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.
“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.
“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.
11 responses to “5 years at Blackburn taught service, trust”
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?
Alice, I think it’s a great idea for crime victims to get equine therapy. And it’s taking place at therapeutic centers. The focus on this story is that the Second Chances program by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which is horse-focused, celebrated it’s 15th anniversary. Mr. Sorrell, who has paid his debt to society, has emerged from this as more than their guest speaker, but as someone who has seen his life changed. He has paid his debt to society, and credits the TRF and the chapel and Catholic Charities with helping him. When someone is rehabilitated, this is a good thing.
Susan, it is a good thing to rehab those who’ve done wrong, and I’m glad the focus is on the horses. It just seems we hear more about prisoners engaged with equine therapy than we do about victims receiving such therapy. If there were more equine therapy centers for trauma victims, more horses could be saved. I love your site and am so glad you’re spreading the word about the priceless value and beauty of off-track Tbreds. Your pieces are always so well-written and interesting. Thank you!
I hear you. Having been in the newspaper business for a decade or longer and then marketing later on, I sometimes forget that most people do not understand how a story gets generated. Many stories come to me via press releases from large nonprofit charities, as was the case with this story about the TRF’s 15-year anniversary. They also provided Mr. Sorrell’s contact information, as they are proud of him, and what he has achieved since his incarceration and release.
I also get many,many,many people reaching out to me about their own personal stories.
Though I have also written about horse-therapy programs, I suspect it is more difficult for these entities to generate press release material for people like me, for all kinds of reasons. For one thing, most crime victims do not want to be named in a story. But it is the personal experiences that really *sell* a story, not the dry material about this or that organization. This story about the TRF’s 15 anniversary at Blackburn would have been far less interesting without Mr. Sorrell, for example.
Also, a lot of people who are engaged in the very laudable work of helping others through horses do not necessarily understand how to get their stories across, or how to write a press release.
I’d hire myself out for this, but unfortunately, it’s not exactly a financially thriving area.
Fantastic story and congratulations to Sorrell.
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.
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.
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
I LOVE this!! Everyone deserves a second chance, people and horses alike. LOVE LOVE LOVE
I couldn’t agree more, Linda.
It’s inspiring to see how horses affect us, no matter who we are or where we’ve come from. Great story!