A hero’s welcome at Pimlico for Everglades TB

Prodigioso, left, known as the "Everglades horse" enters Pimlico show with Zatopek

Prodigioso, left, known as the “Everglades horse” enters Pimlico show ridden by Grace Clairmont in this picture. Zatopek is ridden by Robin Hannah.

Two chestnut Thoroughbreds from opposite sides of the track, one a “prince” from the very best background, the other a “pauper” abandoned in the Florida Everglades, glistened like bright copper pennies as they strode onto the Pimlico racetrack.

Though they marched onto the dirt track side-by-side last weekend to participate in theThoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, an event to honor the Thoroughbred sport horse, the pair took very different paths getting there.

Zatopek, a son of Thunder Gulch, was born at Adena Springs, and though he earned only $300 on the track, was cared for and looked after as though he was a multi-million dollar earner like his mother.

Prodigioso was not so lucky.

Abandoned in the Florida Everglades last July, the SPCA discovered him by the roadside, freshly blinded in one eye, scarred, burned and emaciated. Please see an earlier article about Prodigioso in Off-TrackThoroughbreds.com.

Prodigioso regained his strength and zest for life after an intensive eight-month rehabilitation at Thoroughbred nonprofit Florida TRAC.

After that, Niagara, Canada horseman Marilyn Lee-Hannah and her daughter Robin Hannah, who were touched by his story and wanted to offer him a soft landing in a good home, adopted Prodigioso.

Prodigioso shows off his hunter/jumper skills at Pimlico under Robin Hannah while Marilyn Lee-Hannah narrates his story.

Prodigioso shows off his hunter/jumper skills at Pimlico under Robin Hannah while Marilyn Lee narrates his story.

Prodigioso shows off his hunter/jumper skills at Pimlico under Robin Hannah while Marilyn Lee-Hannah narrates his story.

Around the same time, the mother-daughter team opened their barn to Zatopek so he could be schooled to participate in last weekend’s Thoroughbred Makeover Event, a national demonstration spearheaded by Steuart Pittman of the Retired Racehorse Training Projectto raise awareness about the worth of ex-racehorses.

“Before we even acquired Zatopek, we thought we would use Prodigioso for the makeover,” Lee-Hannah explains. “We thought, after all that he went through in the everglades, that if we could get him ready for the show, it would be an amazing story.”

But then they thought better of the idea. The horse had been through so much, and with his partial blindness, they were concerned he would be prone to spooking at the event. “We didn’t want to rush him, so we decided to see if there was another makeover horse out there,” Lee adds.

After Zatopek arrived, he went straight into training with Hannah. And, though he was not destined to go to the big show, she decided to train Prodigioso at the same time.

And the pair she calls her “prince and her pauper” matched each other, stride for stride, jump for jump.

When it was clear that Prodigioso was equal to the task, Lee-Hannah called event organizer Pittman and asked if he could somehow squeeze Prodigioso into the show, which had been limited to 26 horses. Though the demonstration was heavily booked, he said they’d find a way.

After surviving burns, cuts, and being blinded in the Florida everglades, Prodigioso’s story is broadcast at Pimlico

After surviving burns, cuts, and being blinded in the Florida everglades, Prodigioso's story is broadcast at Pimlico

After surviving burns, cuts, and being blinded in the Florida Everglades, Prodigioso’s story is broadcast at Pimlico.

Nobody was disappointed Prodigioso was there.

When the pair strode out to the track together, Zatopek ridden by Hannah, and Prodigioso ridden by another rider, they sparkled equally. “They really looked amazing,” Lee says.

First Zatopek was ridden through a walk-trot-canter set and taken over small jumps. Then Hannah hopped off and mounted Prodigioso to ride the same demonstration.

And as he proudly displayed his new talents, Lee-Hannah narrated his story to a teary audience. “I was told there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” she says, adding, “I dubbed them ‘the prince and the pauper.’

“Zatopek has been treated the way he should be throughout his career and after. And Prodigioso’s life was the complete opposite … and he somehow found himself astray, in the Florida Everglades.”

At the end of the day, Prodigioso outshined his barn mate. And after the show, it was him the crowds came to see, standing in all his glory, in his stall.

“Everybody said they wanted to meet the Everglades horse,” Lee-Hannah says. “I’ve got to say that bringing that horse to the show, and telling his story, was one of the best things I’ve done.”

20 responses to “A hero’s welcome at Pimlico for Everglades TB”

  1. Dale V. Price

    What a joyful story…sincere thanks and appreciation to all who helped this horse and worked to make a wonderful difference in his life!

  2. Diane Marchand

    It brings joy to know 1 more was saved from the hands of human abuse. Too many out there waiting for their own human to save them. As I drive thru Ocala Horses capital of the World and see thousands of babies being bred it saddens me to wonder how many of those babies will end up in abusive situations and the slaughter pipeline, not all of them will be lucky to be saved. Its heartfelt stories like Prodigioso and the many horses I see at Beautys haven horse rescue in MOrriston fl, and the work that Florida TRAC and all the other horse rescues do for 1 horse at a time that brings hope back into our hearts. thank you Marilyn and Robin for the Love you share with your horses.

    1. Marilyn Lee-Hannah

      Diane…I too look at those babies and think…oh no, so innocent and loved right now…what will happen to them? What we can do for now is speak up, do our part to help everywhere and every time we can.

  3. Ken Wiener

    Great front page story in the Toronto Star today about Prodigioso and the Hannahs with a mention of this website. Not too many horses have their picture on the first page of a major newpaper!

    1. Marilyn Lee-Hannah and Robin Hannah

      We are honoured, thrilled and delighted Ken and owe a big thank you to Susan and her incredibly beautiful blog. If because of this more horses like Prodigioso find a safe haven and second career, we will be overjoyed.

  4. Cindy

    Brought tears to my eyes… I was a volunteer for the South Fla SPCA and I adopted an abused mare. I love seeing what the adoptee’s lives become after leaving. I sure wish I could have been there to watch Prodigioso’s accomplishment! Big Big hug to Prodigioso and the Hannahs!!!

  5. A hero’s welcome at Pimlico for Everglades TB | Pass the SAFE Act!

    […] See on offtrackthoroughbreds.com […]

  6. Kelli

    I was at the RRTP on both days and had a front row seat to see “The Everglades” horse. Where many of the other particpatants were hot being back on the track, he acted like it was nothing, to him it was just another day of work he loved. Prodigioso never put a single hoof wrong, and to me he truly showed the whole audience what an OTTB is capable. They are able to overcome so many disadvantages and prove time and time again that this is not the end and that they have so much more to give. Prodigioso should become the poster boy for RRTP and I look forward to hearing more about him in the future.

    1. Marilyn Lee Hannah and Robin Hannah

      Awwwww…what a lovely message. This special little horse has quickly found his way into the hearts of all who know him. I agree, his story is one which stands for just about everything we strive for….

      Thank you for such a kind post.

  7. cindy

    Great story-made me cry with joy of horses overcoming the awful things we humans do to them.

  8. LindaVA

    I’m getting tears in my eyes just reading about how far Prodigioso has come since you first wrote about him. A huge thank you to all involved for giving him a second chance at life!

  9. LL

    I often wonder as I read these stories if the people who abandoned these horses ever read about them. I would doubt they suffer any remorse or guilt and probably feel they “got off the hook” when they know the horses have gone on to a better life.

    1. Marilyn

      That’s interesting…I was thinking that same thing this morning. In some ways, it is best they never again have the honour of reading of this gallant young horse. It has crossed my mind though on more than on occasion.

    2. Kristi

      Funny that you should ask that LL. Years ago I acquired a horse from a horrible woman that picks up free horses and takes them to the auction. This year I went and picked up a different horse from her that had been horribly neglected while under her care. When I asked her how she got the horse to begin with, she started talking about how people are mean to her and send death-threats to her e-mail. She acted like she was the victim and not the horses. I don’t think people that abuse animals can feel remorse. They seem very narcissistic and, in my opinion, are sociopaths that only think of themselves.

  10. Susan Galvan


  11. Susan Crane-Sundell

    Again, care, love and heart triumph over abuse and neglect. Looking at the first photo one would be hard-pressed to determine which horse had the traumatic life. I’m so very glad Steuart found room for Prodigioso at the show.His story deserved to be showcased. The Hannahs deserve so much admiration for bringing both Prodigioso and Zapotek along. I hope the Prince and the Pauper are good friends.

    1. Marilyn Lee Hannah and Robin Hannah

      Yes, they are turnout buddies. Both very kind and good natured horses.

  12. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    What a wonderful outcome for Prodigioso and a very touching story. Zatopek and Prodigioso look absolutely beautiful. Great story.

  13. Lynn

    what a great story. so glad he was saved. although I wonder if his previous trainer was at least questioned about it. if he was found in july and his last race was in January, will make one wonder since that’s really not that long of a gap. looks maybe he was used for some Mexican games, with the rope burns on his legs? sad what people do to animals but soooo glad hes safe now. we need to do more things like this.

  14. Marilyn Lee-Hannah and Robin Hannah

    Susan, you tell the story so beautifully…thank you.
    One note, the young rider who assisted Robin was Grace Clairmont, an accomplished junior and a vital part of the Sherwood Farm team!

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