Amazing Grace Went From At-Risk Rescue To Beloved Show Pony

Dec 15, 2017 - 3:35 PM

What’s in a name? For one rescue pony, her name truly captures her amazing story.

Amazing Grace. Photo by Rachel Sulman

On Dec. 30, 2015, the South Florida SPCA Horse Rescue staff and volunteers responded to a report of animal cruelty in Miami Gardens, Fla. Four emaciated horses were living in squalor, and a young pony, mere skin and bones, was dying on the ground. Laurie Waggoner, director of ranch operations of the South Florida SPCA, said, “She was a complete skeleton. She had no muscle to be able to get up on her own. We were waiting for a veterinarian to come and more than likely thought she’d have to be euthanized. It was heartbreaking.”

The SFSPCA team unloading Amazing Grace at their facility after her rescue. Photo courtesy of South Florida SPCA

The young pony’s body was shutting down. She couldn’t stand or walk without rescue workers holding her up. But when they reached the SPCA ranch and carried her out of the trailer and onto the grass, she immediately started eating what she could reach. It was then that she received the name Amazing Grace for her strong will to live.

After a couple of days at the ranch, “Grace” was showing signs of possible kidney failure. She thrashed in her stall, injuring herself further. On New Year’s Day, Grace was transported to the Palm Beach Equine Clinic in Wellington, Fla., where Dr. Scott Swerdlin and his team took over Grace’s case and care.

“She was completely malnourished when she came in, and her body was deteriorating,” said Swerdlin. “We had five or six veterinarians and four interns working on her case. Our techs would take her out and groom her, which she liked. She was very fond of people.”

After a week of intensive care, Grace was deemed healthy enough to return to the SFSPCA ranch. Over the following months, she slowly gained the weight and strength to stand and walk on her own.

See a video of Grace’s remarkable recovery:

Marilyn Lee, of Sherwood Farm in St. Catharines, Ontario, had adopted a horse, Prodigioso, from the SFSPCA four years before. She’d seen posts about Grace on the SFSPCA’s Facebook page and was inspired by her incredible story.

Amazing Grace on the day of her rescue and at the South Florida SPCA a year later. Photos courtesy of South Florida SPCA/

Robin Hannah-Carlton, Marilyn’s daughter and a professional rider and trainer, was also touched by the pony’s incredible will to survive. “She was just this beautiful pony with an amazing story, and I think my mom had already made up her mind that she was going to adopt her,” said Hannah-Carlton. So on Jan 1, a little over a year after she was rescued, Amazing Grace arrived at her forever home at Sherwood Farm with Lee and Hannah-Carlton.

Today, Grace is THE princess of Sherwood Farm. She is opinionated and can be vocal if she moves stalls or is too close to another horse. She goes out with one other pony that she likes. Grace adores people and is friendly in the barn. Hannah-Carlton said, “She’s ridden by one junior rider, Abby Banis, who has backed her and done everything with her. The first time she jumped [a crossrail], we were all crying and saying, ‘Jackpot’ at the same time!”

Amazing Grace and Abby Banis at a local show. Photo by Rachel Sulman

Since Hannah-Carlton believes Grace is only 4 or 5, she wanted to wait until next year to start showing more seriously. She noted that Grace has a beautiful jumping style and is very brave. “She’s done about four or five local shows this year, and we are hoping to do the green ponies, maybe the mediums, at some A shows next year,” she said. “She will be quite the show pony, but she has a forever home with us.”

She has also been the lead-line mount for Hannah-Carlton’s 3-year-old son, Jude.

Amazing Grace giving Jude Carlton a ride. Photo courtesy of Robin Hannah-Carlton

Lee and Hannah-Carlton are no strangers to taking a chance on at-risk horses. In September, Hannah-Carlton and Atlantic Shogun placed fifth in the show hunter division of the Retired Racehorse Project Makeover (Ky.).

“We are a show barn, no doubt about it,” Lee said. “Our deep-rooted belief that all creatures have value and deserve kindness and dignity drives our business. Be it horses, dogs, cats…even a potbelly pig and an orphaned sheep, [they all] have a place at Sherwood Farm. By no means are all our horses those who have been found down and out on their luck. However, when the opportunity presents itself, and we are able, we are quick to jump in. With so many homeless and future-less animals everywhere, it makes sense to us to at least give them a chance at a productive and safe life and to fit into our program.”

Sherwood Farm has a number of school horses and ponies with tough histories who now teach children and adults how to ride. “We have all kinds here,” said Hannah-Carlton. “I have some clients that have bought really nice imported horses, but I focus a lot on the Thoroughbreds, too. Retiring at 4 or 5 years old, they can have a second career, but they’re not a popular breed. They can be harder to deal with. But, I would ride a Thoroughbred over a warmblood any day.

“For kids that are getting involved in riding or showing at a lower level, there is an opportunity to look for a horse that needs a home or second career and try to put your time in and see what you can get out of it,” said Hannah-Carlton. “It is so important for people to know that just because a horse or pony is worthless to someone else doesn’t mean it actually is worthless.”

Amazing Grace and Abby Banis. Photo by Rachel Sulman

The South Florida SPCA suffered significant damage from Hurricane Irma and is struggling with staggering restoration costs and challenges. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the SFSPCA’s hurricane relief, please visit: The SFSPCA’s website can be found at:

Category: Hunters
Tag: Rescue

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