Derby Winner Barbaro Still at Risk from Injuries

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Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro has surgery on an abscess of his right hind foot. The horse's surgeons are concerned that this will put more weight on his injured left leg.


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

The racehorse Barbaro injured in a heart-stopping moment during the Preakness last year has suffered another setback. Barbaro had been recovering from a shattered leg and was doing well. Now though, doctors have been forced to perform another surgery. NPR's Allison Keyes has been following this story and she joins me now.

Allison, what's happened with the horse this weekend?

ALLISON KEYES: Well, first of all, everybody remembers seeing that horrific injury when he came right out of the gate at the Preakness. It was a sort of oh-my-god moment, so everyone was very worried about him.

Then after he hurt his right leg back in July, he got laminitis, which is a hoof disease that is often fatal in his left hind leg. So he trouble with both hind legs.

Yesterday doctors were forced to perform surgery to insert two pins through the cannon bone - that's the bone right below the hock on a horse's foot - to help keep the weight off the foot. They built a brace-like structure that's keeping the weight off his leg because there's an abscess that they need to be able to treat. So that they're hoping with this external treatment they'll be able to do something to help him.

But now they're worried that his front hooves may be in trouble because now there's extra pressure on them, so they're worried that he might develop laminitis in his front hooves as well.

LYDEN: Right. Obviously because he's taken the weight off the rears and the horse has to stand somewhere.

KEYES: Exactly.

LYDEN: Are there any indications that the horse is in pain or uncomfortable?

KEYES: Actually, I talked to Doctor Dean Richardson at University of Pennsylvania's veterinary school today and he says the horse is fine. He's bright-eyed. He's taking mints and carrots out of people's hands. So he seems pretty happy. He's not in any pain at all. And they have said the whole time that they're only going to treat the horse as long as he is well and eating.

LYDEN: It's one of those things that people do feel such an intimate connection to, because the people around the animal have been very forthcoming and many people are logged on following his recovery - very, very closely - and have developed an attachment to the horse as a fighter.

KEYES: Very much so. The vet himself is just - sounded so tired and so frustrated. In fact, he said that's an understatement, because this horse has been - I mean, on the Web site, thousands and thousands of hits every day. There's a place where you can send postcards to the horse on the Web site. So both for his owners, the people taking care of him, and the people that have been following this story. It's been kind of close to the heart, especially for those of us who love horses.

LYDEN: Which sounds like you do.

KEYES: Yeah, that would be me.

LYDEN: And I've had one for years. So if they can't manage to have Barbaro pull through this, what's the prognosis?

KEYES: They're really not sure. There is a risk of complications from this procedure because the problem is the cannon bone that the brace is supporting might break. And if that breaks, they may actually have to do something - to go so far as to putting him down. But right now they're waiting to see if there are complications from this procedure.

What they're hoping to see is that this so-called external brace can hold for six weeks or so to give that hoof - I'm sorry - that leg time to heal so that they can finish treating the abscess.

LYDEN: Well, thanks very much for coming in and updating us.

KEYES: You're welcome.

LYDEN: NPR's Allison Keyes. Thanks again.

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