“It's Still Barbaro”

It was horrific, a cruel twist of fate. We watched in shock, utter unbelief, stunned, and sickened to our stomachs as our beautiful, powerful, beloved, super horse "Barbaro" was pulled up at the start of the Preakness with a shattered cannon bone, ankle and pastern. How could this have happened?? This was the undefeated favorite - the Kentucky Derby winner, bound for the Triple Crown!!

Few scenes in racing history could ever be more poignant than the image of Barbaro holding his hind leg awkwardly in the air, his face registering confusion -- clearly he felt pain, but moreover, he didn't understand - he was supposed to be racing powerfully with the others, now gone on ahead. But at the same time, as Prado said, "He's a very smart horse, He knew he was in trouble." He trusted and was obedient.

Triumph to tragedy to triumph. Whether winning the Run for the Roses, or dealing with the crushing blow of his catastrophic injury, he triumphs.

How did it happen? There's the gate theory (which is mine), that Barbaro could have somehow struck or twisted his leg in the gate incident, causing a minor fracture that was masked by adrenaline but unraveled as the race began. No one would be at fault. Prado and Pimlico's veterinarian could not have detected an impaired gait if none existed, and the leg bandages would have further disguised a possible injury. If this actually occurred, the mere implementation of a rule, in which horses that break through the gate be automatically scratched, would have saved the day. (I believe this rule should be implemented.) Then there's the Brother Derek theory. That Brother Derek's front hoof made contact with Barbaro's right rear hoof, causing him to miss-step. Knowing how it happened would help us cope somehow, but wouldn't change what's already done. Watching each brutal replay of Barbaro's breakdown is more painful than the last.

Why is it we hover so anxiously over the fate of this particular wounded athlete?

The overwhelming support for Barbaro has been dramatic and even perplexing to some. Barbaro was expected to be the hero of the Preakness, but as he fights for his life instead, he remains, even more so, a hero.

Since that fateful day in May, there has been an astounding outpouring of emotion for Barbaro. There's two questions, sort of wrapped in one, why do we feel so strongly about Barbaro, a horse most (outside of racing fans) had never heard of, and then the "why did it happen to Barbaro?" question. We care, but why do we care so much?

Seconds after the Preakness began, when Prado pulled him up, jumped off, and held him steady, and as trainer Michael Matz dashed out of the stands with an anguished look on his face, everyone was aghast. This was a blessed horse, and in front of all of us the blessing fled. A black cloud descended on me, I can tell you that. A surreal feeling of seeing something so bright and fine and eager cut down in his prime. Life can change in a breath.

After his miraculous surgery, by the very skilled and talented, Dr. Richardson -- and all the glorious daily reports of his condition, and how he has been the model patient, Barbaro started looking more and more like a symbol. But a symbol of what?

So, along with the nation, I have prayed for Barbaro daily, keep up with every report, and have tried to hear God's answer to these questions.

As in the time of the Depression when the nation needed Seabiscuit, America needed Barbaro now.

Barbaro has been winning his race in the stall, he's feeling happy and frisky, but he'll never run again -- splendid and strong, all heart, courage and soul. He is though, beating the odds in a way no one ever expected.

Lessons from Barbaro:

The lesson of united prayer. Barbaro is a miracle - because God has heard our prayers. This a lesson for us all to remember that if we agree in prayer on any good thing, God will hear from Heaven. (Matt. 18:19)

God gave Barbaro courage and patience to persevere through his trial. God will also give us the same through all our trials. The earth is still under the curse of sin and death, and we have to live through many hard times. But if we believe, and call on Him, He will bring us through. Barbaro trusted and was obedient. These qualities saved his life. The same qualities can save our spiritual life as well.

The God who created Barbaro gave him the best doctor, the best hospital, the best ambulance, the most caring, loving owners, a quick acting, wise jockey, a gentle trainer and asst. trainer.

All the people in Barbaro's life are good people that care deeply for him. God may have plans for these people, and maybe, possibly, there was no one in their lives to pray for them. So through this tragedy, God can bring good, thousands of people are not only praying for Barbaro, but for all the humans in his life as well.

Barbaro has touched us deep down, it's almost inexplicable. His tragedy has caused me to reach out to help. I want to help more than I am able. His greatest legacy may be the ability to make others care, and take action far beyond what might have otherwise been done.

This portrait model of Barbaro is part of my tribute to this great, courageous champion.
Following is a poem written by Chris who shared on "Barbaro's Message Board":

"For believing in possibilites when others thought it impossible; For providing hope while others despaired; For saying, "maybe we can" when others said, "no, you can't"; For recognizing the intrinsic value and worth of a beautiful animal even if he never steps foot on a racetrack again; For the humanity, the compassion and excellent care provided to all God's creatures - great and small; For daring to question conventional wisdom and popular myth; For lifting an entire nation's mood and providing inspiration during horse racing's darkest hour; For all this and so much more that words cannot express - I am grateful to have this opportunity to contribute in some small way to the Barbaro Fund; To express my profound gratitude and heartfelt appreciation to the Jacksons, Michael Matz, Dr. Richardson and the entire staff of caring, dedicated professionals who have united in one common purpose; To save one precious life and change the course of history in the process. May God bless all of you and the wonderful work that you do on behalf of all of us who value your contributions; And especially on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves..."

I firmly believe that this tragedy and its aftermath will forever alter the course of the industry for the better. Barbaro will gain his rightful place in the history of the sport, not only for what he did on the track, but more importantly, for what he did off the track."

You Barbaro, and those around you, have given a radiant new meaning to the word champion! Stay strong, mighty stallion of God!

Barbaro may be serving a higher purpose (although I would never have chosen this path for him to accomplish that) in being the catalyst for us all to get together and collectively do things that will make a difference for hundreds of thousands of animals--horses and all others too. He is even more of a champion than had he gone on and won the Triple Crown--we all know he would have done that anyway. This way so many others will win too. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good . . . "(Romans 8:28)

I promised God I would write and give Him the glory for the miracle of Barbaro. I believe God wants all those in Barbaro's life to seek Him, see Him at work in this, and to watch how much good will come out of it. Already many good things are happening, donations and help to horse rescue organizations, donations to the New Bolton Center, (as well as other universities) to help other animals get the care they need. Improving safety at race tracks, hopefully changing some rules, etc. And bringing people together, who may otherwise have never met. The story is not over yet, it's still unfolding. We must not stop praying. It may take time to know the purpose. So many lives have been touched by one horse. More than anyone will ever know. Life poses many uncertainties.

As with Seabiscuit, the rags-to-riches racehorse, who made history and ultimately became the subject of a major motion picture. Why do heroic animals inspire such intense emotions? Partly, I think, because they perform their acts of heroism for us, and not of their own volition. While we may feel intense admiration and concern for human warriors and athletes who put themselves at risk of injury or death, our sympathy is always tempered by the belief that they were aware of the risks and were willing to face them. With animals we cannot shelter realistically behind this assumption. The racehorse races because he is bred, and trained, and ridden for this purpose by humans, not because he chooses to compete with other horses at the racetrack. So a horse like Barbaro who gives his all for us, and who is maimed (sometimes fatally) in the process, is an immensely powerful symbol of self-sacrifice.

The greatest Hero ever gave His all for us, was maimed - fatally. Cut down in His prime. The greatest self-sacrifice of all time, so that the world might be redeemed. (Rom. 8:19-23) More than a "Triple Crown", Jesus wears "many" crowns. (Rev. 19:12).

This web page has been my little tribute to beautiful Barbaro and all the people caring for and loving him. My prayer for Barbaro is a long, pain-free life -- rewarded with lush green pastures, lots of love, and to be the proud sire of other champions just like himself.

What may at the moment appear difficult, maybe the very doorway into the most beautiful experiences and blessings of your life.

In moments of despair, when life's dreams are shattered, beyond any hope for fulfillment, and the cruel facts that stare us in the face, appear to make a mockery of faith. Then listen to the words, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" The extremity of desperation is the opportunity for divine deliverance. Those who trust God, when every voice of reason proclaims such trust to be folly, will find Him faithful to the end.