MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
The thoroughbred Barbaro is recovering from surgery. He easily won this year's Kentucky Derby and then shattered his right hind leg during the Preakness this weekend. Veterinarians have given him a 50-50 chance of survival. Barbaro's racing career is, of course, over. His owners are hoping he can still have a breeding career as a stallion.
Earlier today I spoke with Gretchen Jackson. She owns Barbaro with her husband Roy. Today was the first time she saw their horse since Saturday's accident. Barbaro was in his stall at the intensive care unit at the New Bolton Center for Large Animals in Pennsylvania, where he was operated on yesterday.
Ms. GRETCHEN JACKSON (Owner of Barbaro): He looked the way I would expect him to look. You know, drawn from an operation. He had a bandage, a wrap, a cast up beyond his hock. And as far as his demeanor, he was not dull at all. He was sort of with it, looking around and eating. Eating a lot of hay and really interested in eating.
BLOCK: And he's vertical, he's standing up?
Ms. JACKSON: Oh, yes. As I understand it he's able to get up and down quite easily. He can take the weight off his leg.
BLOCK: Did you talk to him while you were there?
Ms. JACKSON: Did I talk to him? You bet I did.
BLOCK: What'd you say?
Ms. JACKSON: Well, I offered him some carrots that came from our small little greenhouse we have and he didn't think much of those, but he liked my husband's mint. And you could tell he's a racetracker because that's what usually the grooms feed them and so he wasn't a country boy that liked carrots.
BLOCK: He's got some opinions.
Ms. JACKSON: He's on a high carb diet, I guess. But, no, I just prayed for him and I continue to pray for his wellbeing.
BLOCK: What have the vets told you about that?
Ms. JACKSON: Well, everything has gone right so far. There's a thousand steps in this recovery program and he's just taken the first step. Things take a long time to heal. Bad things take a short time. They can go downhill really fast. He has a lot of hurdles to get through.
BLOCK: What have the doctors told you about the risks now and what could still happen?
Ms. JACKSON: Oh, it's just the risk that it won't heal, the infection. And it's also, I think, 23 screws are in his leg and a metal, piece of metal that is supporting it all and there could be rejection or allergic reaction, you know.
He also has to distribute his weight differently and this can create problems in his other legs and they've changed one shoe to help him be the same height in the back end as the other leg with his cast on it. From sitting inside and not moving around, you know, it affects his digestive track, you know, everything.
BLOCK: There are some questions that are being raised about training. Barbaro had raced just five times before the Derby and typically would take, I guess, five to eight weeks rest in between. These races, the Derby and then the Preakness are just two weeks apart. Do you think that might have been a problem here?
Ms. JACKSON: No. No, I mean, he just happened to put his foot down wrong. That could happen a year later. It's just bad luck, how you torque an ankle or something. It doesn't have anything to do with conditioning. I mean, how many times can you run across the lawn and you're fine. Then you run one other time and you twist your ankle or, you know, and you're not fine. I just think it's bad luck.
BLOCK: Yeah. I read something you said, that before the Preakness, before the accident you were talking as an owner and a breeder and you said that this is a business and you have to avoid falling in love with the horses. But you said we weren't smart with Barbaro. We loved him. What was it that was different about him?
Ms. JACKSON: He's a very beautiful horse and, for me, he's what a racehorse should look like. I mean, he's got sort of like a fire in his eyes when he looks and he's very, very attentive to what's going on around him and he's just a grand looking horse.
BLOCK: And when something like this happens then does it shake your confidence in this sport in any way?
Ms. JACKSON: You know, no. I love it too deeply to have any of that effect, but I did want to watch racing yesterday. We had another horse run up in Belmont in New York that ran second in a race Sunday and, you know, I really wanted to get back in that world again. So I saw the beauty again. I saw the positive, not just think about this one horrendous incident that, you know, is so much on our minds.
BLOCK: Well, Gretchen Jackson, thanks very much for talking with us and we wish you all the best.
Ms. JACKSON: Thank you.
BLOCK: Gretchen Jackson and her husband Roy are the owners of Barbaro. You can find a diagram of Barbaro's injuries and a post-surgery x-ray of his leg at NPR.org.
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