Dr. Douglas Byars, respected veterinarian at the Hagyard-Davidson-McGee equine hospital near Lexington, spoke with The Blood-Horse
about the efforts to save Claiborne Farm stallion Unbridled, calling the 1990 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) and Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner "the most extraordinary, patient horse I've ever been around." Unbridled was euthanized at Hagyard-Davidson-McGee Thursday after developing colic, weeks after undergoing two separate surgical procedures related to his digestive system.
"He went through two surgeries--the first to remove a portion of the large colon that was diseased," Byars said. "That didn't heal appropriately; there was a small leak in the bowel where it had been put back together, and he got peritonitis (infection of the abdominal cavity). We went back in and cleaned it up and corrected that. He recuperated at the hospital for approximately 10 days, slowly came around and was sent home to the farm. He was beginning to make us all feel optimistic."
Byars and Dr. Kim Sprayberry made daily visits to Claiborne to check on Unbridled, and Byars said the stallion "was doing very well" until he developed colic on Thursday.
"He was given pain killers, but that didn't resolve the situation. We went back out to the farm at 3 p.m., performed a rectal palpation and could tell the bowel was abnormal and he had formed adhesions. We decided the horse was inoperable and it was in the best interests of the horse to put him down."
Byars said concern over Unbridled's condition following the surgeries was in two stages. "In a one- to two-week period after the second surgery, he had this window to survive the immediate threats, that peritonitis (infection of the bowel cavity) could not be controlled, that his bowel infection (enteritis) could not be controlled, and that he wouldn't develop laminitis. He overcame those obstacles.
"In the second phase, after he got well, we were concerned if adhesions would get him...and they did. They were inside his abdomen and had entrapped or strangulated his small intestines. The adhesions are like cobwebs. It's a huge problem in human and veterinary medicine. His was a cluster that was inoperable and that was confirmed at post-mortem."
Following the post-mortem conducted by Dr. Fairfield Bain, Claiborne personnel brought Unbridled back to the farm Friday morning to bury him.
"It was a drawn-out ordeal," Byars said. "As I would put it, and it's not just me that felt this way about him, this horse was the most extraordinary, patient horse I've ever been around. His survival would be to his credit that he lasted this long. He put in more than his share of effort. He was just an amazing horse.
"It hurts a lot of people, because whatever this human-animal bond is, this horse epitomized it," Byars continued. "As Seth (Hancock, Claiborne president) said, 'This horse was the man. All the people in that stallion barn and all the activity centered around Unbridled. Seeking the Gold and Danzig stand for more money, but this was the horse everyone at the barn really looked forward to seeing every day.'
"Carl Nafzger said the same thing. He said being around Unbridled was just like being with a person. He was just an incredible horse.
"Forget who he was and what he did," said Byars. "He could have been somebody's pony. The effect he had on everybody would have been the same. We all feel it was a wonderful privilege to be around Unbridled. We're sorry for the loss."