08/14/2006 12:00AM

Barbaro goes out to graze

Injured Kentucky Derby star Barbaro grazes outdoors on Monday under the watch of veterinarian Dr. Dean Richardson.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro stepped outside his barn last week at the University of Pennsylvania's equine hospital and did something he hasn't been able to do since May: graze.

The 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, who has been at the New Bolton Center hospital since breaking his right hind leg during the May 20 Preakness Stakes, is now being allowed "brief outings" to graze outside while on a lead shank, the hospital said in a release issued Monday.

"We felt he was ready for a change of scenery, so last week we took him outside to pick his own grass," said Dr. Dean Richardson, the New Bolton Center's chief of surgery. "He's not outside for a long time, but it's enough to let him enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. If he remains this comfortable, he will be hand-grazed daily."

Visitors have picked grass for the colt and have taken it into the hospital for him in past weeks. Now, Barbaro's ability to graze outside suggests his improvement is giving his veterinary team some cause for encouragement. And while he remains at risk as he is treated for both the fractures and related laminitis in his left hind leg, the addition of even occasional hand-grazing to his regimen is a positive sign.

"I'm very pleased with his progress," Richardson said. "His appetite remains strong, he sleeps well, and we continue to monitor him closely. He is measurably gaining weight, and his overall attitude is great."

Barbaro continues to wear a cast on his right hind that encloses his hoof and extends upward to just below his hock. He has a bandage on his left hind to protect his hoof, 80 percent of which Richardson removed when the colt developed laminitis, a painful and potentially fatal stress-related hoof disease that often occurs when a horse shifts too much weight off of an injured leg and onto a healthy one. Barbaro also wears support bandages on both front legs.

On May 21, Richardson implanted a compression plate and 27 screws to repair the fractures in Barbaro's right hind leg. In early July, he replaced most of those in an effort to fight an infection, which seems now to have cleared. Barbaro developed the laminitis in mid-July but appears to be coping well. He is aided in recovery by a sling that lets him stand upright with much of his weight off his injured hind legs.