Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Bloged in General by admin Wednesday January 3, 2007

2006 gave the horse world some memorable moments, and 2007
seems to be shaping up as another exciting year.

The horse who cast the longest shadow–even though he did it
far from any racetrack–over the world of Thoroughbred
racing in 2006 was, of course, Barbaro.

After winning the Kentucky Derby in the easiest of efforts,
Barbaro, trained by 1994 U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team member
Michael Matz, was seen by many as having a better than even
chance of winning the Triple Crown. But Fate had other
plans for the magnificent son of Dynaformer, and just a few
strides after the start of the Preakness stakes, Barbaro’s
jockey pulled him up, dismounted, and with the help of a
very courageous fan, held Barbaro until the Pimlico
Racetrack horse ambulance arrived to return him to his barn,
and the world waited for news.

Barbaro had suffered three fractures and a dislocation in
his right hind leg, and had he not been a horse of such
enormous breeding promise, with owners able to afford the
medical care necessary to try and save him, would very
likely have been euthanized immediately.

But what began to happen after Barbaro was taken to the
University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, where Dr.
Dean Richardson surgically inserted 23 metal pins and screws
into his shattered leg bones, and fused his dislocated ankle
joint, was nothing short of amazing. The center received
thousands of letters, phone calls, and e-mail messages for
Barbaro; prayer groups sprung up to pray for his recovery;
and he received so many apples and carrots from well-wishers
each day that all the equine patients at the New Bolton
center got a share.

The biggest thing in Barbaro’s favor was that none of the
bone fragments had pierced the skin of his leg, so he was
not immediately threatened with infection. But in July,
Barbaro had to go another surgery to replace some bent
screws, and at that time, he also had 80% of his exterior
lft hoof removed because of laminitis, and inflammation of
the hoof wall which occurs when a hosre puts excess weight
on a leg for too long. After the surgery, Dr. Richardson
said Barbaro’s prognosis was very poor.

But Barbaro had other ideas. With the help of a
weight-supporting sling, in which he stood for up to twelve
hours a day, and his own good sense, which led him to lie
down when he slept at night, Barbaro began to improve. As
of early December, his right leg cast was permanently
removed and replaced with a supportive shoe, and his left
hoof is continuing to grow out; his weight was at its
highest level since his injury.

Barbaro may never recover enough leg strength to function as
a stallion, but we can certainly hope that the same Fate
which ended his racing career is kind enough that a horse
with his combination of beauty, intelligence, and the will
to conquer can pass his traits on.

And for the thousands and thousands of horses who are not
fortunate enough to have Barbaro-like connections, the U.S.
Congress attempted to legislate a Horse Slaughter Bill which
would have prohibited the slaughter for human consumption of
some 90,000 horses each year. The bill generated great
controversy between those who see the method of slaughter as
inhumane and those who raise the point that unwanted horses
are not likely to be getting appropriate care. But the
bill did nothing to provide funding for the care of the
horses it claimed to be protecting, and will have to be
re-thought if it is to be an effective piece of legislation.
In the meantime, the issue of overproduction, especially of
horses destined for the racetrack, needs to be re-examined.


And in a story which could have repercussions well into
2007, veterinarians in Wellington, Florida, have had to
euthanize two horses shipped in for the three-month long
Winter Equestrian Festival, because they tested positive for
equine herpes virus. The horses were among a group of nine
which arrived from New York and Maryland on Nov. 29; where
they contracted the virus is not yet known. The Festival
has had to cancel its Christmas Horse Show.

On a happier note, 2007 will see a serious stepping up of
preparations for the 2008 Olympics, and I have high hopes
for the continued success of Ontario’s Jacqueline Brooks and
her beautiful bay Gran Gesto, who won the FEI World Cup
Canadian League Dressage Final in November and will be
representing Canada at the FEI World Cup Finals next April
in Las Vegas NV.

In the U.S., many are awaiting the racing debut of The Green
Monkey, the 2006 $16,000,000 yearling who has yet to
compete. And Smarty Jones’ first crop will be hitting the
sales rings; from all accounts Smarty is getting some very
impressive babies!

That’s it for now–holiday cheers to all!

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