California Prison’s Equine Care Program Finishes First Year

The Pleasant Valley State Prison program, an extension of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances/Groom Elite Program, offers second careers to its racehorses and vocational training for student/inmates.
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California Prison’s Equine Care Program Finishes First Year
OTTB Slycy and PVSP TRF Second Chances participants | Photo: Courtesy Dennis Gallegos

On Tuesday, Oct. 27, 10 student/inmates began a new semester at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s (TRF) Equine Care Program at the Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP), in Coalinga, California.

The program opened in October 2019, coinciding with the prison’s 25th anniversary celebration. The program is an extension of the TRF’s Second Chances/Groom Elite Program, which began in 1983 at the Wallkill State Correctional Facility, near New Paltz, New York. Former racehorses enjoy a tranquil sanctuary home at Second Chances, which is now offered at prisons in New York, California, Kentucky, Florida, Illinois, and South Carolina. In return, the horses provide hands-on vocational instruction in horse care, as well as lessons in mutual respect, compassion, responsibility, and trust.

“The four groups that made this happen—the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, the (California) Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, West Hills College, and Harris Farms—worked extremely well together,” said Heidi Richards, whose work with the Equine Care Program earned her the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) 2020 Corrections Officer of the Year Award. “We had 30 student/inmates in the first class, and 28 were certified. We are very excited about how successful the program is

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