Goodnight, sweet horse prince.
January 29, 2007 6:57 PM   Subscribe

At least he died for a sport he deeply loved.
posted by docpops at 7:06 PM on January 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh god. I've been following Barbaro since he was a two-year-old. I had really hoped he was going to make it. I'm actually crying right now, I had thought he was doing well.

I'm going to miss that horse.

posted by internet!Hannah at 7:07 PM on January 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Barbaro is dead.

Long live Barbaro!
posted by jourman2 at 7:10 PM on January 29, 2007

posted by WaterSprite at 7:14 PM on January 29, 2007

"A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
And no one can talk to a horse, of course,
Unless, of course, the horse, of course,
Is the famous Mr. Ed!"

Or poor Barbaro.
posted by WaterSprite at 7:19 PM on January 29, 2007

Looks like the wikipedia article you've linked is presently vandalized in the first line. I, a sucker, really thought it was a breeding term at first.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:21 PM on January 29, 2007

whoops, fixed already. "Barbaro (April 29, 2003 – January 29, 2007) was an American thoroughbred racehorse, and a new alpo flavor, that decisively won the 2006 Kentucky Derby." Gross and for shame.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:24 PM on January 29, 2007

For shame? C'mon that was kinda funny.
posted by basicchannel at 7:25 PM on January 29, 2007

Yeah, I can't believe they made fun of a horse.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:28 PM on January 29, 2007

On Wikipedia, even. Is nothing sacred?
posted by mr_roboto at 7:31 PM on January 29, 2007

It's like Terry Schiavo all over again.
posted by phaedon at 7:32 PM on January 29, 2007

Ambrosia, Wikipedia vandalism is usually fixed by the time your post goes through, let alone somebody reads it. For that one, it was visible for probably under a minute. If it's a current event, anyway. And good grief, that's way toward the mild end of vandalism.

It's really amazing that they tried so hard and still failed to save him. Clearly he got some of the best veterinary treatment on earth, subsidized heavily by the owners, probably into the millions. But horses, and racehorses especially, seem to be engineered by breeding so specifically that surviving a broken leg -- something humans view as a temporary inconvenience -- can still be fatal. It just seems wrong, somehow. Dogs can live without a leg, why not horses?

Anyway, the treatment probably was tremendously useful as a learning experience and other horses will benefit from this in time. And hopefully people will be more understanding the next time a horse is put down on a track.
posted by dhartung at 7:34 PM on January 29, 2007

A travesty. Animal abuse. I hope horses race humans in the afterlife.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:42 PM on January 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

I followed this story avidly. I truly hoped against all hope that Barbaro would pull through, and I really was upset when I saw the news this morning that he had been euthanised.

Wikipedia momentarily had a bit of vandalism that involved gently lowering him into the water where a group of great whites devoured him. It wasnt a cool thing to do but it elicited a grudging grin from me anyway, because at least it was creatively written.

That beautiful horse ran, and fought, for his life like the champion he was. What a damned shame. Such delicate creatures.

posted by perilous at 7:42 PM on January 29, 2007

They abused the hell out of that horse. For money.
posted by Nahum Tate at 8:11 PM on January 29, 2007

*weeps for Barbaro*
posted by Lynsey at 8:16 PM on January 29, 2007

Why didn't they give him a prosthesis?
posted by amber_dale at 8:24 PM on January 29, 2007

Was he ever well enough to be milked for what they really wanted him alive for?
posted by DonnieSticks at 8:28 PM on January 29, 2007

I am so very, very sad that Barbaro was put down today. It's a damn shame. Why couldn't he have a peg leg? Horse wheels?

Goodnight, sweet boy. Goodnight.
posted by chance at 8:38 PM on January 29, 2007

Poor horsey. Bye horsey. :(
posted by hojoki at 8:45 PM on January 29, 2007

Usenet discussion about why a broken leg is such a life-threatening probelm for a horse, and on the practicality of equine prosthetics. Discussion was from immediately after Barbaro's breakdown, and matches my understanding of the problems.

Poor Barbaro.
posted by dilettante at 8:48 PM on January 29, 2007

I'm with you, fourcheesemac. My family hasn't watched a second of horse racing since Ruffian died.

posted by Liosliath at 8:53 PM on January 29, 2007

Why didn't they give him a prosthesis?

I do wondered that too, but I suspect it was considered and ruled out for some reason, given the amount of effort that was put into his case I'd be surprised if it wasn't considered. The ultimate problem was less the broken leg than the laminitis he developed his other hind hoof. Laminitis is agonizing and very difficult to recover from when it reaches the stage it reached with Barbaro. At least the veterinary community has hopefully learned something that will be valuable to other horses eventually.

They abused the hell out of that horse. For money.

Yep. When you put that much stress on a large animal before its body has even remotely finished growing and maturing, you shouldn't be surprised when the body breaks down long before its time. Thoroughbreds start racing at two years old, which means they start training even earlier than that, and horses are not fully physically mature until they're around five years old. Most horse-health-oriented trainers barely even ask a horse to have a rider sit on it for a few minutes at a time at that age, and more and more trainers are now delaying training horses to carry riders until the horse is twice that age - horses started later tend to have far longer working lives than those who start weight-bearing work before their bones have even finished growing, like racing Thoroughbreds do. But a horse standing around eating and growing is a horse costing money and not making any, and horse racing is a business, it's sure not done for the love of the horses. And Barbaro is what the result of that business is - if only some of the money spent on him post-injury had been put into letting him mature a bit before he started racing...but then, he wasn't yet valuable. I'm glad he's out of his misery, and I'm sad that this magnificent animal had to suffer.
posted by biscotti at 9:06 PM on January 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

Geez. This is terrible all around. biscotti, as usual, is the voice of animal-related reason, albeit quite sad in this case. I hope they bury him standing.
posted by oflinkey at 9:37 PM on January 29, 2007

And horseracing really is out-and-out abuse. Reading parts of this site is making me cry.

"Ferdinand was disposed of during the last year," said his former owner, Yoshikazu Watanabe. "He was getting old and was in some discomfort."

Watanabe, who said he gave the aging horse to a friend two years ago after Ferdinand was no longer effective as a stud, declined to give details about the horse's death. He used the Japanese word "shobun," which means to "get rid of" or "dispose of.""


"It's tradition elsewhere to bury the head, heart and hooves of the horse. Whichever way a horse is interred, it is considered an honor, Nicholson said.

Contrast that treatment with that of Exceller, a champion horse that died in a slaughterhouse in Sweden in 1997."

posted by oflinkey at 9:53 PM on January 29, 2007

Jesus is his jockey now.
posted by Falconetti at 10:09 PM on January 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

Veterinarians were called in only because Barbaro's semen, as DonnieSticks suggests, could be sold to the highest bidder.

As neither emotion nor affection contributed to his preservation, I don't understand how some people developed these feelings for the animal. Why feel more strongly about this horse than for any of the thousands of animals killed every day?

On preview: After reading over my comment I feel that it might come off as a bit too brusque. I don't mean any disrespect to those who felt a genuine attachment to Barbaro, I simply don't understand it.
posted by aladfar at 10:15 PM on January 29, 2007

So why exactly to they kill the horsies, and not, let's say, give them to me?
posted by Kudos at 10:35 PM on January 29, 2007

I'm not really sure about this, but I'm guessing there are gallons and gallons of Barbaro's semen stored somewhere. I think the reason they wanted the horse alive has something to do with the tradition of natural studding in thoroughbred horse breeding. That's what someone I know who raises show horses told me anyway, that thoroughbred owners frown on artificial insemenation for no particularly good reason.
posted by mosessmith at 10:42 PM on January 29, 2007

Maybe this is inappropirate, but he also had fans who loved him enough to write fanfic. I give you: "Saving Barbano's Semen"

I'm sorry.
posted by Rusty Iron at 10:53 PM on January 29, 2007

Susan went on to major in animal husbandry at the university and became one of the foremost specialists in the capture of semen from horses, mules and donkeys, but she would never reveal the secret to how she was able to extract nearly twice the amount of semen than anyone else working with a particular animal.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:05 PM on January 29, 2007

It always saddens me to hear when these things happen. I work at a racecourse and although I don't follow racing, you can always feel the shockwave that goes through the industry when a top horse is put down.
posted by cholly at 11:43 PM on January 29, 2007

Jesus rode a donkey. Bring back donkey racing.
posted by basicchannel at 12:23 AM on January 30, 2007

Come on aboard, I promise you you won't hurt the horse
We treat him well, we feed him well

Oh, and

posted by fixedgear at 2:10 AM on January 30, 2007

If anyone abhors racing horses you have my full and total support. That doesn't stop this line from the Wikipedia article from being unintentionally hilarious though:

...his prognosis swung up and down for eight months.
posted by vbfg at 3:57 AM on January 30, 2007

Those suggesting that Barbaro was only kept alive for his semen are quite incorrect. Artificial insemination is not permitted in thoroughbred racing in this country. You have to do it live and it was apparent soon after Barbaro broke his leg that he was never going to be able to do that. It's listed right here under "breeding practices not approved by the Jockey Club."

Whatever else you might think of them, his owners spent a tremendous amount of money to save this horse, not for the money he might earn them later, but because they felt it was the right thing to do.
posted by fancypants at 6:13 AM on January 30, 2007

You honestly think that someone didn't buy that horse's semen?

Weirdest sentence I've written all week, but of course they've sold some of that. Probably made a pretty penny too.
posted by agregoli at 7:20 AM on January 30, 2007

Honest question: even if racehorses cannot be bred through artificial insemination, what's to prevent someone from doing it on the sly? Or for expensive horses, sired by Barbaro, but frolicking out somewhere on a princess's estate?

Also, why is artificial insemination frowned upon exactly?
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:46 AM on January 30, 2007

Or for expensive horses, sired by Barbaro, but frolicking out somewhere on a princess's estate?

I'm not sure why anyone would necessarily want a Barbaro foal as a pet other than the "hey it's a Barbaro foal" aspect. They wouldn't necessarily be well-suited to being riding horses, the physical and mental factors which make a good racehorse are not necessarily the physical and mental factors which make a good riding horse, and very few savvy horsepeople are going to pay a lot of money for a horse as a riding horse just because it comes from winning racehorse lines for that exact reason. Sure, many ex-racehorses who don't break down from physical stress have second careers as riding horses, but they aren't particularly expensive to buy, no matter what their "racing pedigree" is (because the racing pedigree has nothing to do with what kind of riding horse they will make), and they're often cheaper than non-racers who've been properly raised and trained as riding horses, because race horses are not raised for long working lives, they're managed for short, fast racing lives, so ex-racers often have very short, injury-prone, working lives no matter what you do with them (I've ridden many ex-racehorses in my life, I wouldn't say they're a dime a dozen, but they're certainly very far from the most expensive horses out there, and fresh off the track, they're often dirt cheap - I know many people who've bought fresh off the track horses for the price they'd go for to a meat buyer). Compare it to buying a Stradivarius violin for a guitar player - sure, it's a fabulous example of the instrument, but that doesn't mean it's suitable for your needs. A horse is not a horse.

As to why AI is frowned upon: this is an ongoing discussion in the racing world. It's at least partly because it keeps the number of horses a given stud can produce down and therefore his stud fees up (although Secretariat managed something like 600 in ten years or so) - this means that horses with champion bloodlines can still be worth large stud fees even if they themselves are nothing special (whereas with AI, you have many more options open to you, including horses who are on the other side of the planet, or who are dead). Since most other racing breeds (Standardbreds, racing Quarter Horses and even racing Arabians IIRC) allow AI, the Thoroughbred racing world is a last holdout against it, and since natural breeding can be extremely dangerous for horses, I'm not really inclined to think that the holdout is really for the benefit of much except wallets.
posted by biscotti at 8:09 AM on January 30, 2007

I just know there's going to be a movie based on this someday.
posted by malaprohibita at 8:42 AM on January 30, 2007

What biscotti said. Top shelf race horses don't make good pets (although bottom shelf race horses often make wonderful riding horses). They're high strung and not trained to do anything but run. Doesn't make for a very nice ride in the country.

What would be the point of having a Barbaro foal if you couldn't race it?
posted by fancypants at 8:59 AM on January 30, 2007

He was the king of horses
posted by yupster at 9:42 AM on January 30, 2007

oflinkey, Ferdinand's death caused some outrage when the news got back to the U.S. - or at least here in Kentucky. Exceller's story was the reason for the creation of the Exceller fund. Exceller's situation in particular was strange - the man who sent him to slaughter is said to have done so mainly out of spite at the Swedish racing authorities.

Both of these horses were killed outside the U.S., but American slaughterhouses also take thoroughbreds. There have been ongoing efforts in the past few years to stop allowing horses to be sent to slaughter within the U.S., but so far success has been limited.

biscotti, the problems with racing go beyond just the age at which the horses start. There are the medications used to allow fragile horses to continue to run (Lasix, bute) and to disguise their problems - and then when those horses win races and go on to stand at stud, the infirmities are spread throughout the breed. There's been a huge, huge reliance on the Raise a Native line, which seems to be somewhat delicate, and in the past 25 or 30 years racing distances have actually shortened as stamina and strength have been bred out (lighter horses run faster, I guess, but are more delicate). And at the same time, racing careers have gotten shorter, with fewer races (and with more time between those). It gets some attention, but as long as people want quick money and an early move to stud, I don't know that it will change.
posted by dilettante at 10:38 AM on January 30, 2007

My point is why couldn't you race it? Just because you couldn't race it in an official race doesn't mean people wouldn't want a fast horse to line their pockets elsewhere.

I'd find it very hard to believe if someone wasn't interested in the offspring of this horse.
posted by agregoli at 10:52 AM on January 30, 2007

agregoli, it just doesn't work that way. Horse racing is only genuinely lucrative when it's "official" and big, and even then, for the owners, it's a very expensive hobby financed by money they make elsewhere, not a money-making business (for trainers, it's a business, but they get paid by the owners, and very few trainers actually get rich). You can make money with a proven horse at stud, but you'll only rarely fully recoup what it cost you to get a horse to the point where it's commanding high stud fees. Sure, there are informal races, but there's no pocket-lining money in that, just sport. And also, keep in mind that genetics is always a crap shoot, and many world-class champion Thoroughbreds never have any offspring of any note whatsoever (and many of the champion sires were never anything much themselves on the track), so it's far from a guarantee that any Barbaro offspring would be anything other than Barbaro offspring, there's no guarantee that they'd be fast, and there's certainly almost nobody who'd be willing to spend the kind of money that Barbaro's stud fee would have been just to get a horse that they can't really do anything with other than bet their friends it goes faster than their horse (not to mention that there could be repercussions for Barbaro's owner from selling semen for AI, which might even result in her being banned from further participation in the sport).
posted by biscotti at 11:05 AM on January 30, 2007

As neither emotion nor affection contributed to his preservation, I don't understand how some people developed these feelings for the animal. Why feel more strongly about this horse than for any of the thousands of animals killed every day?

First of all, I assume when you questioned his owners motives you were ignorant of the rules discussed above that would've affected his ability to make money at stud (let alone racing).

I have mixed feelings about horse racing, although since childhood I've enjoyed watching the "big three" races on TV.

But it's interesting that here, in the middle of a thread with so much callousness about the death of even one animal, you instead seem to be questioning the motives and feelings of animal lovers. Perhaps some of us not only feel sadness at the death of this magnificent horse but also feel regret and in some instances even abhor the thousands of animals killed every day.

(And then there are the people who condemn animal lovers and animal rights activists for allegedly caring more about animals than people. When it's perhaps more valid to ask if you've ever known anyone who didn't care about animals but was a great humanitarian?)
posted by NorthernLite at 12:57 PM on January 30, 2007

i do need some glue that faster than average glue..
posted by dopamine at 4:06 PM on January 30, 2007

*dries even
posted by dopamine at 4:06 PM on January 30, 2007

Jacksonville Airport

The #1 item on CNN for 1h30m is a dead horse.

There is no heating in the departure lounge.

It's been a strange and interesting day but I'm not sure I care about the horse. At least the Nicks won...
posted by i_cola at 10:53 PM on January 30, 2007

A travesty. Animal abuse. I hope horses race humans in the afterlife.

100% agreed. Horse racing is little better than cock-fighting or bullfighting in my opinion - the industry just has much better marketing/PR. It's nice that they tried to save Barbaro, but I pity the vast majority of racehorses worldwide who aren't lucky enough to actually be profitable... in Australia at least, most end up going to the knackery at a young age. More about this stinking "sport" here.
posted by gooddoggy at 2:34 AM on January 31, 2007

« Older A Frog Too Far   |   Hubble ACS, We Hardly Knew You Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments