Barbaro's battle to survive after his injury in the Preakness Stakes last May made him the most newsworthy horse in decades, if not in history. He's gone now, and many people are left with an empty feeling. What can you do to express your concern for horses who need special care?
My personal advice to people who ask me is to recommend a donation to the Animal Health Foundation, a 501(c)3 charity that gives 100% of donations directly to laminitis research. The lion's share of the money goes to Dr. Chris Pollitt at the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit. Dr. Pollitt is generally regarded as the world's leader in laminitis research, but, for some reason, does not receive funds from US equine research funds except for the Animal Health Foundation. He does receive funds from the Australian government, but he is woefully underfunded for the terrific work he does to help horses all over the world.
Before giving to any equine charity, I recommend a look at the charity rating sites that are available online, to see what percent of your donation dollar actually goes to research...and how much of it goes to administrative salaries, glossy fundraising mailers, and posh parties.
Another worthy recipient for a donation in Barbaro's memory is the growing effort to increase the number of equine ambulances at racetracks and horse shows. If you think back to the day of the injury, the special ambulance with a hydraulic floor was key to getting Barbaro safely off the track and on the road to New Bolton Center. I'm not aware of a charity related to racetrack ambulances but there may be one. An alternative is HEART, a horse ambulance team based on the horse show circuit that promotes education about horse injuries and provides ambulance services at shows and race meets all over the country. A wonderful article about the HEART equine ambulance service was published recently in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Finally, it would have been nice to see Barbaro live out his life at the Kentucky Horse Park, but it wasn't meant to be. Two farms (among many) who are worthy of your donations are "Living Legends" in Australia, where retiring champion Hong Kong sprinter Silent Witness will be headed this week, and "Old Friends" in Kentucky. Both farms not only provide homes to retired Thoroughbreds of note, they also use their star residents to raise public awareness of the need for support of retirement homes for horses of all kinds and used-up racehorses in particular.
Take your pick. There is no shortage of people or organizations out there who deserve our support and contributions. Be careful to give your money to organizations who will invest directly in the care or study of horses. But do give, please, while the fire of Barbaro's memory is still flickering in your consciousness.