Church of Barbaro: Rallying Behind a Horse's Death

Sitting just down the hall from Barbaro's old stall at Fair Hill, veterinarian Kathy Anderson considers it. She knew Barbaro all his life and, like the others who see him as an animal who died and not the cornerstone of a community's creation story, she thinks about this a lot. Finally, she settles upon an answer.

"He is a different thing to every different person," she says. "To the person suffering from cancer, he's hope. To the person who lost their cat when they were 12 and never got over it, he's a way to have him back. To the athlete, he's a hero. To the soldiers who sent their flag from Iraq, he's a fellow soldier. He's a different thing to everybody.

"To New Bolton, he was a patient. For me, he was a wonderful athlete. He was a patient. But most important, he was a horse. I love horses, and he was one of the best. That's why nobody will ever be able to put him in a sentence. For every person, there's a different sentence.

"He created friendships and bonds between people who would never, ever have met. They're coming here to meet and it's the first time they'll ever lay eyes on each other."

She thinks about the web of people wound tight long after the horse who brought them together came undone.

"They will remain friends for a long time."

Wright Thompson is a senior writer for and ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at

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