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By Jane Fieberts

NEW YORK, 10 FEBRUARY 2008-Daniel Edwards' appropriation of Barbaro's story for one of his media mockeries surely had among its intended targets those who become exercised over whatever celebrity, animal, vegetable or mineral, the 24-hour, 360-degree media dangle in front of their noses.

However, one of our readers, Jane Fieberts of Monroe, CT , offered an thoughtful, impassioned response that reminded us that there are some whose interest in the Barbaro story, and in the humane treatment of horses and other animals, is much more substantial and legitimate.

Fieberts is an editorial consultant based in Monroe, Connecticut. A fan of racing since the mid-1960s with an abiding interest in the beauty and nobility of the thoroughbred, she was a staff writer for two national racing magazines in the United States. She also advocates for the development of treatements for laminitis, and against the export of horses from the U.S. to neighboring countries for slaughter.

I am certainly in agreement that the media fawns excessively over "celebrities," but a horse injured in a horrific accident did not seek to be a "celebrity."

Certainly neither did his modest and gracious owners, or the trainer (who, by the way is a legitimate hero, having carried the U.S. flag as an equestrian competitor in the Olympics just five years after rescuing three children from a burning plane that crashed in an Iowa cornfield but who has never sought the spotlight), the jockey (whose mother was FINALLY given a visa to enter the U.S. the very same day she died from the cancer she could have been treated for here), the lead surgeon, who struggled daily to do everything in his power to effect a cure or the dedicated staff at the New Bolton Center who endeavor to treat every patient as if he or she were a champion, or the people such as myself who became tagged as Fans of Barbaro.

Long after Barbaro died--and the story left the media spotlight-- many people have continued to take inspiration from his courage--courage which we would not have seen without the media having access to his treatment during all those months--to go on and do excellent things in his name. We have saved nearly 2,000 horses from slaughter by raising more than $800,000 to pay off killer buyers and support horse rescues across the country; on the
29th, a total of $10,000 was handed over in checks consisting of $10 and $20 donations from people who want to see the dreaded disease of laminitis --the disease that ultimately caused Barbaro's death--cured. (This affects all horses, not just racehorses.)

The New Bolton Center has received almost $2 million in donations and support to fund research against this disease and to help support the purchase of needed equipment such as the revolutionary
sling and recovery pool that allows horses to awake from anesthesia without injuring themselves. New Bolton treats all kinds of animals from the typical cat or dog to exotic creatures from zoos. Because of the Barbaro "story," applications are up at veterinary schools across the country.

Every day, people call their Congressional representatives or those in states other than their own, and ask them to bring the anti-slaughter horse bills S311 and HR503 up for a vote. This would end the transportation of horses to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. They do nothing; are we surprised? However, in the last week, a flood of calls from citizens just like myself stopped cold an attempt by the South Dakota legislature to build a slaughterhouse in that state.

Where is the media to cover all THIS grassroots effort? All this is
happening more than a year after Barbaro's death.

You may say, why all that money spent to save horses? To which, I would say, why all that money spent on fancy vacations or expensive dinners or Coach handbags or the latest designer creation by "whoever" someone is wearing on a runway?

This country is filled with overblown celebrities, for sure, but many of them ask for exactly the "celebrity" status they crave, and so they behave in ways that ensure the media will be there to record every disgusting or titillating detail (there is no better case than the pathetic Britney Spears, who is plain and simple, what they call in the South, "white trash").

What good will come out of HER celebrity?

Before Edwards jumps to so many completely wrong conclusions, or you lump this into some other kind of "celebrity" situation, you all should know that in this case, whatever "celebrity" Barbaro became, he did so because there was nothing "ordinary" about him. The "average" racehorse would have run off with that injury, irreparably damaging his leg on the track and having to be
put down right then and there. He displayed extraordinary intelligence by pulling himself up and protecting his leg, then cooperating in a way that usually happens only with injured humans--and doing it over a period of many months, for most of which he was very comfortable and was definitely healing. The broken leg DID heal, and he was close to being released.

If Edwards mocks the media, then it should be obvious even to him that in crafting his "press releases," he's the ultimate hypocrite.

Many people who love horses and even those who know nothing about them, will never forget Barbaro. In fact, the proper statue to honor him will be at Churchill Downs, the site of his greatest victory. This was a horse who in his sport was the very best. In a country where heroes, especially in more popular sports such as baseball and basketball, have fallen so far off their pedestals that they solicit more scorn than admiration, the greatest hero of
2006 was Barbaro. He just did his best and fought his hardest, and asked for nothing more.

I would urge you--and Edwards--to read the following story, which is the best commentary I have yet come across about the "Barbaro phenomenon" and its relationship to American culture:

When we look to the mess created by our national leadership, there is little wonder why Barbaro became the hero we have been so desperate to find. And I don't spend my days writing in response to every such article, because I have a life, too, but in this case I am angry that this situation has been so completely misrepresented.

This was a case of everyone trying to do the best thing for the very best reasons. I know, it does seem hard to believe that such people still exist in this country, doesn't it? Believe it!

External Links

University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine: New Bolton Center

The Barbaro News

Remembering Barbaro

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