Dr. Dean Richardson Equine Surgeon
Thursday May 10, 2007 2 p.m. (ET)
Dr. Dean Richardson, the head of surgery at the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, has been in the public eye since last May when he began treating Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro for a catastrophic injury sustained during the Preakness Stakes.
An equine orthopedic surgeon who has been at New Bolton for 27 years, Richardson handled the attention accorded him with an openness and candor that has endeared him to the media and the public.
After having so graciously made time in his busy schedule to take your questions in the most often-read edition of Talkin' Horses to date, Dr. Richardson has once again agreed to chat with our readers.
A resident of Landenberg, Pa., Richardson and his wife, Laura, also a veterinarian, have a son, Alec, who is a senior at Penn. The couple have three horses that are ridden regularly, and Richardson is an avid golfer.
Born in Honolulu, Richardson is the son of a Navy captain who was a physician specializing in internal medicine. Richardson enrolled at Dartmouth University at age 16 with plans for a career in acting. His plans changed after he became hooked on horses while horseback riding as part of a physical education course. A 1974 Dartmouth graduate, Richardson earned his doctorate of veterinary medicine at Ohio State and has been at New Bolton since 1979.
Previous to Barbaro, one of Richardson’s highest-profile equine clients was steeplechaser McDynamo, who earned a second Eclipse Award in 2005 after undergoing surgery performed by Richardson.
Throughout the extensive surgery on Barbaro’s right hind leg and the resulting laminitis in his left hind leg that led to the colt being euthanized, Richardson handled all the pressure and responsibility with professional calmness.
We also urge our readers to donate generously to The Barbaro Fund established by the folks at the New Bolton Center to help support their continuing efforts to pioneer new and innovative treatment for the catastrophic injuries suffered by our equine friends.
Editor’s note: The following questions and answers are only a small sample of the large number of questions sent to Dr. Richardson. Due to time constraints and the number of similar questions, not all of the questions will be answered or posted here. Any e-mails of congratulations to Dr. Richardson that were not questions will be forwarded to him. Thanks.
Thank you for all your efforts to treat Barbaro. What do you feel is the most important thing you learned from that experience and do you feel it will be helpful in the future for treatment of other horses facing similar injuries?
I’ve tried to emphasize throughout the last few months that I don’t want people to think that there were too many really straightforward lessons in the Barbaro case. As with any complicated case, you figure out that you might have done some things different but you really don’t know if doing them differently would necessarily have resulted in a different outcome. Learning is often very gradual in clinical practice and I definitely believe that we could manage the next case slightly better just for having learned minor lessons from Barbaro. I truly hope that the support coming in for equine research will be what makes a significant difference in the long run for other injured horses and those with laminitis.
I understand that every effort was made to save Barbaro, and am no way trying to find fault. The question I can't seem to reconcile in my own mind is how Barbaro's status could change so quickly, from talk of discharging him in early January to his death on Jan. 29. What was the turning point (or was there a single turning point)?
The biggest problem is that he began to get more sore on his laminitic left hind foot. That occurred even though he had been fairly stable on it for several months. This is NOT unusual, however. All of us who work on this type of case have seen one be comfortable for months to years and then suddenly have a crisis. In Barbaro’s case, when he became lame on the left hind, he badly overloaded the right hind limb. The latter, as you know, was healed but not perfect. The result of the overload on the right hind leg was that he developed a severe subsolar abscess on that foot. We tried to protect the RH foot by placing him in transfixation pins. This allowed him to bear full weight again on the RH but it wasn’t enough to offset the development of laminitis in both front feet. I have described it as a deck of cards falling and still find that to be an apt analogy.
To read the complete transcript of this chat, along with many others, check out Best of Talkiní Horses.
Best of Talkin’ Horses features provocative “chats” with some of Thoroughbred racing’s most prominent names. Adapted from “Talkin’ Horses,” the popular weekly online chat series hosted by Bloodhorse.com, this edited collection provides additional insights by Ron Mitchell, editor and moderator of “Talkin’ Horses."
-- You might also enjoy Talkin' Horses with Dr. Dean Richardson (Aug 16, 2006)
Editor's Note: BloodHorse.com moderators retain editorial control over Talkin' Horses discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests; guests may decline to answer questions. Opinions expressed by guests of Talkin' Horses are those of the guest and do not represent the opinions of Blood-Horse Publications, its employees, associates, or affiliated organizations. Guests, dates, and times of Talkin' Horses discussions are subject to change.