Prodigioso the “Everglades Horse,” who courageously battled back from starvation and abuse three years ago to become an A-rated show horse and star of the OTTB world, was stricken 10 days ago by a mysterious illness.
After first exhibiting mild signs of discomfort, Prodigioso spiraled downhill on Aug. 1 and was rushed to the Milton Equine Hospital, where he was treated “round-the-clock” for renal failure, says owner Marilyn Lee of Sherwood Farm in Ontario.
The adorable chestnut OTTB who was rescued in 2012 from the Florida everglades, injured, starved and freshly blinded in one eye, was in the bloom of good health when seemingly out of nowhere, he was stricken, says Lee, who notes that her daughter and expert horseman Robin Hannah-Carlton first noticed something was off.
Out of an abundance of caution, the horse was administered a medication meant to protect the spleen, and shortly thereafter, he was rushed to the hospital.
New name: Pipe Dream
Sire: Southern Leader
Dam: Spirited Affair
Foal date: March 14, 2007“Right after he received the medication he broke out in hives all over his face, and it wasn’t much longer after that that he went to pee and he had bloody urine,” Lee says. “We wasted no time and rushed him to the hospital, where tests showed that his kidneys were failing, his liver was enlarged, and his blood work was severely out of whack. Suddenly it was a life or death situation.”
Placed on IV fluids and given 24/7 care, Prodigioso was touch-and-go for days, says Lee, who adds that he was bleeding so extensively that it was “just hideous.”
The mother-daughter team slept in their truck three feet from the emergency room door, hopping up throughout the night to rush to his side. And they waited out a frightening weekend as their beloved horse finally regained his equilibrium.
By Aug. 3, his heart rate had stabilized, and by that evening his urine was normal again, she says. And by Tuesday, the attending veterinarian offered encouraging words, says Lee, noting that the vet had grown very fond of Prodigioso after hearing his story of survival in the woods of the Everglades just three years before.
“He was able to keep himself safe in the Everglades, and so we felt it was our turn to keep him going,” Lee says. “We decided we would do everything we could for him.”
After coming through the worst of the crisis, Prodigioso was shipped to nearby Ontario Veterinary College for further diagnostics and colic surgery. “Our vet had been in constant communication with the Ontario Veterinary College, and they took him Tuesday,” Lee says. “And again our little miracle horse began to do it again. His sodium levels, which were low, began to level off again. And he began retaining his salt again as soon as he got there.”
The attending vets, as well as Prodigioso’s family were so “stymied” by the near-death experience and apparent recovery that they checked the equipment used in Prodigioso’s original diagnostics and found it was working perfectly, Lee adds.
“We don’t really know what happened. We only know he had a life-threatening illness, and they’re calling it a ‘very complex’ and a ‘very unusual’ case,” Lee says. “And now he seems to have come out the other side, after 10 days.”
Though tests are still being run, Prodigioso was released last night.
His story however, told by Hannah-Carlton to a total stranger, who was herself waiting in a medical waiting room, was so moving that the stranger, a better-than-good Samaritan, left an anonymous $1,000 payment toward his medical bill, Lee says.
“Robin was in a waiting room with another woman who had a horse in surgery, and she listened to the story of Prodigioso, (Please read that story here: http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2013/08/16/left-on-fla-roadside-a-horses-life-takes-u-turn/) and all that he went through being tied to a cement block in the Everglades, and we found out later from the office that she’d made this tremendous donation toward his bill,” Lee says. “We don’t know who she is; we don’t know her name.”
But the meaningful gesture will never be forgotten by the friends and family of Prodigioso. “This horse continues to amaze us. He’s faced another crisis in his life, and hopefully he has come through it,” Lee says.