the recovery pool (see my post on Ruffian from January 5th) and Barbaro woke up calmly.
At first, all looked good. But by the 1st week in July, complications arose. Horses are designed to support their weight on all four feet. When one foot is injured, the horse tends to protect that foot by carrying more weight on the companion leg. When too much weight is shifted to the other foot for too long, Laminitis can develop. Laminitis is the inflammation of the Laminae in the hoof. Abscesses can then form which will leak out the white band on the sole of the hoof or out the coronary band at the top of the hoof. The swelling can pull the bones in the hoof away from the wall. This is, obviously, very painful.
Five more surgery's were undertaken to help this. 80% of Barbaro's left hoof was removed. It was unknown just how much would grow back. Now both hind legs were in casts! He was put in a supporting sling for hours at a time to help relieve the pressure and pain. His condition went up and down for the next few months. Thousands of cards, flowers and gifts arrived at his stall wishing him well. I remember well the press conference on Dec. 13th when his vets said he was doing well. Then Laminitis developed in both front feet. The owners and the vets decided there was nothing more they could do and had to put Barbaro down on January 29, 2007. I was so sad that day.
Barabo was cremated and buried in front of Churchill Downs. A bronze sculpture was created by Alexa King and was unveiled in front of Churchill Downs on April 26, 2009.
In his honor, Beanie Babies and Breyer both made horses in their respective mediums. Three scholarships were established for Vet students at the University of Florida. (I don't know the connection there...maybe one of the Jacksons went there...it is in "Jacksonville" you know!) Books have been written about him and in 2007 Universal Studios announced that they would be making a film about him titled: "Gone Like the Wind." It has been shelved, however.
For readers of Behind The Mist, Kit is an appaloosa mare, the Alpha Mare of the herd of trail horses in Rocky Mountain National Park. However, in real life, Kit is my beautiful, bay, thoroughbred gelding with a white star on his forehead...just like Barbaro!
Send me the story of your Noble and Great horse. He or she probably never won a race...just your heart! You can reach me at:
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