At around 10:30 this morning, after spending a restless night on his feet in his stall at New Bolton Center, 2006 Kentucky Derby Barbaro was euthanized by his surgeon Dr. Dean Richardson.
I was able to participate in a press briefing from Dr. Richardson this afternoon and can share this information:
1. The decision to euthanize Barbaro was not related to a re-fracture of his leg. To take weight off his foundered left hind, Barbaro bore increased weight on the right hind and severely bruised the lateral heel, which lead to an abscess in that heel area.
2. Barbaro did develop laminitis in both front feet.
3. On Sunday night, Barbaro did not lie down. Richardson said the horse is usually quiet at night and lies down to sleep. He did not do that last night and Richardson said it was the first night the horse had been in distress. The horse's distress was in spite of pain medication and the use of the sling. "We couldn't control his pain," Richardson said.
4. On Monday morning, Barbaro was relatively comfortable in his sling and alert. He ate his grass brought to him by his owners. He was given a heavy dose of tranquilizer and then an overdose of anesthesia through a catheter that was already in his neck.
5. "It could not have been more peaceful," Richardson stressed.
In retrospect, Richardson commented, "There were some Eureka! moments. But this is how science works, it's more like a gradual accumulation of expertise. I am sure I made mistakes, or, I should say, I am sure there were things I could have done better. You have to believe that you will get better at your job, otherwise why would you go to work in the morning?"
Referring to the cascade of events leading to the decision to euthanize the horse, Richardson said, "It's like a deck of cards. If one thing starts to go, others follow."
"My only gratification," he said near the end of the conference, "Is that he had eight or nine months of being a happy horse a majority of the time."
The press conference ended about 4:30 this afternoon.