‘Everglades Horse’ fights for his life— again

Prodigioso the Everglades Horse has been fighting for his life these past 10 days in two Ontario veterinary facilities. Here he takes a short walk with owner Robin Hannah-Carlton.

Prodigioso the Everglades Horse has been fighting for his life these past 10 days in two Ontario veterinary facilities. Here he takes a short walk with owner Robin Hannah-Carlton.

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.

Medical staff built Prodigioso his own small paddock for supervised grazing, post op.

Medical staff built Prodigioso his own small paddock for supervised grazing, post op.

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.

Prodigioso was released last night and sent home to recover.

Prodigioso was released last night and sent home to recover.

“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.

21 responses to “‘Everglades Horse’ fights for his life— again”

  1. Gloria

    You can tell this horse is much loved and is being given the best of care. Speedy and full recovery. IF you learn what caused his illness, please share so we all may learn. Update his progess. Best to all at Sherwood Farm.

  2. Saddle Up

    Best of luck with your boy. His story should be a motion picture one day. A reader on my page suggested this may be a helpful diet during recovery: http://entest.hippolyt.com/products/horsecare/50-meta-diaet Not sure of the availability in North America but perhaps you could ask your vet about it.

  3. Teri

    We have created a gofundme page to help cover the costs associated with Prodigioso’s treatment and veterinary care. If you wish to read more or make a donation, please visit:


    No donation is too small, and any help is greatly appreciated!

  4. Pamela

    Sounds like a drug reaction – possibly?

  5. kerry couch

    Just so totally happy Prodigioso has the right people in his life at just the most important times of his life! Thank the Lord for his courage and strength and for the incredible love and dedication of his caretakers! Thank you, Anonymous $1K donor– Wow! Please keep us informed– so many love this horse, love the people who care for him although most of us have never nor will we likely ever- meet them. God Bless you all.

    1. Marilyn Lee-Hannah

      Thank you so much…he is a very special part of our lives…

  6. Tiena Joyal

    Have they checked their pastures for creeping indigo?

  7. Lisa

    Such a scary story. Sounds like he is on the mend but keep us updated on his progress. Prayers for everyone to stay strong.

  8. Kaia

    Was he recently wormed? I can’t remember the brand…There has been many horror stories. Sorry.

  9. Donna Portree

    I have long supported the College & am glad to hear that the outcome has been positive – I hope they can get a handle on just what happened so it doesn’t happen again. Prodigioso is an amazing horse; with all the prayers & good wishes touching his soul; may he give you both years of happiness yet

  10. cheri

    Sincere wishes for full recovery from House of Vaughan go out to our most favorite rescue OTTB… Please get better, boy!! Please!!

  11. Leslie M. Bliman-Kuretzky

    I hope and pray that this sweet boy recovers. Such a brave and sweet boy

  12. colmel

    God bless this little horse and the wonderful people who care for him. I’ve never met him, but have followed your stories about him, Susan. He’s become very dear to me. He reminds me of a horse I loved many, many years ago. I can’t help but tear up when I read of his struggles. Those who care for him (and the mystery donor) are angels. Praying he stays well for a good long time!

  13. Grace Delanoy

    Shared to all South Florida SPCA followers. We love Prodigioso, Marilyn and Robin! Beautifully written as always, Susan!

  14. Nancy Terreault

    I’ve been following this closely from the start and I know in my heart that if any horse can make it through this, it’s him. I’ll have to stop and see if I can pick up some scotch mints for him on my way to your place this morning Marilyn… XXX

  15. Susan Salk

    Marilyn, I’m just so relieved. I hope and pray he hangs in there now. No more scaring everyone who loves him!

  16. Marilyn Lee-Hannah

    Oh Susan…you are indeed a miracle writer and one of his most staunch supporters. Thank you for telling this next chapter in the life of Prodigioso, The Everglades Horse in such an accurate and yet beautiful way.

  17. tiggy1998

    Many prayers for this wonderful Horse and his family. I know he will come back to full health despite the complex issues as he has youth on his side. A Horse, or any domesticated animal, will ‘hang on’ as long as they have a person to give them a reason to do so.

  18. Jeanette Jordan

    Thank you for the update on Prodigioso…………

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

    Many prayers for Prodigioso and Marlyn, Robin and Sherwood Farm. This is the little horse that could and he will pull through again….

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