- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 15, 2006

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. — The patient was doing better — and that alone accounted for Dean Richardson’s upbeat demeanor yesterday.

A day after describing Barbaro’s prognosis for recovery as “poor” because of an often fatal hoof disease, the colt’s chief surgeon was able to report the Kentucky Derby winner had a “good night and even slept on his side.”

That nugget of good news followed a week of distressful updates: surgeries and cast changes on Barbaro’s injured right hind leg — the one that sustained three broken bones in a horrific misstep shortly after he left the gate at the Preakness Stakes on May 20. And, perhaps most serious of all, a severe case of dreaded laminitis in his “good” left hind leg.

Barbaro was in stable condition after a restful night and a peaceful day, with his heart rate and pulse termed “good,” according to statements issued by the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center.

“We are treating his laminitis aggressively, and he continues to respond well and is acceptably comfortable,” Richardson said. “Our goal is to keep him as comfortable as possible, and clearly that comfort level will be a major indicator for our treatment decisions.”

The colt, who has fiberglass casts on both hind legs, also has been fitted with a sling to prevent sudden movements and allow him to shift the weight on his limbs. Laminitis is usually caused by uneven weight distribution in the limbs.

“Barbaro was out of his sling for more than 12 hours yesterday, and he had a calm, restful night, sleeping on his side for more than four hours,” Richardson said, adding that while his condition is stable, “it remains extremely serious.”

Sleeping on his side was significant because it allowed the horse to rest without putting pressure on his legs.

Rick Arthur, a prominent veterinarian on the California thoroughbred circuit, said Barbaro’s upgraded condition offers “a ray of hope.”

“When a horse has laminitis, the downs come very quickly and very dramatically, it’s almost like going on a cascade,” Arthur said. “When you get in cases like this, you are looking for hope. You are looking for anything that can give you an indication that you have a chance to move forward.”

Dr. Larry Bramlage, another noted veterinarian, agreed: “It’s a good sign because they’ve got the pain under control.”

Barbaro was transported to the New Bolton Center directly from Pimlico Race Course and the next day, Richardson inserted a titanium plate and 27 screws into the colt’s injured leg to help fuse the fetlock (ankle) joint.

Since, Richardson has said the onset of laminitis was a major concern. The disease tends to show up about six-to-eight weeks after a serious leg injury, when a horse has spent a great deal of time trying to balance his 1,000-pound frame on four fragile legs.

Barbaro’s left hind leg has only 20 percent of its hoof left after Richardson performed a hoof wall resection Wednesday.

“Removing that detached section of hoof wall is sort of like you removing a hangnail,” Bramlage said. “It makes it more comfortable, but he still has to grow a new hoof wall.”

Richardson estimated it would take about six months for a new hoof wall to grow back.

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