5 years at Blackburn taught service, trust

Randall Sorrell learned service to others, partnership and trust while incarcerated at Blackburn.  He and Deacon, a Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation horse, participated in the Second Chances Program there, which celebrates is 15th anniversary today.

Randall Sorrell learned service to others, partnership and trust while incarcerated at Blackburn. He and Deacon, a Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation horse, participated in the Second Chances Program there, which celebrates is 15th anniversary today.

Randall Sorrell was locked up at the Blackburn Correctional Complex in Lexington, Ky., for nearly five years. It was his lucky break!

While serving time for “making a bad choice while in Kentucky on vacation,” he started to make good choices as a participant in the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s (TRF) Second Chances Program, which celebrates its 15th anniversary today.

While working with retired racehorse Thoroughbreds, Sorrell says he learned many things, including building trust between man and horse, giving and receiving. “I also learned about the effectiveness of partnership. If you look at the relationship between a human and a horse, it’s built on trust and mutual respect,” he says during a telephone interview with Off Track Thoroughbreds. “Those are life skills, some call it horse sense, and they’re easily transferable from the horse barn to interactions with people outside.”

That work, as well as a deep connection with the prison’s chapel and volunteers from the Lexington Catholic Charities prison ministry taught him to “live in service to others” every chance he gets.

Inmates bathe Ask the Lord at Blackburn's Second Chances Program.

Inmates bathe Ask the Lord at Blackburn’s Second Chances Program.

“I was blessed before I went to prison. I had a moderate level of success, and a good education,” he says. “But I made a bad choice on vacation in Kentucky, and I paid the consequences. I deserved to.”

Sorrell returns to the complex today a new man. A commodities marketing consultant who works with farmers to mitigate their risk for downward price movement, he is a successful businessman with his feet on the ground, and his heart with the Kentucky program that gave him his second chance.

An invited guest and speaker at the anniversary celebration, Sorrell will talk about how the relationships he developed working with ex-racehorses as well as his involvement with the prison chapel gave him opportunities to start anew.

Inmates and horses learn mutual trust and respect.

Inmates and horses learn mutual trust and respect. EquiSportPhotos image courtesy of the TRF.

“I’ve always kept the TRF in the back of my mind. I’ve gone to fundraisers and I’ve talked often … with my clients about opportunities there, and options for their horses,” he says.

The Open House runs from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. today, and will feature talks by other special guests, including Bryan Beccia, a graduate who is an exercise rider who worked Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin.

Guests will also be given a tour of the facility, which opened its TRF Second Chances Program in April 1999 after the Commonwealth of Kentucky donated 100 acres to the program. Blackburn is currently home to 58 former racehorses, including Ask the Lord, who earned more than $700,000 in 83 races, and Argentina-bred Sovereign Kit, who raced 85 times and earned more than $440,000. ♥

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11 responses to “5 years at Blackburn taught service, trust”

  1. alice fulton

    It’s good to see that Mr. Sorrell is doing so well. That said, the victims of crimes such as the one he committed need equine therapy more than the perpetrators. Wouldn’t it be great to have therapy for the victims as well as for the criminals?

  2. Cynthia

    Fantastic story and congratulations to Sorrell.

  3. Patty Hamilton

    Horses make a difference in everyones lives that are touched by them. Great story of Mr. Sorrell’s horse experiences made a difference to benefit many. We need the Second Chance Programs for retired race horses. Racehorses worked hard to earn retirement with dignity. Keep up the good work to all involved with these programs.

  4. Michelle Y.

    I love reading the stories about the Second Chances Program. I work in a similar field (corrections) and we have a wild mustang program in my state. Inmates really enjoy gentling and training the mustangs and at their parole hearings they seem very proud of the work they do.

  5. Ellen Brayshaw

    The spirit if a horse gives in many ways. But when it comes to healing the human soul, that is where the most is given……..Ellen Brayshaw

  6. Linda Scruton

    I LOVE this!! Everyone deserves a second chance, people and horses alike. LOVE LOVE LOVE

    1. Jackie Ashton de Floris

      I couldn’t agree more, Linda.

  7. edna

    It’s inspiring to see how horses affect us, no matter who we are or where we’ve come from. Great story!

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