Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 11:05 AM

National mourning for a horse? Puh-leeese!

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

I don’t get the emotional attachment so many people have to this horse. Then again, it probably takes understanding the psychology at play in Peter Shaffer’s Equus to get it. But I think racing horses for sport has all of the redeeming social value of cockfighting. Therefore, I had no emotional interest in the life-and-death struggle of this race horse that had so many people holding vigil until he was euthanized on Monday.

Barbaro, of course, was the latest winner of the Kentucky Derby – by one of the largest margins in history. His win had Equine mobs betting he would be the first horse to win the elusive Triple Crown since Affirmed did it almost 30 years ago. (Only 11 horses have achieved the dubious honor of galloping to victory in the three grueling triple-crown races – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes – over a 5-week period.)

Unfortunately, at the start of the second race in this trifecta (last May’s 131st Preakness Stakes), Barbaro shattered his right hind leg.

Now, even though I find the whole culture of horse racing morally and socially repugnant, I know enough about it to know that – in almost every case – a horse suffering such an injury would have been shot on the spot (to put him out of his obvious misery). In fact, I’ve seen footage of a number of horses being euthanized under similar circumstances.

But many regarded Barbaro as the second coming of Secretariat. In fact, this horse was so worshipped, it seemed everyone connected to or interested in horse racing wanted Veterinarians to take extraordinary measures to prolong his life.

At long last, the Vets finally did on Monday what they should have done the day he was injured 8 months ago. Because all they ended up doing was prolonging Barbaro’s misery.

They’re just pawns and treated as such and while Barbaro was going through his treatment, many horses were dying on tracks around the country and no one cared about them. [Jackie Vergerio, spokeswoman of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals]

The sport of kings? Indeed! But so is fox hunting….

Meanwhile, regardless of the fleeting emotional interest most people had in seeing Barbaro survive this fatal injury, I have no doubt that his owners were primarily interested in rehabilitating him to become the biggest (fee-generating) farm stud in history. This, notwithstanding their post-mortem rationalization that the fight to save his life will lead to new advances in Equine medicine – presumably to make horses more durable as prostitutes for mankind’s sporting pleasure.

But, apropos using horses for man’s idle pleasures, now that Barbaro has been euthanized, his owners will have to settle for whatever premium they can get by auctioning him off to rich Japanese – for whom eating Barbaro would surely provide the greatest culinary “basashi” pleasure in history….


  1. February 2, 2007 at 3:00 am

    Pathetic I agree.

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