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We advocate on all animal protection and exploitation issues, including experimentation, factory farming, rodeos, breeders and traveling animal acts.

Animal Defenders of Westchester
P.O. Box 205
Yonkers, NY 10704




Published: May 23, 2006

A thoroughbred like Barbaro does not look, at first, like a fragile creature. But the muscled frame of his sleek body, the power of his shoulders and hindquarters all of that superstructure connects to the ground through a surprisingly delicate set of bones, three of which fractured on Saturday at the Preakness Stakes. No one will forget the injury who witnessed it, or who saw a photograph of Barbaro holding his right hind leg up in the air while his jockey, Edgar Prado, leaned against him. The very being of a horse is in its legs, and part of the horror was knowing that such a seemingly trivial injury trivial to a human, that is would have meant death on the track for most horses.

This is the cruel logic of horse racing. One wrong step was all it took to undo this horse after his triumphant Kentucky Derby victory. Barbaro's owners are doing all they can to save his life and his career as a stud. Edgar Prado gave Barbaro that chance by pulling up the instant he knew something was wrong. But the fact is that a 3-year-old horse no matter how massive it may look is still settling into its bones, and its joints are still closing.

The very nature of the track is to treat these animals, especially a winner like Barbaro, as if they were infinitely precious while at the same time testing them not only against one another but against the very chance of survival. No one wants a tragedy like this to happen, but it is endemic in the sport.

The power of the emotions we have all felt at seeing this great animal in pain are paradoxical. The feelings are powerful because it was Barbaro, the favorite. But they would have been powerful had this happened to any other horse on the track that day. When the race goes as planned, it all seems like beauty, like grace and athleticism. But in the instant that Barbaro pulled up, suddenly alien to himself in his inability to find his footing, we saw the horror inherent in racing 3-year-olds. We do such a good job of hiding these things from ourselves until the moment when they can no longer be hidden.

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