Barbaro died 10 years ago today. What’s changed?

Barbaro breaks down in the Preakness at Plimico.
Source: Bryant Photos.

Barbaro died 10 years ago today.

Barbaro’s public breakdown, numerous treatments and eventual death should have galvanized horse racing to deal with its equine athletes in a more ethical and compassionate manner.

What’s changed? Nothing. As a matter of fact, racehorse breakdowns and deaths are arguably worse.

Cheating and drugging, fueled by greed and ego, are as rampant as ever.

Racehorses are breaking down and dying at every level, in training and on the racecourse. A particular gut wrenching trend is the destruction of young horses who are being killed at an all time high at the tender age of two.

Don’t take our word for it.

You can follow the trail of injury and death at the Horse Racing Wrongs website compiled by Patrick Battuello.

New York alone killed 119 rachorses in 2016. And those are the recorded ones. Always bear in mind that the reporting of racehorse deaths is not demanded by any racing authority. It is purely voluntary.

Barbaro Timeline

Oct. 4, 2005 – He wins his first race at Delaware Park. Barbaro went on to win four additional racing contests prior to being entered into the Kentucky Derby.

May 6, 2006 – Barbaro wins the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs by 61/2 lengths, becoming a favorite to win the Triple Crown.

May 20, 2006 – A freak accident at the Preakness Stakes, held at Pimlico Raceway near Baltimore, results in the severe fracturing of Barbaro’s right-hind leg into 23 pieces, bringing on a life-threatening condition.

May 21, 2006 – Barbaro undergoes surgery at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center in East Marlborough. During the operation Dr. Dean Richardson, the chief surgeon, implants metal plates with 23 screws into the horse’s badly fractured leg with the aim of stabilizing it. Following surgery, Barbaro was lowered into a specialized, heated water tank with a sling. The tank, complete with a rubber raft, allowed the animal to come out of sedation without reinjuring the leg. Following surgery, Barbaro is given a 50-50 chance of survival.

July 13, 2006 – Barbaro develops a case of severe laminitis in his left-hind hoof, resulting from the horse’s having shifted his weight to that leg during recovery from surgery. The horse’s laminitic leg is placed into a special boot and Barbaro is given painkillers. During a procedure, called a hoof-wall resection, 80 percent of Barbaro’s left-rear hoof is removed.

Aug. 2, 2006 – Richardson announces that the fractured leg has fused to the point where the cast on the right-rear leg would have been replaced, had the left-rear leg not become injured. He says signs are encouraging.

Aug. 15, 2006 – Barbaro is reported to have gone outside to graze for the first time since the accident.

Aug. 17, 2006 – Richardson announces Barbaro is supporting his own weight and use of the support sling has been discontinued.

Aug. 18, 2006 – Radiographs show that Barbaro’s fractured leg has completely fused.

Sept. 26, 2006 – It is announced that Barbaro’s cast would not be replaced as long as he was comfortable in it and the left-rear hoof had regrown by 18 millimeters and the support shoe had been replaced with a bandage. Richardson says, at this point, the hoof still needed to grow three times that length, which he estimated could take six months.

Oct. 10, 2006 – Richardson says Barbaro’s cast and protective shoe were changed and that the injured hoof is showing recovery from laminitis.

Nov. 6, 2006 – Six months after his Kentucky Derby victory, Barbaro’s cast is permanently removed and replaced with a splinted bandage. No new problems are reported with Barbaro’s injured hoof.

Dec. 12, 2006 – The splinted bandage on Barbaro’s right-hind leg is removed.

Jan. 3, 2007 – A cast is placed on Barbaro’s laminitic left-hind leg.

Jan. 10, 2007 – Richardson announces another section of Barbaro’s left-hind hoof has been removed.

Jan. 27, 2007 – Barbaro undergoes additional surgery to insert two additional steel pins into the healed bones of his right-hind leg that theoretically would allow the horse to bear more weight. The procedure involved the risk of refracturing Barbaro’s leg.

Jan. 29, 2007 – Barbaro is euthanized at the request of owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson of West Grove.

16 thoughts on “Barbaro died 10 years ago today. What’s changed?”

  1. A little late commenting here but agree with all including it is my guess that the insurance money would not be paid out until it was clear he could not stand on those back legs to mount a mare. Absolutely, any horse with gate problems should be scratched or if bumped badly at the start, the jockey should pull them up.

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  2. Wow so many deaths. I still think racing young horses is no good. Would you expect a child to stand up to this kind of abuse.

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  3. Since Barbaro, there have been 2 high profile stake racehorses owned by the Gretchen’s who have suffered catastrophic breakdowns very similar to Barbaro’s.
    Both are listed on the horseracingwrongs blog if you care to research it.
    The Gretchen’s are involved with multiple well-connected horse racing partnerships resulting in an extraordinarily high rate of racehorses ending up at stakes level who die with very high earnings, and an insurance policy most likely.
    It’s important to note that the Gretchen’s operate under the name LAEL STABLES.
    So it’s difficult to track down the number of racehorses who died because most people would look for the results under the name of Roy and Gretchen Jackson not under LAEL STABLES.
    However, lack of transparency is a common practice in horse racing especially when there is no neutral over sight.
    Nevertheless, it seems that they are involved with some sort of organized entity with Barbaro and others suffering the consequences.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t understand why the owners had him euthanized when he seemed to be doing well in the boot. I’m sorry not enough info to understand from the last operation to the decision to put him down. Why did that make that decision.

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    1. Barbaro shortly before the Jacksons decided to have him euthanized.
      Others may be wondering too Gayle so will answer your question if you don’t mind.

      Barbaro’s leg was a mangled mess from surgery after surgery. He could barely put weight on it and would have eventually foundered, or succumbed to laminitis. He was already beginning to have serious problems with the other back foot. Trying to attach an image. Hope it shows up.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t think anything has changed in racing. Not. One. Darn. Thing. There is a website somewhere that keeps count of daily breakdowns and euthanizing – the euthanized ones are the lucky ones, because shipping breakdowns to Canada or Mexico for slaughter still occurs daily despite the supposed rule of the AJC against such atrocities.

    But there is another offshoot of the Barbaro tragedy that I am sure many horse owners have directly experienced and that is what I have come to term “The Barbaro Effect.” Did you know that the Jacksons spent over $2M for Barbaro’s disastrous experience with American veterinary medicine?

    The “Barbaro Effect” was used by many equine veterinarians during and following Barbaro and that goes something like this:

    If your horse has a problem then no matter what it costs you will “find a way to pay IF you care enough.” If you are financially unable to pay for extreme veterinary procedures then you are treated with disbelief, contempt and sometimes even threats of being “turned in” for animal neglect.

    My former veterinarian (I fired him and hired a non-AAEP member) stated to me these three things clearly and succinctly:

    (1) the AAEP spends more time at annual “conventions” (attendance often required to keep vets’ licensing current) teaching vets how to extract ever more money from their clients’ wallets than updating veterinarians on new research and new treatments;

    (2) many if not most vets look at what your house is like and what kind of car you drive and up the bill if they think you have $$, and if you live relatively modestly it is still “assumed” you have access to a stash of significant levels of cash to draw upon “if you care about your horse”; and that “if you care about your horse you will find a way.”

    It has been well documented that the GREED problem is not with tax-sheltering racehorse owners who have never picked up a shovel or a barn halter or camped outside the stall with a colicky horse or mare about to foal – the GREED problem in the veterinary industry is overwhelming and that became even more apparent during the decade-long recession (depression) which hit horse people very, very hard. And that kind of GREED on the part of veterinarians is why so many horses ended up in rescues or at slaughter.

    The Barbaro Effect: No matter what the cost “if you care enough you will find a way.” BUT if the Jacksons actually CARED about Barbaro they would have put a stop to what amounted to nothing more than a very GREEDY team of veterinarians claiming to be “saving” Barbaro at obscenely expensive repeated surgeries and making a high-profile name for their vet school. It was LIP SERVICE “caring” designed to make the Jacksons look good in the press and the vet school and its medical team look heroic.

    And a great horse suffered extreme agony because of that GREED for money and reputation.

    In my opinion, the TRUE tragedy is what those veterinarians did to that horse with the blessing of the Jacksons.

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    1. A horse that breaks through the gate at the start of a race should be automatically disqualified. That would most likely have saved Barbaro’s life.

      But no, it was the Preakness and prestige, ego and money were on the line. Barbaro was widely seen as having Triple Crown potential.

      It is a highly tragic story.

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      1. Agree. In the richest horse race in the world, the Pegasus, held on Saturday at the Gulfstream racetrack in Florida, one of the two star horses (said to be a 2 horse race even though 12 competed and paid $1million each to enter) apparently wasn’t right before the race and refused to go into his gate. Expected to win (came 9th), suffered a knee injury in the race and currently getting ‘expert’ treatment as he needs to be saved for his breeding career. He should’ve been scratched. And he could’ve had a complete breakdown but they took the risk because it was the Pegasus.
        No, nothing has changed since poor Barbaro died!

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    2. Sarahkate, the website you mentioned is Horseracing Wrongs.
      Patrick Battuello lists the horses that have died and the horses that have suffered a serious injury and taken off the track in a horse ambulance. The majority of these deaths are not revealed by the racing authorities and Patrick obtains information under the Freedom of Information Act.
      Racehorses are dying on the track, in training and some are being found dead in their stalls.
      And these deaths occur on a daily basis. I think it was the New York Times that published an article several years ago exposing that about 24 horses suffer death each week in racing.

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  6. The only thing to LIKE in this article is the fact that his owners finally had the heart to put Barbaro down. After all of the torture of racing at way too young of an age, and then the attempts to “fix” what that did to him, euthanization was the most caring thing to do for him!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Personally, i don’t believe they finally had the heart to put Barbaro down when it would’ve been the intent to do so ONLY after they had torturously experimented with him purely to collect the insurance money. And as Sarahkate has so articulately pointed out in her comment here, the veterinarians were cashing in as well with their reported $2million veterinary ‘treatment’. If any one of these despicable curs involved with Barbaro had truly cared about him in any way whatsoever, they would’ve euthanased him when the x-rays revealed something like 23 pieces of fractured bone in his right hind. It’s heartbreaking to look at him in the photo above with the break clearly visible, the pain in his face and then he suffers non-accidental pain for another eight (8) months. When a horse suffers such a catastrophic injury such as Barbaro’s, the horse is euthanased as quickly as possible to put him out of his misery. And what really gets to me is that it would’ve been absolutely impossible to ‘fix’ Barbaro (or any other horse for that matter) well enough to be a serving stallion and they KNEW that!

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  7. Barbaro went through hell! The severity of his fractured right hind leg called for euthanasia, not to muck around with him. I was appalled with his treatment, it was inhumane. I can understand his owners wanting to do all they could for him but the vets/experts would’ve known that the ethical and humane thing to do was to euthanase. But they chose to do otherwise and I hope it haunts them for the rest of their lives.

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    1. It was all about insurance from what a reliable source told us at the time.

      Once the Jacksons decided to try to save him (for stud duties) they had to exhaust every avenue to do so to the satisfaction of the insurance company to collect.

      We reported that and received so much hate mail and even a death threat or two.

      I was so relieved for Barbaro when he was finally euthanized. To my eyes at the time I agree — it was a gross public spectacle of abuse.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks for the insight, VGrF. Truly despicable people. And the low-life insurance people who have such conditions in place are complicit in this shocking abuse and cruelty of an innocent horse.
        Pure evil that the loss of money from his potential breeding career was far more important than doing the right thing by Barbaro. And i’m guessing that he’d probably already earned them a nice sum of money.

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