TRF marks 30 years pairing inmates with T-breds

TRF Farm Manager Jim Tremper greets Emotional High at the Wallkill Correctional Facility, which celebrates its 30th anniversary of prisoner-horse program Second Chances.

TRF Farm Manager Jim Tremper greets Emotional High at the Wallkill Correctional Facility, which celebrates its 30th anniversary of prisoner-horse program Second Chances.

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation celebrates the 30th anniversary of its hallmark Second Chances program next week at the Wallkill Correctional Facility in New York.

On these grounds where the first of nine programs pairing prisoners with retired ex-racehorses for a transformative experience, a celebration will kick off at 11 a.m., June 19.

The festivities will include a tour of the Wallkill Correctional Facility’s farm, where legendary ex-racehorse Quick Call, 30, happily roams in tranquility after a stellar racing career. Quick Call raced 89 times for Hall of Fame trainer Sid Walters and earned more than $800,000.

But it’s in his role as instructor to inmates where he shines, says Linda Passaretti, director of development for the TRF.

Wallkill Correctional Facility in New York, where horses and prisoners enjoy life's teaching moments. Photo by Mim Adkins

Wallkill Correctional Facility in New York, where horses and prisoners enjoy life’s teaching moments. Photo by Mim Adkins

“There’s such a great movement to provide second careers for ex-racehorses in Eventing and other horse sport. But there’s so many horses coming off the track that are not in the position to do that,” Passaretti says. “Second Chances gives these horses an opportunity to be teachers to help inmates learn a variety of skills.”

Not only do they get practical experience in farm and equipment management, as well as horse keeping, but more importantly, they emerge better people, adds Diana Pikulski, TRF’s vice president of External Affairs.

“One of the reasons this program has enjoyed a steady push forward is because there’s no downside,” Pikulski says. “There’s nothing negative about it. It’s positive for the state, for the citizens of the state, the inmates, the horses and Thoroughbred racing.”

She adds, “This is usually the last program inmates do before they are released, and these horses make them better people before they come out and back into society.”

An inmate and TRF retiree enjoy a hug. Photo by Jon Krai

An inmate and TRF retiree enjoy a hug. Photo by Jon Krai

At any given time, approximately 300 horses in the TRF herd are working in the nine Second Chances programs throughout the country, she says. The TRF hopes to eventually expand the popular program, and is currently in talks with four other states, she says.

Because the TRF is responsible for the capital to convert prison land to suitable housing for horses, such a move would have to come after a major fundraiser, Pikulski says, noting that the TRF targets for conversion prison facilities with good pasture and out-of-use dairy barns.

The genesis of the first Second Chances program occurred when Sen. Howard Nolan, a founding board member of the TRF, noticed the lush green fields surrounding the Wallkill Correctional Facility. At the time, the TRF was looking for a farm to purchase. But Nolan’s casual suggestion that perhaps inmates at Wallkill could take care of the horses, touched off the original idea and first full-fledged program being celebrated next week.

Nolan will be on hand to reflect on the rich and successful history of Second Chances, along with Anthony Annucci, the acting commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections, Wallkill Superintendent Timothy Laffin, Farm Manager Jim Tremper and Diana Pikulski.

6 responses to “TRF marks 30 years pairing inmates with T-breds”

  1. Susan Rossee

    I got the best horse from this program! Win a Game. He came to me ready to start a new life, relaxed, happy and ready to try some new things. I can’t thank the TRF enough for such a great program.

  2. Brooks Clement

    This is a wonderful program. I am the trainer for the James River TRF (in Goochland County, VA) I also adopted both of my horses from there. I can tell you that I know several of our inmates who have stayed in the area upon their release and are now employed by local horse farms. It’s definitely a win-win situation since many or these guys would fall back into old patterns if not for the support they get from the local horse community.

  3. Sc Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation

    Carol Kaler, for a couple of reflections from inmates in their own words, look at our website (www.sctrf.org) and scroll to the bottom of the home page for imate letters. This program really does make a difference to these men.

    Sue, thank you for another inspiring article on the TRF!

  4. Susan Crane-Sundell

    This program really allows inmates a chance to gain some work experience and skill building. It also allows them to bond with horses. There aren’t many bonding experiences available in a prison environment.

    Plus this gives more Thoroughbreds a chance to have a home after the track. They are well monitored and have experienced horse people to oversee their care and monitor the trainees.

    Overall, everyone benefits.

  5. ellen rigney

    I hope all states can have a program like this.

  6. Carol Kaler

    I would love to hear some of the inmates feelings about this program and what / how it has affected them.

Leave a Reply to Susan Crane-Sundell Cancel reply