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Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 4. Below are some personal choices for that honor by SI writers.
11/21/2006 01:12:00 PM

My Sportsman: Dr. Dean Richardson

Barbaro, Dean Richardson
Veterinarian Dean Richardson's notoriety stems mostly from his famous patient, Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.
AP

By Franz Lidz

The last horse doctor to capture the imagination of the American public was Hugo Z. Hackenbush, the character Groucho Marx played in the 1937 film A Day At The Races. Posing as a physician, Dr. Hackenbush took a man's pulse and said: "Either he's dead or my watch has stopped."

Dean Richardson, a genially grouchy veterinary surgeon, won high Marx in 2006 -- and became a Sportsman of the Year pick -- through his heroic efforts to save Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winner. After the colt shattered his off-hind leg during the Preakness, Richardson operated on him for five hours at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center for Large Animals, one of the leading equine hospitals in the world.

Richardson and his team inserted 27 screws and a 16-hole titanium plate in the leg to stabilize the bones, then nursed Barbaro through an infection, several more operations and severe laminitis in the thoroughbred's sound near-hind. By removing most of the hoof and aggressively managing Barbaro's pain, Richardson ensured the recovery of the racehorse.

What makes Richardson my Sportsman candidate has less to do with a horse named Barbaro than a llama named Ogar. In the interests of full disclosure, I must reveal that Richardson is my neighbor, and Ogar is one of my pet llamas.

Ogar is one ornery beastie. At least once a day he'll spit at his half-brother Edgar over food or turf. In 12 years, I've only been caught in his line of fire once. I'd been currying him when I snagged a knot and pulled a little too briskly. Chewing on his cud, Ogar swiveled his head toward me and, curling his upper lip in the most malignant of sneers, hocked a pungent green loogie in my face. I was amused until I looked in the mirror a half hour later and saw that my forehead had erupted in red welts. Ogar's cud was poison ivy.

Normally, Ogar parades around the pasture, his haughty nose hoisted high. But one day in 1997, he started staggering around like Mel Gibson on a tequila bender. Then he kushed -- llama-talk for the way the creatures fold up like suitcases to lie down -- and refused to get up. As it turned out, Ogar had been paralyzed by a meningeal worm, a parasite passed along in the scat of a white-tailed deer.

I turned to my neighbor for counsel. While ministering to Ogar, Richardson advised, keep his head upright. Llamas, he explained, have three-chambered stomachs and chew their cud twice. They regurgitate their food. If a llama lies on its side, the gasses from the fermenting food will swell its stomach, sometimes fatally.

Within the week, I had nursed Ogar back to health. He recuperated at the New Bolton Center, where Richardson built up his leg muscles by placing him in a sling and suspending him in the same pool Barbaro would later use.

To make a short story long, one morning last July, I took a taxi to the Philadelphia Airport and caught a flight to California. As soon as I got off the plane, I got a call from my wife, Maggie. Ogar, she said, had collapsed and was writhing on the ground. He wouldn't eat or drink and no medication seemed to help.

When I got home two days later, Maggie was ready to read Ogar his last rites. She had purchased three bags of quick-lime to keep his corpse from bloating into a Macy's Day float. I found Ogar lying on his side, head buried in a pile of hay. He looked awful -- eyes shut, legs and ears atwitch, face bloodied from all the writhing.

It was at that moment that I remembered Richardson's advice. I yanked up Ogar's head and wrestled his 300-pound body into a kush. He held steady while I squirted water into his mouth with a turkey-baster and shoveled fistfuls of feed into his mouth.

I shoveled, Ogar chewed. After an hour, he opened his eyes. After another hour he rose to his feet. After another hour he spat in my face.

I laughed and silently thanked Richardson. Just Ogar being Ogar.

posted by sidotcom | View comments |  

Comments:

Posted: 4:45 PM   by Anonymous
This is a wonderful article. I appreciate your Mark Twain- like style, marvellous humor and real respect for Dr Richardson.As a Fan of Barbaro I am keenly aware of his
talent, skill and devotion to Barbaro. Thanks,
Sandra
Posted: 5:14 PM   by Anonymous
I believe that the ones who decide who will be honored as the Sportsman of the Year 2006, will not overlook the spirit of sportsmanship demonstrated by Dr. Richardson. He has given our young people a model to work toward as adults. It is my guess that awards are not what motivates Dr. Richardson. If I could vote, he would get mine.
Posted: 5:14 PM   by Anonymous
Franz,

Great story, I can't wait for the movie to come out! :-)

Dr. John
Posted: 5:46 PM   by Anonymous
Perhaps Dr. Richardson and Barbaro could share the honor since they are a real team! They are great together!
Posted: 7:26 PM   by Anonymous
I believe that the team of Barbaro should win the Sportsman award. I've not been a horse racing fan, but I have become an activist for new causes as a Fan of Barbaro. This team has had greater impact than any other in 2006 because it illustrates that there is still something enobeling about us; somethingfine that can unite us worldwide, and cause us to seek what is best for a great animal not because he has brought us great a great purse but because he has touched our souls.
Posted: 7:28 PM   by Anonymous
Richardson- Jackson (as in Barbaro) are one and the same. A TEAM - in the best sense of the word. GO TEAM BARBARO! Great article, by the way.
Posted: 7:40 PM   by Anonymous
All hail Dr. Richardson and Barbaro! They tie for sportsMEN of the year!!!
Posted: 2:20 AM   by Anonymous
Wonderful story about a wonderful doctor. He deserves the award, although perhaps more fittingly he should share it with Edgar Prado, Michael Matz, the Jacksons -- of course! -- as well as the rest of the incredible staff at New Bolton ... not to mention the grand horse himself. Believe in Barbaro!
Posted: 4:32 PM   by Anonymous
Barbaro has inspired all of us to shoot for the stars. No dream is too big. I believe Barbaro has the power to change the world.
Posted: 5:11 PM   by Cory L
It's people like Dr. Richardson and Barbaro that inspire to fly high and pursue my dreams. I've written tons of letters to Barbaro and I hope he writes me back soon!
Posted: 10:13 PM   by Anonymous
My definition of a true Sportsman of the Year...No performance enhancing drugs (legal or otherwise), no contract holdout, no arrests, no excessive celebrating, no profanity or obscene jestures. In other words..BARBARO. He just went out there and did what he was trained to do and almost lost his life doing it. How many other athletes can say that?
Posted: 4:00 PM   by Anonymous
I think the Sportsman of the Year should transend sports. As much as athletics is about competition, the reason it enraptures us is because of the passion of the participants... their will. Team Barbaro showed us that even when a career is over, something very beautiful remains. We'll never know how good Barbaro might have been, but the fact that he is still here is amazing enough.
Posted: 4:47 PM   by Anonymous
This was a GREAT article. Nominating a guy who saved your llama and the greatest show on three legs for SMOTY is wonderful. I just cancelled my subscription to SI.
Posted: 7:24 PM   by Anonymous
Long live OGAR! - Candace
Posted: 8:20 AM   by Lindabelle
Barbaro has 4 legs, a big heart and a will to live. Dr. Richardson as Sportsman of the year? YES!! I agree..Long live Ogar!!
Posted: 9:44 PM   by Kay Gerhard
My vote goes to Dr. Richardson, also, although I would like to see a group award including Edgar Prado for being quick and smart enough to stop Barbaro before injuring himself worse, the Jacksons for not sparing any expense to save their beloved colt and, of course, Barbaro for just being Barbaro. He is not himself a grossly overpaid athlete but almost died doing what he was supposed to do and has practically brought the country together, rooting for him. What more could you ask? Kay Gerhard, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Posted: 6:31 PM   by Anonymous
Cute article about Ogar, he's had some close calls. I vote for Dr R and Barbaro as Sportsman of the Year. Barbaro is the Seabiscuit of our times.
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