Barbaro remains lively despite serious ailment

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. -- Barbaro has a little spring in his sling.

The Kentucky Derby winner squirms in his own safety device, like a child trying to break free from a jumper, and he even sits on his damaged hind legs, the way dogs do when they beg for treats.

Those are encouraging signs for sure for the ailing 3-year-old colt. But the odds of Barbaro's full recovery from a severe case of laminitis and a reconstructed right hind leg are really no better than they were a week ago.

"It is important for people to understand this is not a 'routine' laminitis," Dr. Dean Richardson said Monday in a statement. "The care involved in treating a hoof with this degree of compromise is complex."

Barbaro's condition was stable Monday, his vital signs, appetite and heart rate were normal after another comfortable night.

"We will continue to manage his pain successfully, and he is alert," Richardson said.

He said the fiberglass cast on the horse's left foot will be changed so the hoof can be treated and watched for signs of infection. Because of laminitis, a painful and often-fatal condition, 80 percent of the hoof wall was removed last week.

The cast on the colt's right hind leg -- shattered shortly after the start of the Preakness Stakes on May 20 -- has been changed at least four times in the last two weeks.

"He has learned how to adapt his posture to the sling so he can benefit from the most comfort," said Dr. Kathleen Anderson, Barbaro's attending vet when the horse was racing and stabled in trainer Michael Matz's barn at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.

Anderson left a mid-afternoon visit feeling good about the way the colt looked, though she noted that the prognosis for his recovery was still not encouraging.

"The reality is, you have to say poor at this point in time," she said. "It doesn't mean it's hopeless and I think that's the big difference."

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