Please help support Astounding Spirit
$600 Raised
30% of $2k goal
10 contributors
2 Years running
Astounding Spirit is an incredibly kind and beautiful 8-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding who was abused and starved earlier in life. The purpose of this page is: (1) to raise awareness of equine abuse and neglect, (2) to inspire ... More ...

Astounding Spirit is an incredibly kind and beautiful 8-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding who was abused and starved earlier in life. The purpose of this fundraiser is: (1) to raise awareness of equine abuse and neglect, (2) to inspire others to help abused and neglected horses, (3) to raise money to help this horse, (4) to find him the perfect forever home once we have completed certain veterinary treatments, basic dressage and pleasure riding training, and have made a determination of his soundness and future riding suitability.

This is his story, as best I can tell it. Updates are frequently posted on his Facebook page is at . Please "Like" and "Share" it!

Spirit was foaled on February 15, 2006, in Florida. His official "Jockey Club" name is Scootin Scooter. I've been told by people that know more about Thoroughbred bloodlines than I do that he was bred to be something special. And, he started out pretty special indeed, winning 2 out of his first 3 races and earning well over $33,000 in just two months.

However, as can happen, his racing career went downhill from there, but he was passed around, hauled around, and kept on the track for over 3 years, likely because he managed to come in 2nd or 3rd enough times to keep alive the hope of another good win. All in all, he raced 22 times and won over $54,000. But then he hit bottom: I was told by the person who took him off the track that he had been at an abusive stables where he was "pitchforked" in the stall, beaten, once even cut in the face with a razor. He was also starved and basically treated like a piece of used up and spit out garbage.

Before I go any further, let me emphasize that I am NOT trying to stoke people into an "anti-racing industry frenzy", so please do not make any derogatory comments about racing. Sadly, abuse and neglect of horses occurs in the back yard, on the trail, at the track, in the show arena (or "behind the scenes"). However, my goal is not to raise hatred, but rather awareness. I guess it just becomes a bit more personal when you have a horse like this in your own midst. It touches your heart, makes you cry, and makes you want to help. My mission is to try to help one or two horses at a time, when I can, and to try to inspire others to do the same.

Now, back to the do we know for sure Spirit was abused? Besides the signs of mistrust that we witness every day, one only has to look at his ankles. Both hind legs have enormous puffy scars on the front of the fetlocks, and his left front ankle is heavily calcified, with a deeply scarred hoof beneath it. Amazingly, he seems sound, despite the fact that he has little or no backward flexion in his left front pastern. If you watch him trot around, he looks like a horse that belongs in a dressage arena: he has lovely suspension and a natural lengthening. It doesn't take much imagination to see that he could be something really special....again. Of course, we think he's really special just the way he is.

What caused the scars? I wondered myself and was told they were from something that happened in the stall at the track. I knew he had allegedly been abused there, but it still puzzled me. Then I noticed he has matching scars on each stifle - an almost sure sign that he tried to jump something and got hung up. My vet, Carla Francheville, believes the scars on the back legs are from kicking chains and/or hobbles (causing wounds that were never properly treated, if at all), and we have a pretty good idea that he was being physically abused in his stall, tried to jump out (possibly with hobbles on), and almost killed himself in the process.

Okay, you say, lots of horses suffer abuse and it's a shame, but why should you care about this horse in particular? All I can say is there is something about him that just seems to touch people in a profound way.

In July 2013, the young owner who had bailed him out of his hellish life came to a point where she could no longer keep him due to a new baby and ongoing physical problems. She decided to take him to “Horse Rescue of South Florida – Rehab and Retirement for Off Track Thoroughbreds” (HRSF) in Naples, Florida, because she felt from there he would be appropriately placed in a loving forever home.She loves him very much and feared out of desperation she might otherwise get to the point of just giving him away to an uncertain future.

At HRSF, he was christened Astounding Spirit, and if you spend any time with him at all, we believe you will agree it is most fitting. This horse who has been so abused is so willing to trust. He is beautiful, sweet and smart, and loves to engage with people, especially once he knows you are going to be fair to him.

How did Spirit wind up at DaVinci Farms? I had been following the rescue on Facebook for quite a while, and when the recent flooding occurred in Naples, I learned that manager Cynthia Gilbert was struggling to treat a nasty rain-rot type infection on his legs, so we offered to bring him here to try to get it cleared up. It took no time at all to get very attached to him, and we are now committed to fostering him indefinitely. Since arriving, Spirit has had his teeth done (maybe for the first time), been vaccinated, had a massage, and in general been worked with very closely and carefully every day. He still has moments when he starts to panic because he feels confined and perceives that he might be in jeopardy of being able to protect himself, so we have to be cautious with activities such as cross-tying, bathing and lunging. But each day he makes clear signs of improvements, and it has truly been a joy to work with him.

On September 24, 2013, Dr. Carla did a mini-exam on him and found that he was quite sore in his back and SI, and had no lateral flexion in either direction along his spine (making him unable to bend his body properly), most likely due to old racing injuries that were never properly addressed. She has very generously offered to match any financial contributions with a 25% matching donation of her own, making for example $1,000 worth of diagnostics and treatments available for $750.

**UPDATE as of 10/4/2103: Carla did X-rays on Spirit's left front foot and back. He has an old fracture on the medial (inside) fetlock and a lot of calcification around the joint. Sadly, Carla said if he'd been cast and treated properly, his fetlock would probably be normal now. On the bright side, his joint spaces are good, and he shows no discomfort - just lack of backward flexion. Injecting the joint might increase his flexibility in the joint some and help keep him sound enough on it for a lower-level dressage career. She also shot some X-rays of his back and happily did not find kissing spines. However, he does have some enlargement of the spinal ligaments (most likely from scar tissue), some of the intervertebral spaces are tight, and some of the vertebrae have rough edges from arthritis. On a positive note, after lunging him lightly for several days he did show increased lateral flexion in his spine (his back was "like plywood instead of a 2x4", Carla said) The bottom line is, for him to have a chance to be serviceably sound for lower level dressage, or even trail riding, he needs treatment. I have committed to providing him with Tildren to help smooth out any rough skeletal edges in his body, and 3 rounds of shockwave to stimulate his body's healing response mechanisms. These treatments are very expensive, but I've seen them work wonders in horses and am very excited for the possibilities with Spirit.

**UPDATE as of 10/9/2013: Yesterday Spirit received the Tildren IV fluid treatment and his first round of shockwave treatment. He will get two more rounds of shockwave over the next month, and the hope is that in a couple weeks he will feel better enough to be gradually started back to work. We are simply amazed at the outpouring of support received for Spirit recently.

**UPDATE as of 10/17/2013: We have now raised $1,242! But PLEASE continue to Share his story and help if you can, as this - even with Carla's matching 25% contribution - covers less than half of his vet bills. (I am funding whatever is not covered by donations, very gladly, but more help would be greatly appreciated!) Many people contributing even a little bit will add up quickly, so please don't feel bad if you can only give $5 of $10, or if you don't give at all, but please at least SHARE his story. The better we can help him, the more comfortable and useful he will be for his new forever home, once we and HRSF secure one for him. I am committed to keeping him at DaVinci indefinitely and would love to see him remain here with a "forever mom or dad". My personal dream would be to see him sound and comfortable enough to do lower level dressage, but even a loving and experienced trail-riding home would be fantastic. We feel that jumping will pose too much of a risk for his front leg, and since he appears sound on it now, why take the risk.

**UPDATE as of 10/22/2013: Carla came out two days ago and checked Spirit's progress. I was not expecting good news at all because the day before, I had turned him out in one of our arenas to see how his trot looked, and he decided to relive his days as a racehorse, galloping full tilt around and around and around. He was so exhausted afterward that I figured he would be very body sore the next day. But....guess what?? His back was MUCH less sensitive than before his first treatments, and he showed increased lateral flexion! We were so excited we couldn't believe it. Spirit had his second round of shockwave that day, and at the end of this week I will be permitted to start him back on an exercise program of lunging and ground driving. If all goes well, I should be able to start riding him after his third shockwave treatment in a couple of weeks. We are very much encouraged!

**UPDATE as of 1/19/2014: I have been trying to keep people apprised of Spirit's progress on his Facebook page, but thought it appropriate to summarize things a bit at this time. He is doing extremely well and his back seems to be feeling good. I've been lunging and/or riding him 4-5 days a week, still mostly at the trot, and now that he is learning how to stretch over his topline, bend, and give to rein pressure, I am able to get him round and on the bit for at least part of a ride. He enjoys hacking around the property and I am slowing introducing ground poles. The canter work is primarily being done on the lunge and somedays he has an easier time of it and some days it is harder - he still needs to strengthen up those hind end muscles, so I try not to push it too much. I've been working with him on loading and he is getting much better - yesterday I took him to a local dressage schooling show, just for the experience, and although he was pretty wound up, I was very satisfied with how he did. I'm sure it reminded him of the track! My next mission is to have his hind legs looked at and possibly injected in the stifles and/or hocks. We have raised well over $2,000 for his vet bills (plus two free massages and one free chiro session, already used), but obviously more expense is going to incurred as these issues are addressed. Thus far everything we have done has been SO worthwhile, as he has made tremendous progress. We are always trying to spread the word about him, not only to raise awareness and money, but also to help secure the most perfect forever home possible for him. He so deserves it.

If you would like to come and see “the boy” at DaVinci Farms, please message me or give me a call at (239) 850-9246. We do ask that you please make an appointment.

Meanwhile, thanks very much for taking the time to read Spirit's story, as best I know it. Please LIKE and SHARE his Facebook page at Even if you can't afford to contribute, sharing is very important. Let's make it "go viral"!!

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