When people tell me they've never heard of "Misty of Chincoteague," it makes me want to cry. Misty was one of my very favorite books when I was younger- and one of the many, many horse books I've read over the years.
I'm not sure how I became interested in horses, but it probably had something to do with my animal-loving mom (see about two entries ago). She passed down some of her favorite horse books, her Barbie horses, and a love of the animal. While my obsession waned, I still love riding horses and would love to own one someday.
Today, I watched the Preakness Stakes. Most people know of the Kentucky Derby, and fewer know of the Triple Crown- a most famous and difficult trio of horse races beginning with the Derby and continuing with the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. Only eleven horses in the history of these three huge races have ever won all three in the same year. It's difficult to do because the three are within the same five weeks, held in three different states, and are three very different lengths. Most horses are better at shorter or longer races, but the Triple Crown requires mastery of three very different lengths with little time between for rest or preparation. Since Affirmed in 1978, no horse has won all three legs of the Triple Crown. The fame awaiting the next Triple Crown champion is great, and the money awaiting the owners and jockey are probably much greater. The Triple Crown champion himself, then, will probably retire to a comfortable stall, asked for little but occasional performance as a stallion (...that means sex). Not a bad life, to be sure, but the Triple Crown has proven elusive for the quickest thoroughbreds for longer than my lifetime.
Each year, horse fans like me (who may not even have a particular interest in horse racing) tune in for the big races of the Triple Crown and follow the Derby winner to the Preakness with high hopes. When a horse wins both the Derby and Preakness (I believe the most recent example was 2002's War Emblem), the hype increases considerably.
This year's Derby winner, Barbaro, was the favorite today at the Preakness. He hadn't ever lost a race, and his trainers had prepared him somewhat unconventionally before the Derby, which apparently paid off. He had broken away from the pack in a Derby which was expected to be a close race on all accounts. Barbaro was expected to do well at the Preakness, and some even speculated at his chances for the Crown.
After nearly all of the horses were loaded into the gates, Barbaro broke out of his early. His jockey struggled to slow him, and they led him around to re-enter the gate. Perhaps he was a bit too raring to go. In any case, the race started soon thereafter and Barbaro bolted from the gate with the other horses. He was in good position when suddenly he appeared to step down wrong on one of his hind legs. Soon, it was obvious that he was trying to gallop on only three legs, struggling to keep his balance while his jockey steered him to the side of the track. Veterinarians rushed in as Barbaro stopped and held his right hind leg in the air, something obviously very wrong. Once the race finished, an equine ambulance carried him off the track, and he headed to a world-class medical facility for horses where he was diagnosed with a career-ending and potentially life-threatening double leg fracture (both above and below the ankle). Broken legs are extremely dangerous injuries for horses- much more so than for humans.
I guess I just wanted to write about this because it made me really sad to see it (Barbaro was in obvious pain), and I really hope he's okay. I'll definitely be praying that his surgery goes well.