Fans of Barbaro

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This is a draft chapter of a proposed book: Greatness and Goodness, Barbaro and his Legacy.

ADD: Family bonding, reactions to sadness. CJ, Sherry.


Fans of Barbaro: The Story


Fans of Barbaro (FOBs) are a growing community of people who are active in horse welfare issues. Barbaro is their inspiration. FOBs followed Barbaro as a racehorse, Barbaro's time at New Bolton Center and now support Barbaro's ongoing legacy. Fans of Barbaro continue to grow as a group and use as their conduit.

Originally named Barbaromaniacs, that name was changed at the suggestion of Mrs. Jackson and communicated to FOBs by Kennett Florist. Some FOBs prefer to be called Friends of Barbaro, and sometimes media mistakenly uses the same term. But the true definition of FOB is Fans of Barbaro. Fans of Barbaro are also sometimes refered to as Barbaro Nation.

It is estimated that Fans of Barbaro is about a 3 - 5,000 strong group. FOBs are active in rescuing horses from slaughter (they have raised more than $1 million and rescued 2,600 horses), lobbying government to end horse slaughter, fund raising for Laminitis research and Penn Vet's New Bolton Center and myriad other activites (see: So What Have FOBs Accomplished?)

Most of FOBs' work is done on the Alex Brown Racing Discussion Board.

Many FOBs are listed on the alexbrownracing users page.


There has been quite a lot of media coverage of Fans of Barbaro, and, the original platform for FOBs.

Fans of Barbaro have also created some of their own media including:

1. The DVD: Because of Barbaro: A Celebration of His Life was taken at the first FOBs celebration of Barbaro at Delaware Park, April 29 2007. It is excellent.

2. "Fans of Barbaro" Documentary

3. Various Fan Media created during Barbaro's time at the New Bolton Center.

Managing The Online Community: FOBs

Fans of Barbaro grew out of the tragic accident to the racehorse Barbaro. This community therefore was clearly not by design. Managing the FOB community has therefore created quite a few challenges. Some of these challenges were foreseen (Alex has taught internet marketing for 10 years and has managed online communities in the MBA Admissions space) but many were unforeseen.

Why Does The FOB Community Work?

"Like the FOB's, I decided to turn my emotion into positive action for others." Edgar Prado.

How can we explain the generosity of the FOB community and it's commitment to horse welfare activities like ending horse slaughter and rescuing horses from the slaughter pipeline?

The perfect storm of four issues has manifested into the goodwill and work generated by Fans of Barbaro:

1. Inspiration The initial impetus: Barbaro and his characteristics

Barbaro was truly a wonderful racehorse. His record speaks for itself and his Kentucky Derby was extremely impressive. Barbaro also spent eight months at New Bolton Center as essentially the model patient. Barbaro's time at New Bolton Center was essential to engage Fans of Barbaro. Through that time Barbaro illustrated his indomitable spirit. His characteristics and perceived character were motivation to his fans, who grew in numbers during the latter part of his life, to be inspired to do good things.

2. Direction Commitment and guidance of the Jacksons

Barbaro's owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, made it clear that they wanted to establish a legacy for Barbaro that helped other horses. The Jacksons also, very early on, spoke out against horse slaughter. They essentially provided the necessary direction for FOBs. This direction, combined with Barbaro's character, inspired Fans of Barbaro to be better people and do good work for horses.

3. Environment The sites

The positive energy that was targeted to improve horse welfare needed a "host", an environment to engage. A medium in which it could manifest and grow. Engage and learn. These sites, and provided that medium.

4. Growth Positive virus develops, others join

An environment of goodwill inspired others to join and do the right thing for the horses. Simply put, newcomers to the site are inspired by the ongoing work of the FOB community. That work is very visible and applauded within the FOB community.

Barbaro was the initial catalyst for those joining the community. Fans of Barbaro has evolved to become it's own catalyst for newcomers to join. New FOBs join the FOB community daily, inspired by the work of FOBs, and add to the good work. Each new rescue "event" presents the opportunity to attract new FOBs.

Characterizing FOBs

Characterizing the FOB community is a little complicated. And we are gaining new members daily despite the fact that Barbaro has been deceased for two years. Are the new members truly "Fans of Barbaro" ? Did they follow Barbaro or does Fans of Barbaro mean more than simply following a great racehorse. Perhaps it means more about doing the right thing for our horses.

We would argue it is probably the latter at this stage. Thus the meaning of Fans of Barbaro has shifted. This new meaning, however, still encompasses the original meaning and intent of the FOB community. It is simply more broad.

It should be considered whether this shift has created tensions between "original" FOBs and new FOBs. Certainly the behaviors of the two groups on the sites exhibit some differences. Original FOBs are bound tighter together, and focus some of their energies on Barbaro and Nicanor related discussion topics. New FOBs tend to focus more heavily on the horse rescue threads. For the community to work, and become more effective, both groups have to work well together. Some "original" FOBs have left the community because it no longer reflects their perception of the original meaning of the community.

It is also important to note that there are many active participants who are not necessarily FOBs but are benefactors of the work of FOBs (horse rescue organizations for example). Perhaps in the broader definition of FOBs they are themselves FOBs. Thus there are those who provide funding and support, and those who do the work and spend the funds.

Some FOBs were doing anti-slaughter and horse welfare work long before Barbaro came along. They have become FOBs because of Barbaro and this enabled them to expand their work and exploit the platform provided by Fans of Barbaro. Sharing the greater voice. Their background in horse rescue and horse slaughter work enables some to take on more of a leadership role.

Similarly there is a group of semi-active people on the site that are not FOBs but are horse welfare activists. Like the above group they have been working on horse slaughter and horse welfare issues long before Barbaro and the FOBs came along. The difference between this group and the previous group is certainly nuanced, but there is a difference. They only engage in their chosen activities, rather than general conversations that may not be related to their particular issues. They did not follow Barbaro's story. Certainly we can consider them honorary FOBs, but they are doing what they are doing without the motivation of the horse Barbaro or the group Fans of Barbaro. Fortunately they have determined that working with FOBs is a win-win for all involved, especially the horses.

There is no formal definition for this group. Other than it's mission statement:

ABR, a horse racing site and home to the Fans of Barbaro, is a community dedicated to honoring the legacy of Barbaro by improving the welfare of horses and the humans involved with them.

How: ABR is dedicated to the fight of ending horse slaughter, to finding a cure for laminitis, to sharing horse-welfare and horse racing knowledge within the community, and to promoting action to accomplish these purposes. ABR is committed to helping rescue and support horses at all stages of the slaughter "pipeline" and not forsaking a single horse for the horse-slaughter movement. ABR supports other animal welfare and spiritual interests of FOBs as they evolve.

FOBs exist, have evolved, and continue to bind together and work hard for horse welfare issues. And FOBs continue to grow as a community.

Barbaro Family Famblee.

Evolution of the FOB Community

The Fans of Barbaro community took shape as a result of a tragic accident. This community was obviously not planned nor intended. Thus the shape that the FOB community would take was not predetermined. The shape the community would take would dictate the success of the FOB community, so it was very important to listen to the community as it evolved and provide little direction in order for it to take it's own shape. Let the community itself dictate it's shape. There were a few early FOBs who did try to exert their own ideas as to the shape of the community. Some of these have now left, some are still around. Some are willing partners in the ongoing success of the community. Some, not so much.

Fans of Barbaro have joined for different reasons over time. Newcomers initially joined because of Barbaro. As the sites were more recognized over the course of 2006 more people joined Fans of Barbaro. Newcomers now join Fans of Barbaro because of Fans of Barbaro rather than because of Barbaro himself. The reputation of the FOB group and the goodwill that manifests draws others who are interested in supporting horses. And each new rescue event potentially attracts new FOBs. Thus the type of FOB over time has changed. The initial group laid the foundation for Fans of Barbaro and formed the community norms. They determined to turn their grief into positive action. That positive action has attracted attention and serves to enable the continued growth of FOBs.

Inevitably as new FOBs arrive, some also leave. Some have left through dissatisfaction with the direction of the community. Some have left because horse racing issues persisted and the very visible deaths of Eight Belles and George Washington. Some have left through dissatisfaction with the management of the community and the direction of the community. Either as a result of a community member being banned, or inaction of the administrators when asked to ban a community member or to remove a post. Some FOBs left because it was time to leave. Some FOBs have been banned.

Newcomers arrive without knowledge of the history of the community. However they are inspired by Fans of Barbaro and the actions they see.

Thus the site has shifted from 100% Fans of Barbaro to a balance of Fans of Barbaro and new Fans of Barbaro who are essentially fans of FOBs ? The latter group is simply inspired to do good work for the horses, because that is what the site does. They are not solely driven and inspired by Barbaro himself.

Definition: Sugarcreek 10/05--3pm DEADLINE!

Evolution of FOB Knowledge and Trust

Fans of Barbaro have become a considerable force in the horse welfare arena. The initial impetus was Barbaro and his owners, the Jacksons. Yet many FOBs were not knowledgable about horse welfare issues. Certainly there were some that were, and they led the march, but in the early days most FOBs were learning. Now the community has developed considerable knowledge in all things related to horse welfare. FOBs understand the issues surrounding buying horses already in the horse slaughter pipeline. Feedlot rescues versus horse auction saves. How the former enables kill buyers, yet serves as the last hope for the horses saved. Certainly a dilemma for a community that is at it's core one that it against horse slaughter. In the early days, discussions about these issues would unravel into unconstructive mayhem. Now most of the discussions are constructive, and those that want to support feedlot rescues do. And those that do not will support other issues. Thus the development of knowledge within the community has enabled FOBs to be more effective across the board, even when some issues are somewhat contradictory.

The community's knowledge has enabled FOBs to be more effective. This effectiveness has also been enhanced with the consequence of trust issues. "Thought" leaders within the FOB community have taught FOBs. Since they now have reputations within the FOB community they can lead discussions and change the direction of discussions as appropriate.

FOB Leadership

There is no formal leadership within Fans of Barbaro, although one can argue those running the sites (Alex, Wendy, Mary and Kat) have some "power". Barbaro's owners, the Jacksons, are also obviously "leaders" within the FOB community despite not being actively involved on a day-to-day basis. Certainly Fans of Barbaro would not exist as they do today without three important elements. Barbaro, the sites and Team Barbaro's initial support.

Essentially the FOB community has grown without formal leadership. This has allowed those who are truly passionate, and qualified, to step forward to lead certain aspects of the work of Fans of Barbaro. FOBs were not "elected" to lead initiatives. They led initiatives and other FOBs followed. Examples abound. The most visible would be FOBs work on the horse slaughter issue which is led by our daily strategy developed by FOBs Shelley and Debra and supported by our state group teams headed by Stephanie. And Sharon's leadership in organizing FOB anniversary events in honor of Barbaro. Barb and Wild Horses. Mary and retiring race horses. Many examples.

There are, however, also risks to this type of leadership. If the "leader" is not equiped to handle the scale of tasks appropriately, this creates division within the FOBs who want better and more appropriate organization. The first FOB anniversary event went well for the most part. The second event, not so well. This has created a dilemma for the third event, with two "teams" now organizing events for the same weekend, separately. What has become clear is that just because you have a good idea, does not mean you can execute on that idea effectively. Good leaders know how to get the necessary support.

Raising Money and Legal Issues

There is no legal structure, yet FOBs have raised more than $1 million to rescue 2,600 horses from slaughter as of January 2009.

How does this work ?

An FOB or horse rescue will post the needs of a fundraiser on the discussion board along with a link to a PayPal account. FOBs will then contribute to the fundraiser as they wish, $50, $20, $100 and so forth directly to the recipient. Consider this the eBay model to fundraising. With eBay, users sell to other users and eBay does not take on inventory. With the FOB community, a rescue establishes a fundraising need and goal, and FOBs choose to contribute directly to the rescue. ABR simply serves as an intermediary, much like eBay does for an auction item.

A benefit of the FOB community is that it is so diverse in terms of the types of horse rescue endevours that the community supports that there are usually enough FOBs willing to support each of the fundraising efforts.

Reputation is important.

Obviously those who do persistent fundraising and follow up build a reputation that serves them for new fundraising efforts. This reputation is also enabled by their entry in the wiki. A rescue's wiki entry is designed to act as a resource in this case for those considering contributing to the fundraising effort and wanting to know more about the work of the fundraiser within the FOB community.

As a legal entity, FOBs and does not exist. We are not a 501 3-c and so forth.

We do not centrally collect money and then redistribute. Why?

This has been considered on a few occasions. However upon closer thought it has been determined that if we start determining where money goes to in a "top down" fashion, we would soon disenfranchise those who are not the beneficiaries of the monies as well as their supporters (some FOBs). Basically there is no rescue or horse charity that all FOBs support. And each rescue and horse charity has it's group of FOB supporters. After a while, a top-down funding model would create a smaller and smaller community. Or so the logic goes.

The current freewheeling structure shows no bias from a "management" perspective. No one person, or group of people, decides where funding goes. FOBs do that themselves. The only "influence" we have over where FOB funding goes is our management of the FOB community. The need to ban people for inappropriate behavior and deleting inappropriate posts.

Have we been sued?

Not yet. A few people have threatened to sue. Their e-mails are archived! A rule has been added that allows the administrators to ban people for threatening a suit. A suit has not been threatened over any fundraising issues. The issues have been regarding defamation of character. None of the threatening suits had any merit.

So what Have FOBs Accomplished?

Amazing things really. And there is not space here to document each of their work and contributions. And highlighting one rescue effort will only minimize the importance of so many more. Aside from the money raised (more than $1.1 million) and horses saved from slaughter (more than 2,900) so much more has been accomplished. The following is an overview of the types of work FOBs have accomplished as a group.

Buying horses from Kill Auctions, many. Some are x-racehorses, many are everyday pleasure horses in an unlucky spot. Buying horses from feedlots. The final step prior to the slaughter house. Same types of horses. Learning about kill auctions and feedlots. Visiting them. Retiring racehorses. Buying OTTBs. Creating a watchlist.

Some FOBs have been major contributors to these saves. Some FOBs have been major cheerleaders to support the fundraising efforts. Some FOBs have started their own rescue organizations. Some FOBs have adopted rescued horses. The key is each FOB has determined how best he or she can contribute to the successful support of horses that are in need of support. Collectively it works.

And FOBs have helped more than horses. They have helped people who are connected with horses. They have helped other animals in need. FOBs find their niche and focus. They determine what and who to support and then engage other FOBs for the needed support.

FOBs have become engaged in their government by lobbying to end the practice of horse slaughter. This has been the first time many FOBs have been so engaged. Those already involved in the horse slaughter issue ably taught those new to lobbying how to do this. FOBs also helped organize, and participated in, the largest lobbying effort for this issue during the Americans Against Horse Slaughter events in Washington DC, March 2008.

FOBs have engaged the media. FOBs write letters. FOBs respond to media stories and create media stories. FOBs create, respond and forward petitions. All to help spread the word that horse slaughter is unacceptable.

Many FOBs have done work offline independent of the sites. Buying their first horse. Volunteering at a local horse rescue for the first time. Learning to ride. Essentially getting involved with horses.

The longer FOBs work together, the stronger the network, the more effective FOBs can network to find solutions to problems faced by horses on a daily basis, as trust builds. Getting a horse off the track in West Virginia. Shipping a horse from Kentucky to New York. FOBs can quickly seek out simple solutions to what would appear to be complicated problems. Knowledge and networks have developed over time.

All along the way FOBs support each other. FOBs laugh together, cry together, and pray together. Yet they remain focused on the issues at hand. Ending horse slaughter and treating horses as they should be treated.

FOBs have accomplished much of what they have accomplished through the medium of a horse racing web-site. Along the way they have learned much about the sport of horse racing. It's good elements and those elements that need improving. And of course FOBs have been vocal in pushing for positive change within the horse racing industry.

Have FOBs been "scammed"

Yes, very likely.

As noted, FOBs have donated over $1 million to rescue horses from slaughter. FOBs have supported many other causes.

Fair Dinkum Rescue is under investigation. It is noteworthy that FOBs were one of many groups that supported this "rescue". The list includes the Humane Society of the United States.

Lifelines is another developing case Lifelines Horses and ABR Members.

Many FOBs believe they have been scammed by the rescue organization CBER. CBER takes in a lot of money, and the money trail is never very clear. CBER rescues a lot of horses off a feedlot in Washington State. CBER has a group on the internet that hates them. To date there has never been any real evidence that they have deliberately scammed their contributors, of which FOBs were a large part. They have, however, created much ill will through their less than stellar communications protocol. That ill will also focused it's energy on the ABR site (and it's administrators) and our apparent support for CBER given CBER was never banned. The fact is, rescues are not banned unless there is material evidence of a fraud. FOBs decide where to lend their support. (Note: Individuals that run rescues have been banned. This is due to their behavior on the site that violated site rules, not their rescue work). It was a tough time for the site and for those running the site. Very frustrating. It is also unfortunate that CBER had to make the decision to leave the site to prevent further ill will among FOBs.

Kansas. There was a large rescue effort in Kansas which involved a number of horses that needed to be distributed among many rescue organizations. Some of the horses went to the wrong "rescue" organization. Issues regarding this rescue are still unfolding several months later. It does appear that one rescue misrepresented itself to another rescue organization that recommended it to the "leaders" of the rescue operation. The aforementioned rescue organization took some horses and their fate is sadly not good. A major lesson has been learned from this large rescue effort. Large rescue efforts take a lot of forward planning when networking for homes for the horses. Getting other rescues involved requires a lot of research and forethought. Sadly this did not happen.

Off Line and Local

As the online community grew, Fans of Barbaro started to meet off-line in their local areas. It is a community that is scattered throughout the United States and also (in much lesser numbers) in other countries like Canada and the UK (english speaking countries since that is our medium of dialogue).

The first major national gathering of Fans of Barbaro was to celebrate what would have been Barbaro's fourth birthday, April 29 2007. About 700 FOBs attended an event at Delaware Park (Because of Barbaro: A Celebration of His Life) and other racetracks throughout the United States.

A second, smaller gathering occured at Delaware Park in July 2007 to celebrate the first running of Delaware Park's Barbaro Stakes.

Many FOBs gathered for the unveiling of Barbaro's Memorial at Churchill Downs.

There have been several examples of FOBs gathering at a local level and working on local issues and with local rescues. The Maryland FOB group would be a good example of this. They have worked not only to rescue local horses, but are on local legislation.

The second annual gathering at Delaware Park was the weekend of July 12, 2008, again to celebrate Barbaro during Delaware Park's running of the Barbaro Stakes (Updates from the celebration!)

And The Future?

How long can it last? As a community that is likely a finite time. However as individuals many FOBs have been changed and this change will continue throughout their lives.

As noted earlier, the community relies on four components: Barbaro, who was the initial inspiration. The Jackson's for providing direction. The sites for providing a medium. And finally the positive virus established by the goodwill of Fans of Barbaro that continues to attract new FOBs.

The largest risk to the continuance of the community appears to be the ongoing support of the sites. Thus the risk to the FOB community is the ongoing involvement of the site administrators, and owner. This is something that is well known to the administrators and something that is being considered. It is important that FOBs as a community does not rely on one person, or a few people for it's existence. Good leadership should also mean that the leaders leave a lasting legacy and whatever is left behind continues to thrive.

This is not to say Alex and the administrators are leaving. But it would be naive not to consider that this is something inevitable at some point in the future. The community needs future proofing.

A second issue that is important for the continuance of the community is that the administrators don't make too many mistakes. It is clearly complex to manage the online community effectively. Any given day, a decision might be made that begins the unraveling of the FOB community. Administrators' decisions are not always popular in the short run, but are made with an eye on the long run health of the community. It is also important to note that the majority of the administrators' work is banning people and deleting posts. Thus each action creates additional negative consequences. This does lead to the possibility of a negative tipping point.

It is also important that the behavior of the community remains, on aggregate, positive. From time-to-time, significant issues arise, such as the uncovering of a scam. Clearly if there were many of these types of scams perpetrated on the sites the community would fail. A scam itself is a signicant event. And how FOBs deal with the aftermath of the uncovering of the scam is also significant.

Similarly, it is also important that FOB leaders perform well in their respective leadership roles, or recognize when to step away from that role to ensure their work is continued effectively. Leaders that remain in their position that are ineffective and undermine the integrity of the community can certainly render damage to the larger community and allow things to unravel.

With or without the community, Fans of Barbaro, as individuals, will likely always be better people and relationships developed will persist. However as one community, FOBs are stronger and can continue to grow.

And some fun: Beanie Barbaro's Journey

Beanie Barbaro is a single Beanie who is traveling from FOB to FOB, there are not multiple Beanie Barbaro's on this journey, only the one! He was actually an anniversary gift from an FOB's husband in December and who thought he could meet all the FOB's who never got to meet his equine counterpart Barbaro. The FOB was hoping to turn a sad reminder into a joyful one and make his journey that of a miniature goodwill ambassador for horses everywhere

Watch ALL pictures from Beanie Barbaro's JOURNEY

By Lisa Morin

Why is Beanie Barbaro travelling? I thought travelling Barbaro Beanie would be a fun and creative way for FOB's to bring awareness to horse related issues and to raise funds in Barbaro's name.

Where will Beanie Barbaro be travelling to? Beanie Barbaro has been requested to visit many states across the country as well as Canada, San Salvador and Europe! He will visit several states more than once.

What will it cost to play host to Barbaro? The only cost involved in hosting Barbaro is the fee to ship him to the next FOB. Also, a pledge donation to the Barbaro Fund, The Laminitis Fund, or Thoroughbred Charities of America.

What if I can't afford to make a donation? No worries :)

Where should I take Beanie Barbaro? Take him wherever your heart desires! A landmark, a horse rescue, a race track.....Just show Barbaro a good time and remember to take lots of pictures! After the visit is complete, please write your thoughts about his time with you.

How long will Barbaro spend with me? A few days would be ideal.

How will I know where to send Beanie Barbaro next? I am compiling a list of hosts and their information and will provide the current host with the shipping information for the next host.

How will Beanie Barbaro's travels be documented? At the end of your visit with Barbaro, please send me your thoughts on his time with you. You can check this thread, or visit Beanie Barbaro. Also, visit map of Barbaro's Journey.

Interesting Discussion Threads

Riding for the first time! A discussion thread on ABR about how BARBARO has inspired FOBs to start/getting back to riding.

What have you learned? A neat thread about the BARBARO-EFFECT

When can..............