Wishing Barbaro well

The most famous horse since Smarty Jones remains in intensive care but is resting comfortably—and that’s good news for the colt’s owners and scores of new fans.

Ever since the three-year-old Barbaro shattered bones in his leg at the Preakness on May 20 and was transported to Penn’s New Bolton Center for surgery, thousands of people have emailed get-well messages, tacked signs of hope on the fence at the Center and brought carrots, apples and hand-picked grass for the colt to eat.

“I don’t think there are very many message boards for horses,” says Gail Luciani, director of communication for the Vet School, who received 500 messages in an hour that first day. “The response has been huge. … People are really reaching out.”

Messages posted on an online message board for Barbaro (www.vet.upenn.edu/barbaro/) have come from all over the world—from Tennessee and Oklahoma, Puerto Rico and Germany. One horse lover from Chicago urged the colt to “eat your carrots and listen to the doctors and get well soon,” while others have offered prayers. A fan from Delaware insisted that Barbaro is “a true champion on or off the track.”

One anonymous donor gave a generous gift to launch the Barbaro Fund at the George D. Widener Hospital at New Bolton. The money won’t be earmarked for Barbaro, but for ongoing patient care and expansion of the hospital. Information on how to donate can be found at: www.vet.upenn.edu/giving/giving_ways.html.

Barbaro has struck a chord with horse lovers and novices alike. Though the crowds of people who gathered that first day to catch a glimpse of the horse coming into the Kennett Square facility have dispersed, people continue to place flowers along the fence outside the New Bolton Center. Looking at the Kentucky Derby champ you can see why, says Luciani. “You can just see an elegance, an intelligence, a strength,” she says. And as the spotlight shines on Penn’s large animal hospital, Luciani praises the professionalism of the staff, faculty and students there. “The fact that they have a very famous patient has not slowed down anything.”

For updates on Barbaro’s condition, visit the Vet School’s web site at www.vet.upenn.edu.

Originally published on June 8, 2006