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A life interrupted: Ode to Barbaro

Updated on June 14, 2010
Winning at the Kentucky Derby
Winning at the Kentucky Derby
Barbaro the Magnificent
Barbaro the Magnificent
Edgar Prado (jockey) and Barbaro
Edgar Prado (jockey) and Barbaro
Crowd around the paddock
Crowd around the paddock
"the gate flew open suddenly..."
"the gate flew open suddenly..."
race for the Preakness Cup at Pimlico
race for the Preakness Cup at Pimlico
accident at Pimlico, 2006
accident at Pimlico, 2006
Injured leg
Injured leg
Stunned crowd
Stunned crowd
fused joints, locking plates,and twenty seven screws
fused joints, locking plates,and twenty seven screws

The day of the Preakness race at Pimlico, 2006

I was there when it happened
that sixteenth day in May.
The crowd anticipating
another win that day.

I'd watched him win the Derby
excitement filled the air,
and all the horses in the race
were taking on the dare

The dare to be the best
their gentle hearts could be.
The dare to run a stellar race
for all the world to see.

The call to mount was given;
the familiar "Riders up!"
The jockey's only thoughts
to win the Derby cup

With a strong unbeaten record
and magnificent good looks,
his winning of the Derby
gave him credit in the books.

The seemingly invincible
would win the "Triple Crown."
He'd run the race called Preakness
and win the second round.

The day before the Preakness
to Pimlico they went.
Descending from the Brooklyn Van,
off to a barn they'd rent.

They knew that he had talent.
They knew that he had class.
But to win the race at Pimlico
would take much more than sass.

He had a natural balance
and an awesome stride in tact,
innate coordination,
he was fast and that's a fact.

Again the word was given
it's "Riders up", the call.
So jockeys up, away we go
there's room enough for all.

Now each and every one of them
paraded past the crowd,
toward the gate and all the posts,
the people cheering loud.

With *Michael as his trainer
and *Prado on his back,
his confidence was bursting
as he galloped down the track

With joie de vivre and head held high
he cantered down the track.
He knew what was expected
from the leader of the pack

They all filed through the iron gates
till every one was in
The crowd became excited,
they knew that he would win.

The gates flew open suddenly
releasing every one.
The horses scrambled in the dust
and started for the run.

Some out in front, some laying back
just waiting for the chance
for one small entry to the front,
one moment to advance.

And then the unimaginable,
the tragedy began
the cracking of the slender legs
that raced beneath the man.

The man who loved this horse so well
the limping he did heed
and tightening up upon the reins,
descended from his steed.

The horse was bent and broken,
he staggered cross the track,
The jockey led him to the rail
and strongly held him back.

He writhed in desperation
he pulled against the rein,
the break excruciating,
eyes blazing from the pain

More than a simple fracture,
They thought they'd put him down.
Instead they used a Kimzey splint
and drove him into town

The vet was up the whole night long
deciding what to do.
He looked at all the ex-rays,
He examined Barbaro too.

And so began the surgery ,
there were two joints to fuse.
The doc put in three locking plates
and twenty seven screws.

"There may be complications.
This is only the first step.
The other legs must bear the weight,"
his broken one inept.

And as the days past slowly by,
the left leg weighed upon,
succumbed to *laminitis.
The end was near anon.

So let this be a tribute
to a champion so fair
who died by euthanasia
to prevent more pain to bear.

Copyright © 2009 All rights reserved


*Michael Matz was Barbaro"s trainer and *Edgar Prado was his jockey. Both men were emotionally attached to Barbaro, an amazing animal, as was everyone who trained, rode or cared for him. They were devastated when he was injured and even more so when he died.

*Laminitis is an extremely painful condition which affects horses and other hoofed animals. The condition causes the lamellar tissues of the hoof to slowly die and disintegrate, causing the bones of the leg to rotate or sink through the hoof. The condition can be so painful that it requires euthanization,

the decision to euthanize

The decision to euthanize the 4-year-old colt, who shattered his right hind leg in last year's Preakness Stakes and later developed laminitis in his left hind foot, was made following what his amazing vet, Dr. Dean Richardson described as a "difficult night."

The main problem was that Barbaro "would not lie down for any length of time," Richardson said. "He's a horse that, for months, has been exceptionally quiet, calm, and relaxed. He would sleep. We could go in there (his stall) and work on him. He would lie down and get up. Last night was the first night ever that he was clearly distressed by his condition. We intensified all his pain medications pretty dramatically last night, trying to get him to go down, and he would not . We put him in another sling. Again, I want to emphasize that we stated and we meant what we said, if we couldn't control his discomfort, we wouldn't go on, and that was why the decision (to euthanize him) was made."

Barbaro's latest problems were not caused directly by the fractures he suffered in his right hind leg. They had completely healed, according to Dr. Richardson. But the discomfort from the laminitis in Barbaro's left hind foot caused him to become "very lame," Richardson said. As a result, the surgeon explained, Barbaro's right hind leg was forced to bear a "tremendous amount" of weight.

"He developed a pretty severe bruise on the outside heel of his right hind foot," Richardson said. "He was bearing so much weight on that leg because he was getting off of his left hind. The consequence of that deep bruise on the outside of his right hind foot is that he ended up with an abscess under the sole in the heel region of his foot. The foot is not the location where he had his fractures. His fractures were in his pastern and fetlock region, which are above that.

"It was this right hind foot that started the (latest) problem. He developed laminitis in both front feet, the reason being he had no hind feet (to support him). He was uncomfortable behind, and then he started overloading his front feet."


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