Blinded Everglades horse ribbons at HITS Ocala

Prodigioso, abandoned two years ago near the Florida Everglades—blind, burned, emaciated—ribboned at HITS Ocala last month.

Prodigioso, abandoned two years ago near the Florida Everglades—blind, burned, emaciated—ribboned at HITS Ocala last month. ESI Photography

Prodigioso, the burned and battered racehorse who was left to die on a desolate stretch of Florida Everglades, returned to the sunshine state this month to compete at the highly rated HITS Ocala series.

Glossy and confident, Prodigioso carried owner and rider Robin Hannah into the ribbons in every under-saddle class, and also won ribbons in all but two over-fences classes, she reports.

“He did extremely well, especially considering he was the greenest horse in the competition,” Hannah says. “People were amazed when I told them he’d just recently learned to do jumps, and here he was, at his first rated show, jumping 2-foot-6.”

More amazing still was that Prodigioso was there at all.

Two years earlier, the chestnut ex-racehorse was discovered by the SPCA on a lonely stretch of road that slices through sugarcane near the Everglades. Chained to a cinderblock, Prodigioso was freshly blinded in one eye, burned, emaciated, and terrified.

Trembling as he walked onto the rescue van, Prodigioso looked like a lost cause, but his rescuers refused to give up on him. He was taken to Thoroughbred charity Florida TRAC, and for eight months, he received tender loving care from Celia Scarlett and a team of volunteers.

Sire: Southern Leader
Dam: Spirited Affair
Foal date: March 14, 2007
In an earlier interview with, Scarlett recalls how it took Prodigioso six months to shed his nonstop fear. Please see earlier article here.

And when the poor fellow was ready to be offered for sale eight months after his rescue, few wanted a partially blind horse; but the miracles kept on coming.

Adopted by Niagara, Canada horseman Marilyn Lee-Hannah and her equestrian daughter Robin Hannah, the pair looked past his slightly malformed blind eye, , and decided to shout his story from the rooftops.

In addition to the interview with, they granted interviews to a local Canadian television station, and they recounted his story at the Thoroughbreds Makeover National Symposium at Pimlico last year. He was given a hero’s welcome after he trotted onto the fabled racetrack and performed alongside Thoroughbreds who had not been through nearly so much. (Please see that story here).

Prodigioso and Hannah share a quiet moment at during their three-week stay at HITS Ocala

Prodigioso and Hannah share a quiet moment at during their three-week stay at HITS Ocala

At the Pimlico show, Prodigioso stood out because of his story.

At HITS Ocala, Prodigioso stood out for his showing acumen.

“Nobody really knew his other story,” Hannah says. “A few people noticed his eye and asked about it. But the reason he stood out was because he was perfect.”

He didn’t turn a hair when he walked into the ring—nothing fazed him. “He just went right in, jumped every jump—it was kind of shocking, but then again, maybe not, because he is such an awesome horse.”

Prodigioso competed in classes with 10 to 12 other Thoroughbreds, very high-rated show animals who had more experience under their belts, she says, noting that Prodigioso still managed to be in the top four finishers in every under-saddle show, and he ribboned in all but two over-fences.

Prodigioso just returned home to Canada after three weeks at HITS. He will rest up for the upcoming Trillion shows, and if all goes well, will be entered in the A Circuit Baby Greens this summer.

To think that a horse left for dead, scarred and battered, could embrace people again, work for them, shine for them, is a thing that “humbles” Hannah. “It’s shameful what we do to them, and they still love us,” she says in her earlier interview, adding, “I always say that this is the most special horse I’ve ever had.”

28 responses to “Blinded Everglades horse ribbons at HITS Ocala”

  1. Tanya Foster

    I think this story is amazing and these two ladies are wonderful Ambassadors of faith and hope and perseverance. It is also a testament to the same of their wonderful animal who was also willing to fight for his life and come back to win. And not just winning in an arena, but he won at life. His abusers were the losers. He beat them and now look at this beautiful guy and his devotion to his family and partner. THIS should be made into a film. Congrats and May God continue to BLESS this family and this wonderful horse.

  2. Sharon Bowen

    Within Judaism there is something called a MITZVAH. Literally this translates as “good deed,” but it goes much further than that. What this pair of women has done is a mitzvah. They have saved a life and beyond that made it a worthwhile life again. Congratulations and THANK YOU for saving this wonderful horse. I hope he has a long and successful career with you. I suspect he will. God bless you for your efforts and your love.

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    […] Check out this heartwarming story of the horse who is blind in one eye and cleaning up at HITS Ocala… […]

  4. Karen Kenny

    What a heart warming story!! Wish I could have seen him ! We recused one that was on the killer truck and I need up showing him at the Garden years ago .

  5. cheri vaughan

    I remember reading about Prodigioso after he was discovered in Florida I was PCA article. I remember how horrified I was after reading it. HE IS SO BEAUTIFUL NOW AND HAS THE PERFECT OWNER!!! THE BEST STORY YET, IMO.

  6. Liz Innes

    He has lovely form and such a kind gentle expression. God bless you for what you have done.

  7. Lynn Foster

    I think it is a wonderful story and I am thankful that this horse has found the home he deserved BUT the name Rosario L. Caruso & Ernesto S. Medina, have been listed as the previous owners SO HAS THE OSPCA OR THE LOCAL POLICE QUESTIONED THESE TWO INDIVIDUALS…??? I would like to see a followup on what these two have to say about their actions with regards to this horse and possible charges…..does anyone know if this was done..???

    1. Shirley VH

      I think perhaps the follow-ups are not done by a rescue site as that would make it harder for them to rescue (revenge?) I think local officials would have to be pressed into action or perhaps the SPCA

  8. Jan/ Springtime Farm

    I am not surprised to hear that Celia Scarlett was involved as one of Prodgiosos
    “Saviors”. She is a horsewoman who steps in, takes action and helps
    the saddest and most hopeless cases. I am so fortunate to have
    the pleasure of knowing this special woman.

  9. Marilyn Lee-Hannah

    Such wonderful responses to this continued story…it makes to tearful reading them. Megan Sewell, he most certainly has his forever home. Before we even knew that he could be a show prospect, that had already been decided. And god willing, we will continue to help more like him who need us.

  10. Cynthia Minchillo

    I remember the first story about him and I wanted to sit down and cry! I still want to cry when I hear about what someone did to this horse. But I’m super excited for all involved especially him! Good luck with everything and thank you for being heroes.

  11. Lisa Beer

    What an amazing story, amazing people and an amazing horse!! He is your horse of a life time and your shining star!! Through hell and back and just look at him now-absolutely heartwarming- thank you for sharing.

  12. Stefanie Rittner

    This is a great story, as all of yours are, Susan. But I am just so happy to hear when people give these Thoroughbreds a chance. I mean, so many people have the money to buy an already showing horse who has the experience and solid record in the ring. But when I read these types of stories, I am so proud of the humans who desire more that the certainty of a good show horse. They want to give back to the animal who gives us so much try. It’s just wonderful, and I hope this encourages others to look at horses that really need us.

  13. Jan Weber

    Did they ever catch the ***holes that abused and abandoned this horse?

  14. Ann Livingston

    I absolutely love this story. WELL DONE all of you!

  15. Megan Sewell

    I love stories like this one; one with a positive ending! I agree with Hannah; it is amazing what cruel, ugly & awful things we humans, the supposedly higher intelligence animal, will do to other animals & humans. Yet always, the “dumb” animal is the one who learns to love & accept & shine again. Bravo! To these two ladies!! I know there are many unsung Heros like them out there, but these two have gone above & beyond. I hope Prodigioso has found a forever home with them; this guy deserves to never know fear or uncertainty again, & these ladies obviously love him a great deal!

    1. Marilyn Lee-Hannah

      Prodigioso has his forever home, that is certain. He has the love of many around us.

  16. Laurel Hanna

    As a recent adopter of another mis-treated OTTB, this gives me hope for our future!!! Congratulations you two, and hope to see you at HITS sometime in the future!! 🙂

  17. Patty Hamilton

    Prodigioso is very lucky to have been rescued by these good people. Very sad that some very sick individuals would just treat horses this way when this horse most likely tried its best with racing. Long life for beautiful Prodigioso and Hannah. God bless you all. Best, Patty 🙂

  18. Mary-Jo

    I always like to think that for every bad apple out there there are 100 human angels that animals can count on.

  19. Susan Crane-Sundell

    Prodigioso is certainly, prodigious, plus intrepid, brave, and adaptive. We can now add loved to the string of adjectives to describe this once-abandoned but never quite broken OTTB. Here’s to the redemption of Prodigioso and his family, Robin and Marilyn, who made it possible.

  20. marti

    Thank you, and may God bless each one of you who played a part in giving this “miracle” horse a second chance to find a new and happy life.

  21. Cindy Crank

    Robin and Marilyn have not only done an incredible job with this unwanted throw away horse, but they have taken the story many, many steps past their own stable yard, and through their efforts with the media, they have educated many people about what has happened to the race horses who didn’t “make it” for whatever reason and were left to die. It has also been great to see that the thoroughbred breed, often considered too high strung and skittish for many disciplines, are finding new homes and careers as dressage horses, driving horses, western trail horses, back yard hacks, hunters and the list goes on.

  22. Ceil

    WOW!!!!! Good Luck and congratulations!!! He is lucky to have found you!

  23. Colmel


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