Horses under rainbow show inmate a new path

Carterista, 27, and Esposito met at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's Second Chances program in Florida. The meeting changed the life for the former inmate, who now works for the Florida Horse Park.

Carterista, 27, and Esposito met at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances program in Florida. The meeting changed the life for the former inmate, who now works for the Florida Horse Park. Photo by Sally Moehring, FTBOA

A former inmate who had lost almost everything when she was sentenced to four years in a Florida jail found “some peace” in her life and a path to a new career after embracing the surprise opportunity to participate in a prisoner/racehorse program.

After taking a leap of faith that her prison’s Thoroughbred program could somehow help right her ship that had sailed so off course in life, Kelly Esposito, 51, of Ocala, Fla., graduated the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances horsemanship program and landed on solid ground.

In January, after she was released from jail, Esposito began work at the Florida Horse Park in Ocala, performing a property maintenance job that has anchored her to good people, and wonderful horses, she says.

“I have a great support system now,” she says. “I had a job waiting for me at (a local restaurant) when I got out, but I still had some time left in my day. Then I got a call from the Florida Horse Park offering me a position to do stall work to start.”

After working together for a year, Esposito's confidence in her new role with horses grew. Images by DiMarco photo

After working together for a year, Esposito’s confidence in her new role with horses grew. Images by DiMarco photo

Starting with three shifts a week, Esposito has taken on increasing responsibilities, including working with tractors and other equipment.

The work is good for her soul, she says, noting that she discovered a love for horses and tractor driving when she enrolled in the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances Program in 2013. The program, which teaches life skills to inmates, who in turn care for a herd of retired off-track Thoroughbreds, was like a godsend to her, she says.

“The first thing I remember was the van ride over to the farm. When you get in the van, you come up this long, long driveway uphill. And I don’t know why it is, if it’s the moisture in the air over the fields, but there’s always a rainbow,” she says. “The first time I saw that rainbow I started crying. That was the moment I decided I could do this everyday.”

And though the former healthcare worker had no experience with horses—“I was scared to death for the first two weeks because the horses were so huge!”— She was immediately taken under the wing of TRF Farm Manager John Evans.

Carterista was the first horse Esposito was assigned to care for. The work changed her life. Photo by Brock Sheradon

Carterista was the first horse Esposito was assigned to care for. The work changed her life. Photo by Brock Sheradon

“Mr. Evans assigned me to Carterista, a gelding who’s turning 27 this year. He required special care, and he was my first,” she says. “He was a great horse at one time. He was a two-time turf champion and got a standing ovation at Calder field.”

She didn’t know racing stats before she started with the program either. But in the company of the impressive ex-racehorses and Evans, Esposito soon knew the racing highlights as well as the healthcare requirements of the whole herd.

Horses, she says, gave her comfort when nothing else could. And over the course of two years working among them, she discovered that life, despite her mistakes that led her to prison, would turn out okay.

Keeping in frequent contact with Evans, Esposito has been welcomed into a support system of former inmates who’ve been through the Second Chances program. They have each other’s back, and keep each other focused on the horses and on moving past their prison terms, she says.

“I just got a car!” she says with delight. “I go to meetings, have great support in my life now. And I think this work is what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.”

13 responses to “Horses under rainbow show inmate a new path”

  1. theresa

    Awe Kelly I know you miss this boy I miss my shakers so much this is a wonderful program that touched and changed allot of lives

  2. Connie Bonbrest

    . With the unending support from John and Marsha Evans, this is just one of many beautiful success stories. If only more people would give ex-felons a chance, our world would be a better place.

    1. Kelly esposito

      You are very kind and yes Marsha and mr Evans have been a blessing in my life without them I would not be where I am today! My biggest fear was no one would give me a chance when I was released but they gave me the confidence that I would be ok, knowing them has made me a better person to others and to myself that I am worth something!

  3. Margaret

    How awesome for you that you found the courage to proceed being around horses! Yup, they’re big! But it’s a love like no other in the universe!

    1. Kelly esposito

      There is truly nothing that gives me a feeling of peace!!

  4. Marsha

    Kelly, we are so very proud of you! You GO, Girl!

    1. Kelly esposito

      I don’t know where I would be in life right now without the both of your love and support, thank you for allowing me to be part of your lives, I love you both!

  5. Frank Newman

    Ms Esposito, The Great God Almighty has blessed you with another chance to become a beacon of Hope, It is up to you to continue on the “Good” path.
    Support is great, but it still comes down to you making good choices.
    Prayer is required and most welcome…….NOTHING is impossible through the path God has set for you.
    You will do great things in the name of the Lord…….Shine On Mary.

    1. Kelly esposito

      God is great! Took me a long time to believe I had one in my life!

  6. lexi63

    such a great program for all, saves the lives of so many humans & horses , i just love this , hoping they open more of these programs up around the country , horses so need these programs to save so many of their lives that would otherwise most likely end up at a foreign slaughterhouse & obviously it changes the lives of so many humans

    1. Kelly esposito

      I wish more people could have the opportunity to experience the program it changed my life forever thanks for you support.

  7. Mary McLeod

    Kelly, have you discovered that special smell of horse and leather touches your heart in a way nothing else does? High hooves and three whinnies for your new career path. May the Good Lord continue to bless you, Mary in Boone

    1. Kelly esposito

      There is nothing else like it! I pray one day I will wake up every morning to my own horses but for right now any horses will do there all my babies!

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