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. ESI Photography

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

Author’s note: A repeat this morning. Happy 4th of July!

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.”

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

  1. Virginia Swaney

    I wonder? If these OTTB’s are tattooed the last known owner and trainer should be fined or charged with animal cruelty? With ownership and the privilege Trainers have to make money, why are they absolved of responsibility? I am a former owner, breeder of TB’s and WB’s, I have always managed to place my horses in good homes. Sure, I’ve rehabbed and paid trainers to ride them, but “in the beginning” if the horse is treated with resect by good horseman from birth turn around for success is assured. I have met a few owners of Stakes winning geldings that had trusts for their horses future, hats off, we are not all bad.

  2. Janet Coy

    Stories like these remind me that originally (50 years ago) LOL I was a very young girl and attracted to thoroughbreds because of their beauty power and grace — but now I sing their praises to everyone I meet not only because of those qualities but because of their sheer will to LIVE and LOVE us humans — Thoroughbreds have so much heart – and bless Hannah and other angels that give horses like Prodigioso a chance to tell an amazing story of the depth of a thoroughbred’s heart, ability to trust, forgive and love again. I am truly moved to tears by this story !!!

  3. Rebecca

    So special! Love the picture of their quiet moment ^_^

  4. Tricia

    Hi, love your story, I’m Canadian too and although live in Cayman Islands I vacation in my home town of Blue Mountains where my daughter is a 2* Parelli instructor. Here is my OTTTB story

    Phoenix is happy and healthy in Blue Mountains, I am amazed at the sheer will to live these horses have! I can’t wait to see what she will show us next.

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