Maybe because they have a sanity beyond ours, a completeness of spirit and structure that humans lost or never had, the horse is in many ways, a better being.
The horse and a lot of other animals.
Barbaro brings out in us a genuine concern, the kind normally reserved for presidents and popes, for kings and other important figures.
But in a peculiar way, we care more about this magnificent athlete, the winner of the Kentucky Derby, who will never race again.
The 3-year-old thoroughbred received 400 roses, 300 apples and 150 pounds of carrots from his fans last week at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center.
And every single one, I’m sure, was sent with sincere love and best wishes.
Barbaro has an extensive cast on his right hind leg, somehow broken – “shattered” is the world used in a story by Tom Pedulla in USA TODAY – at the very start of the Preakness Stakes on May 20.
There’s a foot cast on the opposite leg to assist in recovery from “laminitis,” an affliction that can be fatal.
The disease damages tissue bonding the horse’s bone and inner wall of the hoof.
The prognosis is poor, according to an Associated Press story quoting Kathleen Anderson, Barbaro’s veterinarian when he was stabled in Elkton, Md. Anderson visited the thoroughbred this week.
But the big guy is eating well and he’s alert.
It’s been touch-and-go since the accident. Doctors have desperately gone about the task of saving Barbaro’s life, noting that should the laminitis spread to another limb, the compassionate thing would be to put him down.
The AP reports Barbaro did have another good day Tuesday. He was listed as stable with normal vitals, the fifth straight without a setback since veterinarians removed most of the hoof wall in his left rear leg due to the severe case of laminitis.
If you’ve ever been to a horse track and seen these wonderful creatures at work and … well, horsing around … you can appreciate what great characters they are. In their stalls, taken on walks or coddled with treats and silly human-talk, they are at once royalty and clowns.
My friend Burt Kinerk took me to one of the big tracks in southern California many years ago where he had a horse stabled.
I got to meet touts and trainers and other colorful and talented people who hang out with the steeds – none of whom, by the way, with a sense of humor as sharp as the horseys.
I’d been to Rillito Race Track here, of course, and Turf Paradise in Phoenix. Not to mention many years covering La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros, Tucson’s rodeo.
But the tour of the California track took me closer to the sport and the athletes involved in it. On the television screen at the big races, the horses are wonderful to look at. Up close, their real beauty comes through.
They are the best athletes on the planet, hands-down … hoofs-down … and they really seem to enjoy being celebrities.
Barbaro is so much more than a big-name thoroughbred who’s won a fortune and whose value has been that of many fortunes.
There is an eloquence about this great animal and a substance that are priceless.
That’s why we care so much about him.