Fighting Laminitis, A Decade After Barbaro

Barbaro and Peter Brette before the 2006 Preakness. Photo Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Barbaro and Peter Brette before the 2006 Preakness. Photo Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Ten years ago this week, the racing world watched in horror as shortly after the start of the Preakness Stakes, jockey Edgar Prado pulled Barbaro up with a catastrophic injury to his right hind leg. Stricken with a shattered leg that in almost any other case would have led to immediate euthanasia, Barbaro was transported 90 minutes north to the New Bolton Center veterinary hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, which is where he resided through eight months of treatment, first for the injured leg, then for laminitis. Despite the extraordinary measures taken to save him, Barbaro was euthanized in late January 2007.

A decade later, laminitis is still a dreaded diagnosis. Though its causes can be identified, the disease is difficult to prevent, and its progress is a challenge to thwart. There are success stories—Paynter in 2012, Lady Eli last year—but in 2014 Intense Holiday, a graded stakes winner who was 12th in the Kentucky Derby that year, succumbed to the disease, as did the multiple graded stakes winner Vicar’s in Trouble earlier this year.

A decade after Barbaro, is the outlook any better now for horses with laminitis than it was then? The answer, said several veterinarians, is, “It depends.”

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