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.

11 responses to “Left on Fla. roadside, he was blinded, burned”

  1. Leslie Wilder

    Amazing story! The pain these beauties go through….is heartbreaking….and unbearable for me to even think about….

  2. Lori Ann

    Hoping this sweet-heart of the horses makes it! 🙂

  3. cheri

    This horses story is the one that most elates me and most crushes my heart. I have wishes of comfort and recovery for him. Please, please, if there is any horse who deserves a healthy life, it is him.

  4. Carolyn McDonald

    According to equibase.com, Prodigioso first raced on 24 Feb 2011 and then had another 8 starts, two of which he was unable to finish and that was early in his career.
    He last raced on 2 Jan 2012. All his starts were in Claiming Races and he raced poorly but no one intervened to relieve him of the public abuse he suffered on the racetrack.
    Ernesto S. Medina was his trainer and also part owner with Rosario L. Casuso. His breeder was Rolando Rodriguez.
    Medina and Casuso are accountable for the heartless, callous and unforgiveable dumping of Prodigioso. Utterly despicable scumbags.

  5. Carolyn McDonald

    A classic example of the horseracing industry’s disregard for the welfare of its “much loved” racehorses
    when they’re finished with them, having damaged these horses both physically and psychologically. This horse’s story is gut wrenching. He was very fortunate to have been rescued and given a wonderful caring life by his owner. My thoughts are with Marilyn Lee.

  6. Daryl J Conner

    sounds like he is a fighter, will pray for him any way . I had a one eyed horse he did just fine, he was loved and he loved us. We had to watch on the blind side for him , he trusted us…Cancer took his eye sight, Vet took the eye out.

  7. Jen

    Heattwarming story and a great job at rehabbing! He looks like a fantastic horse. Hope Prodigioso has a complete recovery and is home soon!

  8. Joy Schneider

    Hope you will follow up with info on his hospital stay if allowed.

  9. nancy atkinson

    why is he in the hospital?

    1. Diana Levy

      according to a friend of the owner, something is attacking his liver and kidneys and he is now in renal failure. They are still working on him though as this is a horse that never gives up

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