Farewell, Barbaro

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I know I’ve mentioned I am not a sports fan, but the one type of sport I do enjoy is any type of equestrian sport.  Whether it’s Dressage, or jumping, or polo, or racing, I enjoy it simply because I love the animals.  For anyone who doesn’t know, Barbaro was a racehorse who won the Kentucky Derby last year.  It was then hoped – of course! – that he might be able to take the Triple Crown.  Then at the Preakness, he broke a leg.  Horses don’t do well with broken legs.  They don’t do crutches.  Their circulation is such that they really need to walk to make the blood pump up and down thru their legs and hooves… being still, or favoring a leg, is incredibly hard on them.  His owners went above and beyond what most of us would be able to do to try to save him, but finally today they had to say goodbye, and let him go.  If you’ve ever lost a pet, you know how that hurts.  I sometimes think racehorse owners don’t have that same connection, that the horse is more of a machine – a race car, if you will – but I got the feeling Barbaro’s owners loved him, and didn’t want to give up until they had to.  I don’t know this for sure, of course…if he had gotten well enough to breed, I’m sure he would have more than paid for the cost of his treatment…but in the interviews I saw, it just seemed like they wanted him to be alright.  There is also an element of anger for me.  Racehorses are asked to do way too much at a young age…they are racing in the top events at 3 years old; the age most horses are just beginning to be ridden.  Most horses that you see competing in Olympic level events are well into their teens.  The strain on racehorses’ legs…little sticks bearing a tremendous amount of weight and stress…is unbelieveable.  In my courses in animal science, I have viewed slow motion footage of racehorses at top speeds.  Their legs…from the ‘ankle’ down…appear to almost wobble uncontrolled.  It’s amazing that their hooves ever hit the ground straight.  It’s a wonder more of them don’t break down that way.  The fact that it is because it is a money sport – you don’t want to feed the horse for 5 years before he starts earning a living – just makes me mad. They are a thing of grace and beauty, and I hate to see them injured.  I was glad, however, that this guy’s people tried their hardest…they fought for him for 8 months.  In the end, they didn’t want him to suffer, and that is what we all want for the animals we love.
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