Area author of Barbaro book laments loss of champion horse


Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 10:18 p.m.

While some people might have taken a moment of silence at the news that 2006 Kentucky Derby champion Barbaro had been put to sleep Monday morning, local author Shelley Fraser Mickle knew firsthand what an extraordinary creature the world had just lost.

"I think the final word is that it's important to celebrate what this magnificent horse taught us about ourselves and our ability to care about the tragedy of another," Mickle said from her home Monday evening.

Mickle had met Barbaro face-to-face in researching the biography she wrote about the colt's life — including the thoroughbred's rise to fame as the winner of the Kentucky Derby and his gruesome fall during the Preakness Stakes eight months ago when a wrong step left him with a shattered right hind leg.

The author is a horsewoman herself and has recently had to put down two of her own beloved animals. She said Barbaro's owners, Gretchen and Roy Jackson, had the colt's best interest in mind when they ended his suffering Monday.

"They put him down because they always said, 'When the pain is so evident, he will tell us it's time to go,'" Mickle said.

A series of ailments — including laminitis in the left rear hoof, an abscess in the right rear hoof, as well as new laminitis in both front feet — proved too much for the colt. Barbaro was given a heavy dose of a tranquilizer and an overdose of an anesthetic and died at 10:30 a.m.

"In getting to know the owners…I met some of the most magnificent people and animal lovers," she said.

"They did everything for this horse for the right reasons. Their love for the animal and the sport of racing should be celebrated."

Mickle said her book, which is titled "Barbaro: America's Horse" and is set to be released in April by Simon and Schuster, details Barbaro's life from birth. Mickle said she interviewed everyone who handled him from the time he entered the world.

"You might say that I got the story straight from the horse's mouth," she said lightly, adding that she didn't include quite everything because "all horses need a few secrets."

She said getting to visit the horse was a moment she won't quickly forget.

"Barbaro is one of the most magnificent beings I have ever met and it took me a while to comprehend the greatness I was in the presence of," she said.

Mickle said the publishers might try to put the biography out ahead of time because of Barbaro's death, and she added that it will be more of a memorial to his life now.

"I wrote a new last page today," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Alice Wallace can be reached at 338-3109 or alice.wallace@gvillesun.com

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