Beautiful words written by Jim Gath of Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary…my favorite writer!
The world lost Barbaro eleven years ago today.
But, really, we didn’t lose him. See, his magnificence still shines through on this dark morning. It shines through hearts & spirits & in fields & paddocks & pens & stalls all across this land & this world.
Son of Dynaformer & La Ville Rouge. Son also of Roy & Gretchen Jackson. Born on April 29, 2003.
I don’t believe that any horse in history has had more of an impact than he had. Not Man O’War. Not Secretariat. Not Ruffian.
Because, see, he’s been almost personally responsible for saving & helping more horses than any other spirit on earth – two- or four-legged.
When Barbaro was trying to convalesce at The New Bolton Center – after trashing, really trashing! – his leg about 50 yards from the 2006 Preakness Stakes gate – he gained more friends & lovers than I think I’ve ever seen in my life.
Okay. The Preakness.
Right after the start, Barbaro pulled up. And jockey Edgar Prado realized there was something terribly wrong. And he jumped off the horse & held him up. Virtually held him up. Gave him the love & tried to calm him.
The van came for him.
And he was rushed to New Bolton Center where Dr. Richardson took over. Barbaro was immediately rushed into surgery.
And it was determined that his right hind leg had at least twenty breaks in it. Hours of surgery followed. And Mr. & Mrs. Jackson – Roy & Gretchen – told the folks at New Bolton to do everything possible to save their boy’s life.
Dr. Richardson put in dozens of screws to help hold Barbaro’s leg together.
And, then, the surgery was over.
And weeks & weeks of convalescence were prescribed.
During this time, a huge group of people – horse lovers – decided that Barbaro was their hero.
And truckloads of flowers poured into New Bolton. And crates full of apples & carrots. And everything imaginable that would help him through his ordeal.
Right around this time, that group of people began to coalesce. And they called themselves the “Friends of Barbaro” – the FOBs. And they watched & studied Barbaro’s condition each & every day. Each & every hour.
Somehow, in some magical moment, they all realized that Barbaro was a shining star for what they’d all been dreaming about: to save horses from slaughter & to find decent homes for those who needed them.
And Barbaro would be their lynchpin.
So, they joined together for two things: to give Barbaro all the support they could possibly muster & to devote their lives & missions to helping horses that needed help.
And they swung into action.
And, through the good graces of our friend, Alex Brown, & the Alex Brown Racing Forum, they did just that. They found out about horses that needed places to go. And they found places FOR them to go. And they raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for transportation & for feed & for veterinarian care & everything else that goes into helping a horse or horses that needed them.
Several of Tierra Madre’s horses were helped by the FOBs.
More than several. And a number of FOBs are still amongst our greatest supporters.
And the Horses of Tierra Madre & I will thank them forever.
But, back to Barbaro……
He seemed to be healing. He would even go on walks outside the hospital to graze upon the fresh green grass of the Pennsylvania countryside.
And all of us who were pulling for him with all of our hearts were overjoyed & optimistic.
Then…..in July of that year, he developed laminitis in his left rear hoof. Probably, because he couldn’t really put too much weight on his right hind leg, all of his weight was transferred to his left. And that weight shift put too much weight on that leg.
And that caused his problem.
He underwent five further operations, to try to get him stable again.
But, finally, because of all of the problems in his hind legs, again, all of his weight shifted to his front legs.
And, ultimately, he developed laminitis in both of his front hooves.
And, although the people at New Bolton did everything that they could – & that the prayers & good wishes of millions of people were behind him, on January 29, 2007, our hero was euthanized.
But just think of his accomplishments.
He went into the Kentucky Derby undefeated.
And he won that race by the largest margin since Assault had done it in 1946.
He was magnificent.
But, really, his magnificence really lies in what he did after his breakdown in the Preakness.
Because, without him, tens of thousands of horses wouldn’t have homes today.
And most of them would have ended up slaughtered in some horrible way south of the border.
Barbaro was PERSONALLY responsible for that.
With that long, sleek body & that immaculate star on his forehead, he was gorgeous.
But his heart – that heart that helped him fight an uphill battle for months & months & months – & almost winning – that was Barbaro. And his heart was the thing that spurred so many people to get behind a cause that was almost a lost one – that of saving horses.
Until he came along.
And showed the world what REAL greatness is all about.
That it comes from the heart. And from the spirit. And from the mind.
During his long time in the hospital, many of us began to refer to him as ‘Bobby’. That name has always seemed a little more intimate, a little more loving, somehow, than his real name. Ah, but that’s just me & a bunch of others who thought we knew him like a brother.
His name was Barbaro.
And he was one of the greatest racehorses & one of the greatest spirits that has ever walked Mother Earth.
And what he’s done for my kids & tens of thousands of others just like them – all across this land – is nothing short of a miracle.
Will we ever see another spirit that has touched as many as his did?
I don’t know.
But probably not in my lifetime.
Maybe not ever.
We lost Barbaro eleven years ago today.
Bobby – we hardly knew ye.
But your spirit shines on – right here in our hearts.
May your spirit shine forever.