A chestnut Thoroughbred known as the “Everglades Horse” following his harrowing rescue from the swamps of Florida, and who twice fought back from the brink of death, has taken top honors in a major Canadian hunter series.
Partly blind ex-racehorse Prodigioso, who learned to jump in perfect form after a Canadian mother-daughter equestrian team adopted him in 2013 and brought him to their Ontario farm, was the highest scoring Thoroughbred in the Long Run Hunter Classic Series at the Caledon Equestrian Park.
“We just found out that though Prodigioso received the highest number of points in the Long Run Hunter Classic Series,” says Marilyn Lee, who co-owns the horse with her daughter Robin Hannah-Carlton. “He did incredibly well! We’ve been showing in this division for a number of years and never had the top-scoring horse.”
Barn name: Piper
Sire: Southern Leader
Dam: Spirited Affair
Foal date: March 14, 2007Jumping in his high-kneed, rhythmic style, Prodigioso competed in four classes against 15 or more horses. In the first three classes he took home a 2nd place ribbon, and won a 3rd place honors. But in a fluke, his lowest score was thrown out due to a technicality, Lee says.
“In an interesting twist, my daughter Robin, who rode him in the first three shows, got called away for a family emergency and couldn’t compete him in the final show. A family friend’s daughter died, and she made the decision to be at their side,” Lee explains. “So, a good friend of ours, and colleague Sarah Jane Franklin, volunteered to ride him in the last show. Sarah drove six hours the night before the Saturday show to be there for us and to ride him. She’d never ridden Prodigioso and they still finished third. But what we didn’t realize until afterwards was that the judging was based on the same horse/rider team, and because we switched riders, their score was thrown out.”
Though Prodigioso’s life has taken many a twist and turn, the even-tempered gelding takes every show in stride. “Nothing fazes him,” she says. “He has a very easy going pace and a beautiful expression and a great jump.”
After going head to head with top A-circuit horses, Prodigioso’s record would be considered solid enough for any show horse. But, his achievements are especially poignant considering his difficult past.
In 2012, Prodigioso was dumped deep in the Florida everglades and left to die. Freshly blinded, he was tied to a cement block in the swampland when the SPCA rescued him. It took the animal a full eight months to recover physically and mentally from the ordeal.
Despite blindness in his right eye, the throwaway horse proved early on to have a natural form and temperament for the hunters, and in 2013, Lee and Hannah adopted him and brought Prodigioso to their show barn in Ontario.
Though he was laid up during the later half of last year fighting a mystery illness, then undergoing surgery (please see earlier story here: http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2015/08/12/everglades-horse-fights-for-his-life-again/) Prodigioso has proven again and again that you can’t keep a good horse down.
“This horse continues to amaze us,” she says. “He can be a little bratty at home—he likes to buck and squeal when he’s jumping. But when you get him into the show ring, he’s all business. He just knows he’s special.”