‘He went from the penthouse to outhouse’

Scrumpy is a well-bred beauty who is said to have gone "from the penthouse to the outhouse." Photo by and courtesy of CJ Wheeler

Scrumpy is a well-bred beauty who is said to have gone “from the penthouse to the outhouse.” Photo by and courtesy of CJ Wheeler

When Scrumpy was done with racing, and racing was done with him, he stood helpless on a blistered and bowed tendon, mere steps from slaughter.

A stakes winning T’bred with a beautifully sculpted head and darkly handsome looks, he was a horse who once upon a time had everything going for him, including a lineage as fine as the blood running through Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome. And a winning spirit that drove him to run for the finish line, even once on a bowed tendon, says Bonnie Adams, founder and president of charity TROTT USA.

But when it was time for Scrumpy to exit the race industry in 2010, his heyday long forgotten, his injured left front leg oozing from where a gel cast had blistered his tendon, it was the friends he made on the way down that managed to get him a ticket to freedom, sparing him the last indignity of the butcher’s blade.

Sire: Taskmaster
Dam: Sweet Dish, by Candi’s Gold
Foal date: March 29, 2003
Earnings: $188,660 in 23 starts
The change of course began with a frantic phone call.

In August 2010, Bonnie Adams received a pleading call from an exercise rider at Los Alamitos racetrack. Scrumpy, the rider told Adams, was a beautiful horse who was too injured to run, and would soon be sold to the killers if someone didn’t do something, Adams recalls.

“In the words of one rider who knew him, ‘Scrumpy went from the penthouse to the outhouse’ and I was told that if we didn’t do something he’d go to the killers,” she says. “She pleaded with me to take the horse, so I sent a trailer to Los Alamitos and picked him up.”

On the long road to recovery there were many bumps in the road.

The first was the severe bow, which had turned into a “bloody, scarred mess” as it sweated encased in a gel cast, Adams says.

“Someone had let the gel cast on too long and he had blistered. It was pitiful,” she says.

After he healed, a small scar remained on the injured leg, and as it would turn out, a scar remained on his psyche too.

Scrumpy was known to run with heart. Bill Vossar photo courtesy of Bonnie Adams, TROTT USA

Scrumpy was known to run with heart. Bill Vossar photo courtesy of Bonnie Adams, TROTT USA

“Poor Scrumpy was such a beautiful mover and we thought he would make a nice riding horse. But he had such severe anxiety that he wasn’t adoptable,” she says. “If you put him on the cross ties, for example, he would stand while you stood there with him. But if you walked away, he’d flip out.”

Under saddle he was equally and dangerously unpredictable.

And it was with a sad heart that Adams realized Scrumpy was ruined, she says, noting that the lesson she took away from the gelding’s story was a real “game changer” for her charity. Whereas in the past, TROTT USA sought to save, retrain and re-home just about any horse they were in a position to help, after Scrumpy, the mission changed: the charity now tries to obtain OTTBs before they slip down the claiming ranks.

“I want to go to the good tracks and the good owners to try to prevent any more Scrumpies from happening,” she says.

Scrumpy is now one of the most popular horses in the HartSong sanctuary.

Scrumpy is now one of the most popular horses in the HartSong sanctuary.

As Adams strives to prevent horses from winding up like Scrumpy, the beautiful gelding enjoys life as a sanctuary horse at HartSong Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Greenwood, Calif. As the second Thoroughbred ambassador at Kathy Hart’s sanctuary, Scrumpy has become a sanctuary favorite, attracting admirers every day.

“He’s magnificent and he has the most beautiful eyes. He’s touchable, and he doesn’t bite. We share his story to all our visitors,” Hart says. “We tell them how an animal like Scrumpy can be worth millions of dollars and later be thrown away.”

At HartSong Ranch, Scrumpy has finally found his place in the world. Carrying on the good work of his predecessor, a Thoroughbred named Clipper who was Hart’s longtime ambassador, Scrumpy has stepped into the role as the “face” of the sanctuary.

“I promised myself after Clipper died that someday, somehow, someway, we would find our second Thoroughbred ambassador,” Hart says. “When we found out that Scrumpy was no longer a candidate for riding, and were asked to take him, we said yes immediately. We share his story with everyone; he’s exactly the type of horse we needed to carry on Clipper’s memory.”

Left on Fla. roadside, he was blinded, burned

Prodigioso as he looked after being rescued from Florida backwater, and after he had recovered.

Prodigioso as he looked after being rescued from Florida backwater, and after he had recovered.

On a desolate stretch of road slicing first through sugarcane fields and then everglades in the Homestead region of South Florida, it must have felt like burning hell last July to an ex-racehorse waiting for the next thing to go wrong in his young life.

Emaciated and scared, Prodigioso shifted his weight gingerly on four painful feet that oozed with thrush. His back pasterns were flayed open with deep burns, probably ripped by rope, and a painful looking burn was raw and ugly on his lower lip.

His right eye, freshly blinded, somehow, showed him shadows that must have scared him as he waited to find out if bad people were coming for him.

When the SPCA showed up with an emergency trailer, Prodigioso was afraid of everyone. He trembled as he exited the trailer and gingerly walked to a waiting stall at Thoroughbred nonprofit Florida TRAC.

“It took him a solid six months of just being a horse and gaining weight to regain his confidence,” recalls Celia Scarlett-Fawkes, vice president and intake director of the charity that serves ex-racehorses that run on Florida tracks.

New name: Pipe Dream
Sire: Southern Leader
Dam: Spirited Affair
Foal date: March 14, 2007
“It took quite a lot of time to get him to walk out of his stall door. He was newly blinded, we don’t know how. He could have run into a tree branch, we don’t know,” she says.

For eight months, Scarlett-Fawkes and her volunteers nursed Prodigioso back to health. And as he filled out, and his wounds healed, his faultless conformation and pretty way of moving were revealed. By the time his before/after photos were posted on Facebook, Scarlett-Fawkes realized she had a “pretty little mover” who attracted plenty of interest.

But once people learned the petite beauty was blind in one eye, most takers fell by the wayside.

Except for Niagara, Canada horseman Marilyn Lee-Hannah and her equestrian daughter Robin Hannah.

“When I first saw his picture, we were overflowing with horses. We have lesson horses, show horses, boarders, horses of all breeds, and we do rescues when we can,” Lee-Hannah says. “But I told my daughter about Prodigioso because he reminded me of a little horse we used to have, who I really loved, and she said, ‘Mom, we’re full. We already have too many horses.’ So I told her that he’s blind in one eye, and she said, ‘Well then, we have to have him.’ ”

The logic made sense to the softhearted horsemen who worried for a half-blind horse who was a dead-ringer for a favorite they used to own. That’s when they contacted Scarlett-Fawkes and offered him a home.

Prodigioso jumps in 2-foot-9 green horse show Aug. 10. Photo courtesy Reeds Photography

Prodigioso jumps in 2-foot-9 green horse show Aug. 10. Photo courtesy Reeds Photography

Well familiar with the Canadian equestrians and the good work they do at Sherwood Farm, Scarlett-Fawkes was thrilled when Lee-Hannah called. “The right person comes along for the right horse, and they are the perfect family for him,” she says.

Since his arrival on May 10 at his cooler northern home, Prodigioso has gamely learned to jump, and has proved to be the smartest mind they’ve ever worked with, Lee-Hannah says.

“He learns incredibly quick. He really wants to do everything you want him to do,” she adds. “Because of the vision thing, seeing new things and places is harder for him, but he’s calm, calm, and for a horse who’s only been jumping for a month and a half, he’s amazing.”

He is learning so fast that mother and daughter have dubbed him the whiz kid, and the weekend of Aug. 10, the stunning little beauty debuted at the Niagara Cup Series for green horses and handled the new environment with aplomb.

Tucking his knees to his chin, he beautifully jumped the 2-foot-9 jumps, all the while, trying his heart out for his new friends.

“I feel really humbled that a horse who has been so mistreated can still trust humans,” Lee-Hannah says. “It’s shameful what we do to them, and they still love us.”

Author’s note— Prodigioso is in the hospital today, Aug. 2, according to his owner, Marilyn Lee. This story was originally published on Aug. 16, 2013. We pray Prodigioso makes a speedy recovery.

A rescued OTTB helps female inmates to heal

Cannwyll 001

Lowell Correctional Institution inmate Taylor Bond and Cannwyll have become fast friends since the chestnut gelding was rescued by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

A bright chestnut racehorse who was saved from the clutches of starvation in early April has entered a bleak world and filled it with hope.

Nickering to women serving prison sentences at the Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala, Fla., Cannwyll spends his days sheltered from the blazing Florida sun enjoying the cool breeze of a barn fan, and the affection of inmates who to a one, say their lives are made better by the presence of the 4-year-old gelding who was rescued by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

“You can’t help but smile when you’re in his presence,” says Taylor Bond, an inmate assigned to groom and care for Cannwyll. “I know that horses are brought to this farm to get a second chance at life, but in reality we’re the ones who get the chance.”

Barn name: Willaby and Pabo
Sire: Milwaukee Brew
Dam: Light the Candles
Foal date: April 2, 2011
Often found sitting outside his stall studying her equine material as she masters horsemanship skills taught through the Second Chances program, which pairs inmates with equines at prisons across the country, Cannwyll watches as Bond studies.

“He brightens our day, no matter what is going on in the world beyond the fence,” Bond adds.

And in was in that world beyond the prison fence that Cannwyll was rescued just one month after his last race at Gulfstream Park. Seized by a sergeant of the Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control unit who was acting on a tip, the 4-year-old gelding was discovered emaciated and friendless.

“His ribs and hips were clearly visible and there was a gap between his hind legs,” Sgt. Max Sharpe told Off-Track Thoroughbreds. “In my opinion he was a 1.5 on the Henneke Body Score System. He was emaciated.”

Cannwyll as he appeared shortly after he was rescued this spring.

Cannwyll as he appeared shortly after he was rescued this spring.

News of his rescue stunned former racing connections, including former trainer Sharon McGlinchey, who told Off-Track Thoroughbreds that she was sick to hear the details when the news broke.

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard … I sent him to a farm for a month layup and when I checked on him, I was told not to worry because they’d found him a great home with a 60-year-old lady,” McGlinchey said. “I’m just so shocked. I’m one of those people who takes their horses back if there’s ever a problem, no questions asked.”

Instead, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation stepped in with the perfect solution. As soon as he was ready, and using monies from the Adam Sigler Fund, which was specifically established to rescue horses, Cannwyll was sent to the Ocala facility to regain his health.

Farm Manager John D. Evans says that in short order he had the inmates wrapped around his hoof!

“It’s amazing the difference he makes, and the other horses make, for the women here,” he says. “They bond with these horses, and a lot of them won’t be incarcerated again after this,” in large part due to the healing experience of working with Thoroughbreds.

Inmates develop confidence and self worth in the presence of horses like Cannwyll— animals with an infinite capacity to forgive and trust.

“They help each other,” Evans says.