RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Commentator Shelley Fraser Mickle is the author of an upcoming children's book called "Barbaro: America's Horse." She has this appreciation.
Ms. SHELLEY FRASER MICKLE (Author, "Barbaro: America's Horse"): Last October, I met Barbaro. Born to run, this horse seemed as big as a baby elephant. Of course, the stress of his injury had left him very thin, but he was magnificent. He brought to my mind thoughts of Mozart and Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods and Mohammed Ali. You know, that ability that comes along only once in a great while.
He won all his races and most by many lengths. Watching him run was like listening to a symphony; he swept over the ground in such graceful strides. You could tell he ran for the sheer love of running. Those who rode him thought there was no bottom to the well of his speed. His brilliant career was cut short in one twisted step, and yet he was as splendid in the homestretch of his life as he was at Churchill Downs.
Not many of us handle uncertainty with as much grace as this champion. I got to see first-hand the way Barbaro captured the imagination of the whole country. Children wrote him get-well notes by the bucketful. They sent him drawings and baskets of carrots.
Barbaro had a sense of humor. As he patiently waited in his hospital stall, his main thought seemed to be, oh, to heck with all these wrinkled brows, who's got the sweet feed? He always leaned close to his visitors, sniffing out the treats he knew they'd bought.
Only someone who has known an animal for a long time and under many circumstances can recognize the moment when he looks at you and says it's time to let me go.
Yes, we'll all miss Barbaro. But the lesson he leaves us will last far longer than the length of the races he won.
MONTAGNE: The comments of Shelley Fraser Mickle. She lives and rides in Gainesville, Florida.
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