Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of an icon in the equine world. It was a year ago today that Barbaro lost his battle with a long list of medical issues resulting from a complex leg fracture while running in the Preakness Stakes in May 2006.
He was immediately rushed to a state of the art equine care facility - the New Bolton Center - a division of the University of Pennsylvania located in the Philadelphia suburbs. Typically a horse faced with this type of injury is immediately euthanized, primarily due to the cost of repairing a fracture and the long rehabilitation road that the animal and it's family would face. These milestones are not easily faced with an animal tipping the scales at over 1,000 lbs. Barbaro's owners have been in the racing business for many years and have been successful. They are different than many racehorse owners. They truly care about their horses and develop strong bonds with them. Barbaro was like a member of their family. It didn't matter that clearly, his racing days were over far too quickly and he would no longer produce the projected earnings most owners would hope for. Due to their love for his very large personality, they wanted him to be able to retire to their pastures and live the rest of his life in comfort. For this, they would spend whatever they needed to with no hesitation. Their only requirement was a simple one - Barbaro was not to suffer without any hope for recovery or quality of life. This was a tall order for his caregiver - Dr. Dean Richardson. He would ultimately be left with the final decision at any given moment. His expertise took Barbaro through numerous surgical procedures to repair his injured leg. It seemed to be working. In the end a series of conditions including laminitis in the left rear hoof, an abscess in the right rear hoof, as well as a new case of laminitis in both front feet led to the heart wrenching decision to let him go. Archived updates regarding Barbaro's treatment and progress can be found here. Over the past year many have criticized Barbaro's owners and caregivers. They have accused them of prolonging his suffering for financial gain. Despite many reports, though the option was there, they never harvested his sperm for the future. Any of his caregivers that have been interviewed have stated he was feisty, mischievous, and as active as he could be under the circumstances on most days. His pain was carefully monitored and controlled at every moment. So many fell in love with this magnificent horse and came to admire his zest for life. He did not die in vain. Treating a horse with such severe issues was previously undheard of. Many of the techniques used were new and no one knew whether they would be effective. Much was gained regarding the treatment of laminitis and it gives new hope to other horse owners who may otherwise have had no treatment options for their injured horses.
The Barbaro Fund at New Bolton has raised more than $1.3 million dollars and is still growing. The money is being put towards the equine facility's expansion and upgraded equipment so that they can be better prepared for other equines with similar issues. Barbaro's owners have also developed a $3 million endowment named for Dr. Richardson at the University of Pennsylvania's veterinary school to study advanced equine diseases. This will save many more equines in the future. In addition Barbaro devotees have raised more than $800,000 and have saved more than 1,950 horses from slaughter.
Our girl is very involved in the equestrian world. We have been around horses for several years now and have come from knowing absolutely nothing, to having such an appreciation for these magnificent animals. Their personalities and traits are complex, yet fascinating. They are unlike any other animal and their beauty is often breathtaking. We have yet to meet a horse that in it's own way is not hauntingly beautiful somehow, even those caked with dirt from a good roll in the mud. The sport is not without risk and there is much to learn. We are currently nursing a concussion our girl received on Saturday from a jump gone awry and a misunderstanding between her and her horse. Despite the injuries, both physical and to the ego - that we have encountered, the love she has for these animals is steadfast and unwavering . Their lessons can be humbling but must be respected. Perhaps only an equestrian can understand that concept. We can truly understand the devotion Barbaro's owners had for him.
For the commitment that Barbaro's owners have had and continue to have and for the endless hours of compassionate attention his caregivers gave him - we offer two paws up. May his legacy continue and his memory remain in every animal lover's heart.
"Grief is the price we pay for love."