News / USA

Old Racehorses Give Prisoners Second Chance

Sahar Sarshar
GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Virginia — At the James River Work Center, a prison in the central part of the state of Virginia, inmates are taught to care for retired racehorses.

It’s a second chance for all involved. The non-profit Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation saves former race horses from possible neglect, abuse and slaughter. At the same time, the horses prepare prison inmates for life after incarceration.   

“When they asked me if I was interested in this program, I jumped on the opportunity," says one inmate, "because how could you not love these creatures?”  

In the course of the six-month program, the men learn about horse behavior, grooming, anatomy, health and horse care. They also become very fond of their charges.

“This is my horse Covert Action," says an inmate named Elliot. "This is the grandson of Secretariat. He's a good horse. If you remember Secretariat, that's the horse that won the race in the Belmont.”

Inmate Ryan says there are signs the animal he cares for was a racehorse. “I think he had a typical race track life. He showed signs of steroid injections, side effects of that is biting, nipping, you can feel scar tissue from the injections.”  

The horses are fed twice a day, groomed and checked for injuries or health concerns. Some are ridden to prepare them for adoption as riding and companion horses.  
 
While the inmates’ training program also includes classroom work, instructor Reid McLellan says the hands-on experience is the important thing.

“It's that spending every day in the stall with those horses… and horses don't put up with the kind of false bravado," McLellan says. "They recognize false bravado right away. And they'll teach them a lesson that that's not the way to be in harmony with this big 1,000-pound [453.5 kilograms] animal in that stall.”

Will, an inmate and graduate of the program, is now a teaching assistant. He'll finish serving his prison term in September and already has a job lined up.

His horse, Happy, is also starting a new life, and has already been adopted.

"Happy was the first horse I'd been around. She suffered an injury in the field. She was a needless to say, a cantankerous thing," Will says. "I guess something changed in her. She's very likable now. Loves attention.”

It was not just Happy who changed. Ann Ticker, of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, says Will also had some behavior issues at first.

“Will came into the program a very insecure young man from a troubled background," she says. "He had no idea what he wanted to do...Will is now a confident young man. We have a wonderful job for him and a place to live.”

With an opportunity awaiting him when he's released, Will is confident that he can turn his life around.

“I don't ever want to go back to the person that I was, or come back to here," he says.

The odds are in Will's favor. According to program organizers, few of the inmates who complete the program return to prison. Both animals and inmates alike seem to be taking advantage of this second chance.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Dale from: Virginia Beach VA
July 31, 2012 6:16 PM
I had the honor and priviledge to visit Covert Action and Multiple Choice (great grandson of Secretariat) last month at the Goochland facility. It was an emotional time for me and I will never forget my time spent with them. I love Secretariat and I never thought I would be able to meet some of his off spring. I play to go back sometime in August and at least once every month or two to visit and bring them apples and carrots. Thanks to Amy and the guys there for making this a highlight of my life

by: Bobbie from: NJ
July 31, 2012 2:31 PM
What more could you ask for?
Save Horses
Save People
Save Money in the long run
Everybody wins!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs