East Dorset, Vermont — On the evening of Thursday, August 7, more than 100 guests arrived at ‘An Equine Evening’ held in the Grand Prix Pavilion at the Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, VT, to honor Barbaro, the late Thoroughbred-racing hero.
Barbaro, the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner and favorite in the 2006 Preakness Stake, suffered catastrophic injuries to his right hind leg during the running at Pimlico Race Course. He underwent intensive surgery at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center under the care of Dr. Dean Richardson to repair multiple fractures. His struggle for survival captured the nation’s attention. In January of 2007, Barbaro was euthanized after a difficult battle against laminitis, a life-threatening and painful disease that breaks down the walls of a horse’s hooves.
Proceeds generated through donations and raffle ticket sales during An Equine Evening, co-chaired by Kimet Hand and Betsy Perrott, benefited the Laminitis Research Fund, the Barbaro Foundation, a program established by Gulfstream Park that oversees an annual scholarship for future veterinarians, and the Spring Hill Horse Rescue in Clarendon, VT.
“We are pleased that we’ve raised over $12,000 for these great causes,” said Hand. “We would like to thank everyone who came to show their support and the community of Manchester.”
The festivities included wine, hors d’ourves and gourmet chocolate provided by Equinox, and a raffle for generous prizes donated by Marcia Poutiatine, John and Dotty Ammerman, Oughton Limited, Kimet Hand, and Terry Lindsey.
Gretchen and Roy Jackson, owners of Barbaro, were the evening’s honored guests, as was Barbaro’s trainer, Michael Matz, who was unable to attend. As Gretchen Jackson took the stage to commemorate the memory and legacy of Barbaro, the clouds parted and the early evening sun shined for the first time that day.
“I just want to thank everyone who came here this evening. You are the ones supporting the Laminitis Fund and the Barbaro Foundation,” Gretchen addressed the guests. “I feel like I’ve said this so many times; Barbaro opened our hearts to what horses mean to us. We never expected what happened to Barbaro, but are thankful for all the positive things he has brought.
“Barbaro always seemed to enjoy being out there,” she continued. “He ran so easily and showed up so proudly in the paddock and we found so much joy in that. Even after his injury and during the eight months he spent in a stall, he kept his ears pricked, always happy to have visitors. But when the Laminitis hit, he became a different horse. He let us know he was ready.”
Dr. James Orsini, DVM, ACVS New Bolton Center, took to the podium next to address the fundamentals of the laminitis disease and hopes for the future.
“Through Barbaro’s tragedy, laminitis has been turned into a household word and that has helped us gain the means to move forward and better understand the disease, and most importantly, prevent it,” Orsini explained. “We are making progress.”
Orsini outlined multiple revolutions in preventative technology including a variable temperature ice boot designed to reduce inflammation in the hoof, slow the metabolic process required by an affected hoof, and quell the pain laminitis inflicts.
Roy wrapped up the evening’s presentations with more positive news. “To date, the Laminitis Fund has raised approximately 1.5 million dollars,” he said. “We have received letters from every state and 15 foreign countries. Barbaro has inspired more optimism and positive causes than we could have ever imagined.”
The Jackson’s live on a 190-acre farm in West Grove, PA, and are proud to have three full-brothers to Barbaro living there.
Competition at the Vermont Summer Festival is held daily Wednesday through Sunday, beginning at 8 a.m. and running until approximately 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children Wednesday through Saturday. On ‘Grand Prix Sunday’, admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children. All gate proceeds are donated to the Friends Foundation for MEMS, benefiting programs in the local Elementary & Middle Schools.
New England’s largest “AA” rated hunter/jumper horse show, the Vermont Summer Festival offers over $750,000 in prize money, making it the richest sporting event in the state of Vermont. Visit the Vermont Summer Festival website for more information, including full results.