While Barbaro was spending his 207th day in his stall in the intensive care unit of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine's George D. Widener Hospital at New Bolton Medical Center on Dec. 13, his replica was being exhibited in the hospital's Woerner Amphitheater, along with a check for $114,710 presented to New Bolton by the model's creator and manufacturer Breyer Animal Creations, the world's top-seller of equine-themed toys and collectives.
The Barbaro models have been on the market – on eBay, in retail stores, pet stores, and equestrian shops etc – for several months. Breyer, in an effort to assist New Bolton in saving the lives of horses in much the same manner as they did for Barbaro, have based their donation on the total amount of models sold, plus $10 for each model.
"We started putting this in motion about 30-40 days after Barbaro's injury," said Breyer president Tony Fleischmann. "It's something we would have done regardless of the outcome. There was just such an outpouring of caring and passion for the horse.
"All the loving has turned into something good and special. He showed so much heart, and it was that heart that defined his greatness."
Since being sent to New Bolton immediately following his catastrophic injury suffered in the May 20 Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Barbaro has been subjected to anesthesia nine times – the initial surgery, seven cast changes, including the one where the plate in his leg was removed, and finally when his the cast was removed. During that time, he also survived a near-fatal case of laminitis, from which he still is recovering.
"It still brings tears to my eyes," said Gretchen Jackson, who owns and bred Barbaro with her husband Roy. "It's just remarkable what's happened, and remarkable that the horse seems to have turned and is going to make it. We still can't believe it. Even when he had gotten extremely thin, his coat was brilliant and he never lost that look in his eye. With all he's been through, he always looked out at the world saying, 'Here I am. I'm still here.' We're just so proud of him."
Breyer has been in business for 56 years, and has put out models of some of the sport's greatest horses, as well as many famous horses from literature, movies, and television, such as Trigger, The Black Stallion, Fury, and Champion.
Fleishmann said, although the run of Barbaro models has been sold out, they are still available for retail. Each model – the larger 1/9th scale model and the smaller 1/32nd scale models – is hand painted, which makes each one unique. About half of the models are made with high-grade engineering plastic.
"Our mission in life is to celebrate the horse," said Fleischmann, who presented the check to New Bolton's Dr. Corrine Sweeney. "We have been afforded the great privilege to celebrate a special horse and some extra special people – Roy and Gretchen Jackson, Michael Matz, and Dr. Dean Richardson.
"Not only does Barbaro epitomize what we admire in a horse, he had the unique ability to capture the passion and attention of the entire nation. Like every great story it's also about the people around him who all had the courage to care when caring was at its toughest and the outcome was uncertain. That outcome has echoed far into the future of equine veterinary care."
"We're very enthisuastic to be here to thank Breyer for the incredible replica of Barbaro that so many people will be able to enjoy," Sweeney said. "Hopefully, we will one day learn what causes laminitis and how to treat it."
"It's a surreal moment to stand up here and talk about a toy horse...I mean a model horse," Richardson kidded. "Who would have thought months ago we'd be here giving a press conference about model horses? It is very generous of Breyer to be here and help support the work that's been done. Probably a lot of people who have bought this model aren't model horse collectors. It shows him at his best -- running -- although I've been asked to apply a cast to the right hind leg. I've avoided those requests.
"Barbaro is now out of a cast, and is not even in a bandage. He just requires a special shoe to get around. He still has hurdles in front of him, but we're thrilled with his progress, and he's a happy horse. I know he's happy when Gretchen confirms he's been playing with their grandchildren and hasn't tried to eat a single one."
"He's still being walked outside daily. His departure from here depends on many things. In my mind's eye, he can leave in the not so distant future. He weighs 1,132 pounds, which goes up and down a little like most hospitalized horses will do. He's in good flesh and eating very well. His vital signs and blood work are excellent, and his coat looks beautiful. As soon as we believe he can be managed as well somewhere else, he will go somewhere else."