My intention for my first blog post was to discuss the importance of fan participation in helping to drive changes in our sport. Then I checked Twitter and saw the saddest abbreviation in the English language, RIP, followed by the sadly expected name of Giant Ryan. Esteemed Turf writer, Steve Haskin, posted on his Facebook page this update: “So sad about Giant Ryan. We have to find a way to combat laminitis. It has claimed way too many lives.” Yes we do.
To understand how Giant Ryan’s laminitis came to be, you have to understand the unique construction and biology of the horse. A horse is dependent on motion to complete healthy blood circulation through its legs. Unlike Cheetahs, or Greyhounds, horses do not have a fully automatic circulatory system. When blood enters a horse’s legs, it doesn’t automatically get squeezed back up through the leg muscles and such, as it does in the aforementioned animals, or humans. Horses don’t have any muscle below their forearms and hocks.
It’s all amazingly tough tendons, bone, and not that many blood vessels. To move blood back to the heart, the horse must shift his weight on his feet, or walk, or otherwise put appropriate weight on his hooves to pump its blood back up to the heart. A horse unable to do this is a prime candidate for laminitis or “Founder.” Dr. James Rooney DVM, described laminitis brought on by poor blood circulation as “a lack of sufficient movement, alone or in combination with other factors, which can cause stagnant anoxia which in turn can cause laminitis.” This is what brought down Barbaro, as well. Horses with critical leg injuries just don’t have the set-up to recover well. When the Paulick Report described Dr. Dean Richardson, chief of large animal surgery at New Bolton, as saying “the procedure to fuse the fetlock joint has been delayed because of concerns about the blood supply to the damaged area,” the pit in my stomach sunk deeper and I knew we would be saying goodbye to another talented and game racehorse.
After Barbaro lost his battle with laminits in 2007, focus on this insidious ailment narrowed and various causes were specifically established to help find a treatment. The Barbaro Fund for Equine Health and Safety Research was established for the purpose of researching and combating it. While progress is being made, today’s sad news just drives home the importance of finding a way to either end most forms of laminits, or find effective ways to treat it.
This blog is about we fans – all of us – wherever and however we participate, and how we can help our sport grow and flourish. We love this sport and we love our horses, whether we own them, train them, ride them, care for them, or just follow them, like so many cheered and loved Giant Ryan. The outpouring of love and sadness over the loss of this horse is not trivial, nor is it relegated to soft-hearted women and young girls. Plenty of men have shed tears, also. Everyone who loves Racing or horses feels the sting when we lose any horse, but no one is feeling it more, today, than the Parbhoo family. In David Grening’s reporting in the Daily Racing Form, this afternoon, he wrote:
“Shivananda Parbhoo said Giant Ryan’s death was a big blow to him and his family.
‘I don’t know if I could watch another race without worrying what could happen,’ he said. ‘We look at racing in a different way now.
‘Ryan was unbelievable to us,’ he added. ‘This hit us really, really hard. We loved this horse more than anything. This is a sentimental loss for the whole family. It’s very, very sad.’”
He closed, “Parbhoo said he and his family received tons of messages from horsemen and fans.
‘We want to thank everybody for their support,’ Parbhoo said.”
(see full story here)
I initiated this blog with the idea that I would post about Racing’s fans, at every level, and how we can work together to better Racing and maybe bring it back to more than a shadow of itself. Fittingly, paying respects to Giant Ryan and Parbhoo family is a start down just one path in that direction.