Left on Fla. roadside, he was blinded, burned

Prodigioso as he looked after being rescued from Florida backwater, and after

Prodigioso as he looked after being rescued from Florida backwater, and after

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—This story was first published on Aug. 16, 2013.

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

  1. takodasdad

    People are capable of such brutality and savagery when it comes to animals. I have just adopted a horse who’s previous owner apparently was one such barbarian…you can read the rest of the story at http://www.takodasvision.com.

  2. Barbara Griffith

    I just want to pass on some hopefully good news. The Omnibus Budget will end Chances of Horse Slaughter Plants Opening in the US. I was sent this from
    equinewelfarealliance.org yesterday. I’m quoting from the e-mail. The omnibus bill pending before Congress this week contains language that will end the possibility of proposed horse slaughter plants opening in New Mexico and Missouri. The new defunding language contains not only defunding, but also a stipulation that funding not be restored until and unless the food and Drug Administration makes a determination that meat from American horses can be made safe to enter the food supply. (The funding they are talking about is the meat inspectors from the USDA). The FDA regulates which drugs are safe in meat animals as well as their withdrawal times. The FDA currently categorizes horses as companion (non-food) animals. There is more to this e-mail that you need to go to the web site to read. This gives me hope that horse slaughter can be shut down eventually.

  3. Delrene in Carlsbad, Ca.

    What a shameful story prior to rescue and such a beautiful happy ending for this very lucky fellow. Thanks to all who helped him on his way. He really is gorgeous.

  4. Janet

    Drying my eyes after reading this makes me wonder how anyone who was connected to this poor animal hasnt been investgated. Im in utter shock of how cruel these so called horsemen out there are. We had Standardbreds back in the eighties and loved everyone of them,. They were not just our racers, they were our beloved family members.
    Im so happy that this precious angel was saved, nursed back and now truely loved and appreciated. All horses should be respected and appreciated, especially the racers, equetrians and work horses. They are giving their lives to us.
    I hope one day to adopt my own OTTB, and just love him/ her And graze to day long!! And get many kisses!!!Thank you to all those true horse people out there who save these horses.

  5. Jeanette Jordan

    My organization, South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a horse rescue, originally picked him up by the side of the road. From there he went to the wonderful Florida TRAC.

  6. Judith Ochs

    On Pedigree query this is what it has: Owner: Rosario L. Caruso & Ernesto S. Medina
    Breeder: Rolando Rodriguez State Bred: FL. Who knows what happened to him in interim or if there was an interim. Grandson of Black Tie Affair. So very sad. Thank God someone found him and took care of him and saw what a great great guy he is.

  7. Cynthia Minchillo

    Okay besides being sick to my stomach I am so proud of TRAC, Prodigioso and the Hannahs.

  8. cheri vaughan

    I am so happy to hear of Prodigioso’s rescue, so sorry for what he had to endure at the hands of greasy devils, surely operating from the lowest pit of hell. He is stunning in his recovery! Simply amazing story.

  9. SusanA

    I’m curious as to whether the past owners(?) “connections” to Prodigioso were notified and if anyone was ever held responsible for the condition of this horse????

  10. Jeanette Jordan

    So joyous that South Florida SPCA had a small part in the rescue of Piper (aka Prodigioso)


    Another incredibly moving and inspiring TRUE story. How could people, anyone, hurt our precious horses like that? Thank god for all the good people who do come i to their lives and give them a second chance. And thanks to Susan S. for bringing us these stories of hope.

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