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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Music (03/08/07)

TITLE: A Hymn for Barbaro
By Teri Wilson


Barbaro’s eyes grew heavy. It took all his strength just to keep them open, but he was in too much pain to let them close completely. It had been four days since he had actually stretched out on the soft bed of hay at his feet and slept. Four days since the throbbing in his two front hooves had begun.

At first, the pain had surprised the great bay colt. After all, it was his right hind leg that had broken all those months ago at the Preakness. Since that awful moment, his remaining three hooves had borne the weight of his powerful form on their own. Now, in some cruel twist of fate, his front legs were giving out on him too.

Barbaro knew things had changed. The aching in his hooves brought with it worried glances on the faces of all who cared for him. His hospital stall, once a place of such hopefulness and optimism, was now the subject of much worry and concern. Dread hung in the air like a heavy wool blanket.

On this, the last morning, he had even tried to bite the kind doctor who came to feed him his morning apple. Barbaro felt badly about his behavior. The doctor had always treated him with tenderness and patience. Usually his eyes lit up and he tossed his head and nickered as the doctor approached. Barbaro hoped beyond hope that the man in the blue scrubs with the gentle demeanor knew he had never intended to harm him. The bite was the only way he could think of to speak to the man. His way of saying, “Help me, please.”

Through the dark fringe of his eyelashes, Barbaro could see all those who loved him whispering about him in hushed tones. He wished he could offer a sign of encouragement for them. But even the tiniest whinny proved too much for him to manage. His head hung low and he tried to understand the words which were passed between the people gathered in front of his stall.

“We’ve just done all that we can do. The laminitis has progressed now to his front two hooves. The poor guy doesn’t have a good leg left to stand on.”

“He’s a different horse than he was a few days ago. I just can’t bear to see him this way.”

“I think it’s time.”

Then in they came. All at once, Barbaro was surrounded by the people who cared about him most. They stroked his neck, tangled their fingers in his mane and choked on the goodbyes they murmured in his ears. In their eyes he could see an end to his suffering and he was finally able to relax and shut his weary lids. He felt a sprinkling of cool water on his muzzle. Holy water, someone called it. It felt cool and refreshing, like the first day of spring after a very long, cold winter.

Barbaro heard a woman gasp when the needle went in. Then, as the warm sensation spread through his body, he was struck by how quiet the room became. Not a word could be heard, just the muffled sniffles and sobs of his people.

Then, from somewhere beyond the syringes and the strange medicinal smells, he thought he heard music. It started out as a faint humming that tickled his ears. He tried to open his eyes and look for the source of the melody, but by now he had become weak and the light in his eyes had already begun to dim.

As the beating of his heart slowed, the pulsing rhythm of the music swelled and grew in power. It was the most glorious sound Barbaro had ever heard. His soul danced while the pain in his hooves slowly slipped away and he felt himself rise above the earthly world of pain and suffering.

The pounding drumbeat of the music grew louder and louder until Barbaro realized it wasn’t a drumbeat at all. Rather it was the thundering of his hooves, completely restored, as he galloped through a field of grass as green as a sparkling emerald. He was surrounded by other horses, running free, with voices as beautiful as angels singing to the heavens and soon his voice joined them in their song.

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Oh, praise Him!
Oh, praise Him!

In memory of Barbaro, 2006 Kentucky Derby champion, who was euthanized on January 29, 2007, eight months after shattering his right hind leg in the Preakness Stakes. Barbaro suffered his catastrophic injury a mere two weeks after winning the Derby.

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This article has been read 1639 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Elizabeth Burton03/15/07
Thank you for writing this. Though I never met him in person, I too loved Barbaro and was both sad and relieved to know that his suffering had ended. I had to put down my own beloved horse, the one I had that once-in-a-lifetime connection with, last spring, and while there are other horses in my life that I love deeply, no one will ever take my dear Sammy's place. This is such a beautiful tribute to all the horses we've ever had to say "goodbye" to.
Linda Watson Owen03/16/07
OK. I'm crying. I don't usually do this when reading entries, but...you got me on this one! When the pounding music turned into hoofbeats I melted into a pool of tears. We lived outside of Lexington in Wilmore when Secretariat was at his peak. So although I'm not a horsewoman, this hits a nostalgic chord for me. Beatifully crafted ending!
Joanne Sher 03/16/07
This is so beautiful and moving and sad. Your details truly made this. I was blessed and touched by this more than you can know.
Donna Powers 03/18/07
Wow. This was amazing. To see this from a horses' POV - and so vividly - is something I couldn't have imagined. Extremely well written and very touching
Loren T. Lowery03/19/07
As a horse owner I sang this hymn with you. And, I agree, they are indeed running free in greener pastures, waiting...

Horses, magnificant animals, your writing a perfectly matched gait.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/19/07
This was beautifully written. I loved the line "Dread hung in the air like a heavy wool blanket." You did a good job of expressing the emotions of all. It took me right back to the moment I saw him falter. The Scripture verse was very fitting.
Sandra Petersen 03/19/07
Beautiful. Very descriptive. Sad when we have to have an animal that has been so much a part of our lives put down. This was a nice tribute.

I'm glad you put the lines of "All Creatures of Our God and King" close to the end. Tied the whole thing together.
Jen Davis03/19/07
A beautiful and heartbreaking story. This line so touched my heart: “His way of saying, Help me, please.” And this one, too: “In their eyes he could see an end to his suffering and he was finally able to relax and shut his weary lids." You have a gift of helping us to see things from the animal’s perspective. This was very nicely done.
Sara Harricharan 03/20/07
This brought a tear to my eye. I love horses and you drew a lot of emotion in from the Barbaro's perspective adding a very nice twist to it. I loved the end with running through the fields and singing-great choice of hymn too. ^_^
Betty Castleberry03/20/07
This is so touching and sweet. I have a huge soft spot for animals, and this really struck a chord with me. It's well written, too. Thank you for sharing this.
Sherrie Jackson03/20/07
No child of God likes to see an animal suffer. I think the reason this piece has so many views is because all of us were impacted by Barbaro's touching, sad story...maybe not even realizing how much until we (and I) read your story.

It's perfect. No words beyond that, just...perfect. God bless.
Tiffany Secula03/20/07
So amazing and beautifully written. I loved this piece and the hymn at the end was so perfect! You are truly gifted, don't ever stop writing for Him!
Julie Arduini03/21/07
I admit I am not a big animal lover but Barbaro's story touched me, and your hymn was so moving and emotional. The end was just right. What a tribute.
Brenda Welc03/21/07
sniffle sniffle Oh you are there, sorry I was really into your story. I would have my 12 year old daughter read this but I would not be able to stop her tears for a week. Wonderfully written!