In prison for drugs, horses show her new path

Farrah Ward was a high-ranking member of her town’s sheriff department before she was incarcerated at the Lowell Correctional Institution. There, she met OTTBs like Cut Music, pictured, and found peace. Photos courtesy Farrah Ward

Farrah Ward was a high-ranking member of her town’s sheriff department before she was incarcerated at the Lowell Correctional Institution. There, she met OTTBs like Cut Music, pictured, and found peace. Photos courtesy Farrah Ward

Beneath the sheltering leaves of a dogwood tree, a once-respected member of a Florida sheriff’s department, stripped of her dignity, her job and her self-worth, kneeled down in her prison garb near a gentle ex-racehorse who himself had never amounted to much.

Pale chestnut Frosty Grin, with no obvious care in the world, lowered his head to snack in companionable silence as Farrah Ward lowered her head to rest it against a park bench beneath the tree. And there on the prison grounds of the Lowell Correctional Institution, she clasped her hands together and prayed.

“I was raised in a very strong Christian family. They were leaders in the church. But when I started living my life wrong, I lost touch with God,” Ward says. “I never felt comfortable praying in prison, with everybody around. But when I found that tree, and was there with Frosty, I suddenly felt comfortable, and I got down on my knees. It was just me and my horse; it was such a relief.”

From the time she was incarcerated in October 2011 on charges related to prescription drug abuse until the day she was released, on Aug. 9, 2014, Ward has been on a journey of personal growth, landing in the depths of despair—“my name made headlines for four days … I was such a disappointment to everyone”—and working her way back to self respect.

Farrah and Carterista enjoy a moment in the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Ocala, Fla. facility.

Farrah and Carterista enjoy a moment in the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Ocala, Fla. facility.

Though she was afraid of horses before she met Frosty Grin at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances program,which teaches inmates horsemanship skills by caring for retired racehorses, a peace soon found her while spending her days grooming the 24-year-old gelding.

“I took care of Frosty for eight months. He was a beginner horse who needed a lot of extra attention because he was at the bottom of the pack, and got run off his feed bowl all the time,” she says. “He was like an elderly person who needed someone to take care of him, and I loved that. I would take him to the back paddock and groom him outdoors because he didn’t like being groomed in his stall. You could do anything with that horse, he was just so sweet and loving.”

As she worked with Frosty, her fear of horses receded and her confidence grew. It wasn’t only the hands-on experience caring for the former racehorse, it was the also the victories she won learning a new skill that boosted her feelings of self worth.

Frosty Grin was the horse Farrah spent the most time with, including moments praying at a tree in the prison grounds.

Frosty Grin was the horse Farrah spent the most time with, including moments praying at a tree in the prison grounds.

“It may sound a little weird to say this about a horse program, but the experience has taught me that just because I’ve made a mistake, I’m a better person than the poor choices I’ve made in my past,” she says. “Having to study materials and take tests and pass them gave me back my self esteem.”

Prior to her incarceration, Ward worked in a senior position at a sheriff department in a small Florida town. Though she still faces the scorn of those who say to her, “once a drug addict, always a drug addict,” she has stayed strong in the year she has been out. Focusing on reconnecting with her two teenage children, on finding work, and repairing relationships, she looks back on her time at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances program as a pivotal moment in her life.“It may sound a little weird to say this about a horse program, but the experience has taught me that just because I’ve made a mistake, I’m a better person than the poor choices I’ve made in my past,” she says. “Having to study materials and take tests and pass them gave me back my self esteem.”

“My first few months working with these beautiful horses, I was so afraid,” she says. “But it wasn’t long into my journey that I saw my self-esteem begin to build, and my self-worth began to grow. These horses depended on us every day, and we did not fail them like we had done so many people in our past … I began to realize that hopelessness and failure was not who Farrah was. That thinking was not going to define my future. I could and would be a productive human again—I realized I was not a total loss.” — Originally published Aug. 7, 2015.

14 responses to “In prison for drugs, horses show her new path”

  1. Walt Blackstock

    Very compelling story Farrah. I wish you the best with your life and all the happiness you find.

  2. Marie

    What a beautiful testimony to His grace! So proud of you! Keep sharing for all of us to hear. If I have passed you without speaking please forgive me! I have been praying for you for many years! So blessed by your testimony!

  3. Hope Simmons

    Farrah, I was blessed to cross paths with you, even if it was being incarcerated. I feel many ways as you. This was a blessing for me too. It’s what u make of a situation and you and I made it positive.
    God Bless!

  4. Gilles Gosselin

    Hello Farrah , an old lady farmer once said to me years ago ” Anyone who loves and cares for animals is a good person ” Thank God for people like you. I do not believe in ” Once a drug addict, always a drug addict ” prove them wrong by staying strong. Every time you feel weak and vulnerable just look straight in your horse’s eyes. It will give you the strenght to continue enjoying the buetyfull new life you deserve.

    1. Farrah Ward

      Thank you so much for your encouraging words!!

    2. Becky Hudson

      Farrah we are not put here as fruit inspectors ! So honey hold your head high and let God lead you where you wants you!! The best is yet to come! We love you

  5. Gail Smith

    Congratulations Farrah – our life paths can be both unpredictable and tortuous for us – and for those who love us – but you are finding the sunshine that is there beyond the clouds and blessed in finding the love and respect that horses share with the world – please keep horses as a part of your life – you will never regret finding you can be a voice for them and give them something back … hugz and very best wishes… x

    1. Farrah Ward

      So true! Thank you!!

  6. Lisa Michelle

    I am so very proud of you!. Horses are very magical and I love that you found that connection between the two of you. You are blessed. Keep sharing this journey you experienced with horses.. there are so many people that would bennifit from the pureness of their hearts. You will always want to he around them because it’s such a good feeling place.

    1. Farrah Ward

      Thank you! I firmly believe that once someone can connect with a horse they have found a love like no other.

  7. Kim Alexander

    Wishing her all the best. I hope she is doing well.
    So happy she found the healing world of horses.

    1. Farrah Ward

      Thank you! I am doing very well and enjoying my life everyday. Although it sounds crazy to say, prison and TRF was the best thing that could have happened to me. It saved my life.

  8. nohorseslaughter ortiz

    You are VERY special! I hope we can speak sometime. <3

    1. Farrah Ward

      Thank you. I am willing to share my journey anytime with anyone. If my battles help one person they were well worth it! My email is greatmercy1977@gmail.com. And my email address is great mercy because my Savior has had GREAT MERCY on me and my life

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