01/11/2007 12:00AM

Sling keeps Barbaro stable


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro has returned to his sling but is "stable and acceptably comfortable" two days after suffering a setback in his long recovery from a broken right hind leg and laminitis in his left hind leg.

A Thursday update from the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, where Barbaro has remained in intensive care since breaking his leg in the May 20 Preakness, said that Barbaro is in "sling support for several hours during the day." On Wednesday, the hospital revealed that the colt had become acutely uncomfortable on his laminitic left leg in the previous 24 hours, prompting his veterinary team to remove a cast over that foot. They discovered some new separation between the hoof wall and the foot and decided on changes in the colt's management, including aggressive pain management and use of the sling.

"He is getting up and down on his own and continues to eat and have stable vital signs," Barbaro's surgeon, Dr. Dean Richardson, said. "Radiographs taken yesterday revealed no additional complications in either hind leg. We are considering several additional therapeutic options at this time. He is stable and acceptably comfortable."

Barbaro spent hours a day in the supportive sling in the summer after developing severe laminitis in his left hind leg. The painful and potentially life-threatening hoof disease is a common complication in horses with an injured leg. It can be brought on in a healthy leg by excessive weight-bearing as the horse shifts weight off of an injured leg and onto an uninjured one.

As part of the treatment for laminitis, Richardson removed approximately 80 percent of the left hind hoof.

Dr. Scott Morrison, an equine podiatry specialist at the Rood and Riddle equine hospital, applied a cast to Barbaro's left hind foot on Jan. 3 in an effort to stabilize the foot as it regrows the hard outer hoof wall. Morrison told the Louisville Courier-Journal that one challenge to the horse's recovery from laminitis is that his hoof wall is regrowing on the outside half of the left hind foot and not on the inside facing his right leg. Morrison said the hoof-wall separation that Barbaro's veterinary team discovered Wednesday occurred because the "thin, pliable tissue" on the inside-facing portion of the hoof can't yet support the colt's weight.