MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
I'm Alex Chadwick.
Barbaro, the horse who won the Kentucky Derby and then broke down - broke his leg in the Preakness - that horse has been euthanized after months of trying to save him. I spoke earlier with NPR's Julie Rovner, who's been following this story.
JULIE ROVNER: We're hearing from one of his owners that he was put down today. I should mention this doesn't come as a big surprise. He had surgery over the weekend, fairly dramatic surgery. It's been sort of an on again/off again thing. I need to correct something. He didn't break his leg in the Kentucky Derby. He won the Kentucky Derby.
CHADWICK: Oh, that's right.
ROVNER: He broke his leg two weeks later in the Preakness. Oddly enough, the broken leg itself has healed, but in July, a couple of months after the broken leg, he developed laminitis in his other leg, which is not also that surprising. It was from standing on that leg while the broken leg healed.
Then he - that was getting a little bit better and then back to the broken leg. He was standing on that while he had the laminitis in the other leg and he developed an abscess in the broken leg that had healed.
And over the weekend, that abscess had become so painful that they inserted pins and a plate basically to take all the weight off of that foot. This is again the right foot, the one that had been broken, in the leg that had been broken. And over the weekend his veterinarian really described this as kind of a last-ditch effort.
We don't know exactly why he was put down, whether he had re-broken that leg, which was considered a possibility, or whether he started developing problems in his front foot. We did see some reports this morning that he did not have a good night.
And as I said, there were indications over the weekend that this was really his last chance, that things - if they couldn't get him comfortable - and they really said this all along, that the key here was keeping him comfortable, that if they couldn't do that, that they weren't going to continue with these efforts.
CHADWICK: You know, I mean this is a medical story, a veterinary story, but also this tremendous story of his pull on the public heart. These fan bases develop online and everything. People are really following this story of this horse. What happened here, do you think?
BRAND: It's really been amazing. Of course we've had all of these months to do it. I remember I was a teenager when Ruffian broke down. She was the filly who broke down in a match race against Foolish Pleasure. And she was put down the next day, but even then there was the same kind of outpouring of emotion.
It's something that animals do, particularly thoroughbred racehorses who try their hearts out and who have a tendency to grab, you know, mostly little girls but not always, sometimes big girls and sometime even men. It's something that animals in particular, horses in specific, really grab in us.
I was up at New Bolton last summer and saw just the cards and posters and letters and, you know, baskets of carrots and apples and all kinds of horse treats, and really something that grabs at the public. And you know, people tease me about, you know, all this outpouring for a horse, but it really is something that people can sort of attach themselves to.
And Barbaro in particular has really struggled hard. He's been an amazing patient. He's been cooped up in this stall for eight months now and really tried his heart out, I'd say as hard, you know, as a patient as he was as a racehorse.
CHADWICK: You know, I heard that in your reporting earlier. He just was a good patient. But not good enough to heal in a way that he had to.
ROVNER: These were extraordinarily long odds. His veterinarians made that extremely clear from the very, very beginning. It was a very difficult break. He overcame a lot of obstacles, frankly, more than I would have thought he could as, you know, a long time horse owner and horse watcher. It was amazing that he'd come this far. So I think people shouldn't really be that surprised that he couldn't make it all the way back.
CHADWICK: NPR's Julie Rovner reporting on Barbaro euthanized today. Julie, thank you.
ROVNER: You've very welcome.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.