Barbaro devotees offer gifts, good wishes to injured horse

Kentucky Derby winner remains stable as vets monitor progress

horse racing


KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. -- If love heals, Barbaro is getting exactly what he needs.

Multiple doses arrive every day for the Kentucky Derby winner, who is trying to recover from a shattered right rear leg and laminitis in his rear left foot, which has so far cost him 80 percent of his hoof and could possibly cost him his life.

Yesterday, in just the latest example of devotion to the horse, Carol Baccanari traveled about 135 miles hoping to get a chance to see Barbaro.

"I thought, maybe, if I put my hand on him he would get better," Baccanari said. "I'm praying for a miracle."

Meanwhile, at the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, Dr. Dean Richardson yesterday reported Barbaro had another good night and remains in stable condition with good vital signs. It was his sixth consecutive positive report card.

Richardson, chief of surgery at New Bolton, said Barbaro is helped by the sling he wears several hours each day.

"He has adapted very well to the sling," Richardson said. "We have a lot of experience in using slings for equine support. In Barbaro's case, it is a part-time aid that we use to increase his comfort level."

Keeping Barbaro comfortable while he attempts to regrow his hoof and mend his broken leg is the most important aspect of his treatment at the moment.

Dr. Kathleen Anderson, Barbaro's personal veterinarian during his racing days, gets a daily morning update. She said she has been encouraged by what she has heard, although Barbaro faces an additional six months at the hospital.

"That's the most disappointing part for all concerned," Anderson said last evening. "A broken leg is almost healed now. He would have become more ambulatory and been able to go to a field and rest. Now, it's six more months. No one thought he would be hospitalized eight months."

Anderson said the three most important questions facing Barbaro now are:

Will he get laminitis in another foot - the front or even the broken rear right one?

Can his comfort level be maintained through the months it will take to attempt to regrow his hoof - which is like a human waiting for a lost fingernail to grow out?

How long will the regrowing of the hoof actually take?

"But, absolutely, other horses have done it," she said. "You just don't read about it because they're not famous. But it is definitely a doable process, and it is far less unusual than the 27 screws that put his right leg back together."

Anderson also said the report earlier this week that the fusion of the pastern was unchanged was actually an encouraging report.

"It meant there was no infection," she said. "If there was an ongoing infection, it would have deteriorated."

While the medical team is doing its part with the 3-year-old in the intensive care unit, Barbaro's supporters are doing theirs here and elsewhere.

Yesterday, Baccanari got up early in her home in Pittston, near Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and drove to the King of Prussia Mall to meet her cousin Sam, who then drove her the rest of the way to Kennett Square.

"I want to see Barbaro," she said to Kathy Freeborn at the reception desk, and was very disappointed when told she could not.

"I've come an awful long way just to see him," Baccanari said.

Hospital executive director Corinne Sweeney came to console her.

"He's giving himself the best chance he can," Sweeney said. "He's resting in his sling and he's sleeping."

Since Barbaro's May 20 injury in the Preakness Stakes, Baccanari said her emotions have gone from feeling sorry for the horse to admiring his courage.

"My mother always said animals are like people, but they can't talk," she said. "Which is why I was so happy when I read about his jockey [Edgar Prado] visiting him and how Barbaro put his head on his shoulder and fell asleep. I think that visit meant a lot to Barbaro. ... He hadn't been forgotten."

In Vero Beach, Fla., Joy Markert, 62, is a receptionist in the state's Economic Self-Sufficiency Department. Every day after work, she spends hours in the local Hallmark store reading get-well and thinking-of-you cards, searching for the right ones for Barbaro.

Markert has been sending two and three cards a week since Barbaro's injury and has found remarkably fitting ones.

"No hurry, no rush, no hustle, no race ... just set yourself a leisurely pace ... and feel better soon!" said one. "Roses are red. Violets are neat ... Just can't wait until you're back on your feet!" said another. All of them are signed with love.

It isn't that Markert is a pushover for animals, or even for causes. She has no pets, is not a horse racing fan, and contributes only to Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Statue of Liberty. But she watches the Triple Crown races, "And when that horse was injured, it was just so upsetting," she said. "I intend to send him cards until he's better. I hope he does get better."

Markert and Baccanari are not alone. At Kennett Flowers, where the sign in the front yard says, "We all love you Barbaro," the staff has been overwhelmed.

"In the summer, I usually have six to eight people working. But last Friday I had 10 and today I had eight, but had to call in two more who were on standby," said Alie Berstler, who owns the shop with her husband, Stephen.

Since Barbaro's crisis last week, Berstler has used more than 150 pounds of carrots, 300-plus apples, 120 pears, a case of grapes and just about bought out the local stores' supplies of peppermints and gingersnaps.

Orders have ranged from $25 for the smallest vase of flowers up to $180 plus delivery for four dozen red roses.

"To these people, we are almost like a touchstone," said Rachell Germain, who takes many of the phone orders at Kennett Flowers. "They just want someone to talk to about their feelings for Barbaro. They're just passionate about this horse. A lady the other day cried for 35 minutes, just trying to get her order out."

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