Two ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds rescued last year in a raid on a Virginia farm filled with starving horses, have blossomed under the gentle care of inmates who learned horsemanship and life skills through the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s (TRF) Second Chances program.
Since arriving at the James River Work Center, where Second Chances trains inmates to care for and love former racehorses, OTTBs Clem (JC: To Clem) and Ollie (JC: Oligopolist) have regained weight, had the shine return to their coats, and in one case, even started re-training as a riding horse.
“Both horses are absolute sweethearts,” says Brooks Clement, a professional Thoroughbred trainer who re-trains OTTBs at the James River facility once a week. “Ollie is rideable and looks like the total show horse package. Clem is sound, and is a real personality at the barn.”
Clement has begun retraining Ollie as a potential jumping and riding horse, and though she has only had a few rides on the rescue horse, he has already shown he possesses talent know how.
“We heard he had been a jumper at one point, and we don’t know exactly how he ended up in the situation he was found in because he’s a great little horse.”
Ollie and Clem were among 80-plus horses rescued last October from Peaceable Farms in Somerset, Va. The farm, which operated as a charity before it was raided by law enforcement personnel, was the scene of widespread animal starvation and even death. Following the raid, horse rescue organizations from throughout Virginia sent vans and trucks to haul out as many as they could. And the entire horse community in the area stepped up to make donations and help. Please see earlier article: http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2015/12/18/2-peaceable-farms-tbreds-find-home-at-trf/
When Anne Tucker, an original founder of the TRF’s James River Second Chances program learned the news, the TRF stepped up to take two off-track Thoroughbreds.
“At the time that we did this, the last thing we needed was more horses,” Tucker says. “But we felt that this was such a horrible situation, and it was taking place right in our state, that we needed to join the many people who pulled together to find homes for these horses. We needed to help.”
She adds, “And we’re very glad we did. They’re both wonderful horses deserving of a break.”
Both animals quickly charmed the inmates at James River, who had been briefed beforehand about the circumstances the animals were rescued from. Immediately, Clem had every inmate doing his bidding!
“The inmates all love Clem. He’s just really, really friendly. And you know how some horses get a bit mouthy after you start giving them treats? Well Clem isn’t like that. He’s so polite and never pushes you around for food,” Tucker says.
And Ollie, she adds, already looks like an ideal show horse. And Clement agrees.
“The first time I got on Ollie, he was a little forward, like he hadn’t been ridden in a long time. But by the second ride, he was very quiet,” she says. “I rode him in a close-contact jumping saddle and a rubber snaffle. We walked and trotted and he appears very sound and very well educated. He’s the type of horse that if someone saw him (and didn’t know his background) they’d think he already was a show horse.”
In the weeks ahead, Clement plans to put more rides on Ollie and train him for possible adoption as a riding horse. And Clem, for now, has earned his place as a barn favorite, teaching inmates the meaning of kindness.
“The inmates knew a little bit about their background when they arrived, and that they’d come out of a big rescue mission,” Tucker says. “It makes them feel good to be able to help these horses.”
The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) is the country’s oldest and largest Thoroughbred charity. In addition to providing a safe haven for nearly 900 Thoroughbreds, the TRF teaches prison inmates life and horsemanship skills through its novel Second Chances program at 9 facilities in the USA.