Though the public has commended Dr. Dean Richardson's dedication to Barbaro's recovery from his catastrophic Preakness (gr. I) injuries and recently developed laminitis, the Landenberg, Pa. veterinarian insists he is only one of many to help the Kentucky Derby (gr. I)-winning colt throughout each day.
A typical 24-hour period for Barbaro at the George D. Widener for Large Animals at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center includes four monitoring sessions with nurses that check his vital signs, the amount he is eating and drinking, and his manure and urine production. Fed four times a day, the colt receives a free choice of alfalfa and timothy mix hay.
Richardson's day starts well before 6 a.m., which is the hour he routinely changes the bandage on Barbaro's left foot, which is being treated for laminitis.
"He basically gets his foot cleaned daily and a very generic antibiotic; the only thing we are putting on it is a silver sulfur diozine that is non-irritating," he said during a "Talkin' Horses" online chat at bloodhorse.com. "We put a padded bandage on his left foot and put the foot in a boot which has several pieces of foam in the bottom."
A recent development in Barbaro's schedule is his late afternoon walks with Richardson, who allows the colt to graze outside for around 30 minutes. No longer needing to remain in a sling during part of the day, Richardson said Barbaro looks forward to daily visits from his devoted trainer Michael Matz and owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who never fail to bring fresh, hand-picked grass from their Lael Farm, which is located nearby in Chester County, Pa.
Barbaro's typical day also includes being groomed and bathed at various times and taking medications at multiple intervals.
"Previously, he was on a number of constant intravenous infusions and epidural pain medication," Richardson explained. "His management is much simpler right now because he is doing so well."
Though he is optimistic, Richardson continues to be honest about Barbaro's situation, and refuses to "put the cart before the horse," so to speak.
"I think his chances of making it are better than I thought six weeks ago," Richardson said. "The quality of healing of his laminitis foot at this time is good, and I am increasingly optimistic that he may grow a good enough hoof to become comfortable in the long-term."
In the event of Barbaro making an optimum recovery, Richardson made a bold remark in saying, "I still believe there is a chance to save him to be a comfortable breeding stallion, capable of naturally covering mares...if he fully recovers, he will be able to do more than walk."
The New Bolton surgeon was quick to add, however, that he still could not say if the colt's survival was "for sure," and anticipated Barbaro's hospitalization to continue for several more months.
"It is important to keep in mind that Barbaro has not been saved yet," Richardson said. "It is not like anyone can say it has been proven. I certainly can't emphasize that enough, and unfortunately it is the truth. Until he is doing what a normal horse can do I am not going to consider it a success."
Though the risk for the colt developing laminitis in his front feet was fairly low, Richardson noted he would always be at higher risk of having the disease and other problems in the currently infected foot.
He also said, there was "no question" that Barbaro's young age has been a positive factor in the healing process.
According to Richardson, about 90% of Barbaro's hoof wall, including the sole was completely removed after discovering the laminitis. He estimated it would take between nine and 12 months for the hoof to re-grow.
Regarding the internal fixation hardware installed in Barbaro's fractured leg, Richardson said the implants would only be removed if they were associated with an ongoing infection. The soonest the surgeon expects Barbaro's leg to be solid enough to take off the cast is early September.
Looking back at when Barbaro's Preakness breakdown first occurred, Richardson said, "I felt very sick to my stomach when I saw it. I knew immediately it was a very, very severe injury. I pretty much thought exclusively in medical terms, about the nature of the fracture, whether the skin was broken, and considering where he was, I figured he would come to me.
"This is what I do," Richardson continued of why he decided to take on Barbaro's case. "This is why I get up in the morning. This is the type of cases I have worked my whole career to get better at. I certainly can't imagine not wanting to try this. I am sure some would not have wanted it because it is so high profile," continued Richardson, who is still getting used to signing autographs when he visits Saratoga Racecourse. "I certainly don't think I am the only person who could have helped him."Complete Transcript of Richardson Chat