KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. – Barbaro's right hind bones are healing so well his cast could have been off by now, if not for the laminitis in his other hind leg.
Dr. Dean Richardson said Tuesday that the painful hoof disease the Kentucky Derby winner has is preventing the cast from being removed because the colt could not protect himself by bearing more weight on the left hind.
Barbaro suffered life-threatening injuries when he broke three bones above and below his right rear ankle at the start of the May 20 Preakness.
"If he hadn't had the founder (laminitis) on his left hind, he'd probably be out of the cast and he'd probably be in a splinted bandage on the shoe," Richardson said in a telephone interview. "That's where we'd likely be. I can't do that because his left hind is the more sore of the two legs right now."
Barbaro's left hind hoof, which was stricken with a severe case of laminitis, is improving and started to show slight signs of re-growing after 80 percent of it was removed. Barbaro needs to regrow the hoof if he is to have any shot of walking — albeit with a hitch in his gait.
Barbaro, still in stable condition, has the bandage on his left hind foot changed daily.
"It's too early to see true hoof wall forming," Richardson said from the New Bolton Center. "But the coronary band, the part of the hoof that's the equivalent of the nail bed where the hoof is going to grow down from, that looks very good. It's too early to see a lot."
Barbaro has been in an intensive care stall at the George D. Widener Hospital since his horrific injuries in the second race of the Triple Crown series. Barbaro sustained a broken cannon bone above the ankle, a broken sesamoid bone behind the ankle and a broken long pastern bone below the ankle. The fetlock joint — the ankle — was dislocated.
Richardson said after performing surgery the pastern bone was shattered in "20-plus pieces."
Now, the right hind may be the least of Barbaro's worries in what remains a tedious, long recovery.
"Everything looks good under the cast," Richardson said. "The X-rays looked as good as they can look."
Richardson was concerned the 3-year-old colt would try to put too much weight on the rear hind if the cast was removed. Richardson said the left rear hoof has to regrow and stay healthy.
Richardson said the colt's prognosis was "poor" after it was stricken with laminitis, but eased off that grim outlook Tuesday.
"I don't know. Everyday that goes by, it's great," he said. "He has so long to go I don't even think about the prognosis. We just work on the horse and hope he continues to be happy."
Barbaro looks bright and happy with a voracious appetite to those who see him. Owner Gretchen Jackson usually visits twice daily to feed Barbaro fresh-cut grass from her nearby farm.
"It makes me feel better about the poor guy stuck in there," she said. "He likes it."
Jackson and her husband, Roy, said they look at Barbaro's recovery as a day-to-day process and try not to let their emotions ride too high over good news or get discouraged over changes in his condition.
"Just looking at him, he hasn't changed at all from the way he's been all along," she said. "If you had that as all you could go by, you couldn't believe he wasn't going to make it."