Four retired racehorses from Suffolk Downs moved into their new home on Tuesday, stepping into sawdust-covered stalls built for them by prison inmates at a 90-acre farm not far from the rocky coastline where the Pilgrims first stepped ashore.
The horses will live at the Plymouth County Sheriff's Farm, where the prisoners converted part of an unused dairy barn into a stable for Thoroughbreds that otherwise might be destined for slaughter. Sheriff's officers aboard Clydesdales and Shires–part of Boston's Mounted Unit before it was disbanded this summer for budgetary reasons–led the racehorses to their stalls.
"These are great athletes," said Suffolk Downs majority owner Richard Fields, who through his family foundation has committed $135,000 to build and operate the stable. "The horses are the real stars of our great sport and they deserve to be taken care of appropriately when they are retired from racing."
Along with saving the horses, the program gives inmates a chance to learn how to care for the animals and gives them a chance to be licensed as a groomsman, hot-walker, or other job on the racetrack's backstretch. Inmates who care for the animals also get out of the prison for the whole day, and qualify for good-behavior time for their work.
"The land still exists in the spirit in which it was set aside many years ago," Sheriff Joseph D. McDonald Jr. said, noting that the farm is no longer big enough to supply food for a prison that has grown to 1,650 beds. "It gives a new lease on life not only for the Thoroughbreds but also a new lease on life for the inmates. In caring for the T