The thoroughbred racing horse that stole America’s heart by winning the Kentucky Derby last year by six-and-a-half lengths, was euthanized this morning. During the Preakness last year, Barbaro shattered his right hind leg at Pimilco Racetrack in Baltimore. With a large audience watching, the spirited young horse tried to run with a dangling back leg until the jockey dismounted and got help. As medical help arrived, the horse thrashed. Observers said he thrashed not from pain, but to get back onto the track. He wanted to race.
Since then, Barbaro has been in a fight for his life. Barbaro’s injuries included had a broken cannon bone above the ankle, a broken sesamoid bone behind the ankle, a broken long pastern bone below the ankle, and a dislocation of the fetlock joint. The outlook was grim, with only a fifty percent chance of survival. Other horses would have been euthanized on the spot.
But Barbaro was special. Not only was Barbaro a gifted thoroughbred racer, he was thought to be the horse with the most potential to win the triple crown-something that hasn’t happened in twenty-eight years. Still, it wasn’t only Barbaro’s potential or thirty million dollar price tag that caused his owners to seek extraordinary treatment for the horse. According to owner Gretchen Jackson, she broke the golden rule of horse ownership, and fell in love with the lively and intelligent Barbaro.
No expense was spared in the desperate attempt to save his life. Barbaro endured hours of surgery and physical therapy in a recovery pool. Even after all of his difficulties, the spirited colt still managed to charm people everywhere by dancing on his broken leg into his stall in the intensive care unit. Things were looking up.
Unfortunately, though broken bones could not fell the horse, an infection did. Barbaro suffered from fevers. Another operation was performed to change the screws, bolts and metal plates that held his hind leg together. Eighty percent of his hoof had to be removed, and the veterinarians did not hold out much hope for Barbaro’s survival.
Even so, the horse, and its owners, soldiered on. Barbaro had developed laminitis, a condition caused by uneven weight distribution on the bones. Because veterinarians were trying to keep weight off of the injured leg, his other legs were suffering under the additional stress. Doctors have been battling the condition for months now, but this weekend it was discovered that the horse had developed an abscess in his foot. The pain became too much for the horse to bear.
“We just reached a point where it was going to be difficult for him to go on without pain,” Barbaro’s co-owner, Roy Jackson, told The Associated Press. “It was the right decision. It was the right thing to do. We said all along, if there was a situation where it would become more difficult for him, then it would be time.”