Retired racehorses are helping inmates build their resumes at a Marion County correctional institution
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - It’s a second chance they thought they’d never get.
“We come into this situation and it’s unfortunate. We feel as if it’s the end, but it’s not,” said Akaysha Richardson, inmate.
It’s just the beginning of a career for many female inmates at the Lowell Correctional Institution.
The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chance Program is not only offering retired racehorses a second chance, but a second chance for these women as well.
“I wake up in the morning and all I look forward to is seeing these horses every single day,” said Robin Greinke, inmate.
The program has been around for nearly 20 years and inmates learn both life and vocational skills such horse anatomy, equine nutrition, how to care for injuries and other aspects of horse care.
“When I first started the program, I was so afraid, of every animal out here, from the horses down to the cats. I was terrified, but I gave it chance and I overcame my fear and now there’s nothing you can’t get me to do,” Richardson said.
Monday through Friday, from 7:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., 13 women come out to the farm to take care of nearly 50 horses.
The bond isn’t just between these women and their horses, but it’s also between each woman as well. One inmate has been in the program for over three years and she said her favorite thing is to watch the other women grow.
“When they get on their horse for the first time after they’ve completed all their tests... just the look on their faces makes it all worth it to me,” said Brandi Jenkins, inmate.
John Evans teaches the program and he said he only expected to work for the program for one year, but now he’s going on 17 years.
“I’ve been a farm manager, a racehorse trainer at the big tracks, I’ve been a steward at some of the big tracks, and this is the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done... thats why I’m still here,” Evans said. “There’s just something about having a positive influence on somebody’s life every single day.”
Many employers work closely with the Second Chance Program to eventually hire some of the women once they leave the prison. Graduates of the program get a certification and often go on to careers as farriers, vet assistants and caretakers.
“We can implement them into our programs here locally as qualified staff. It’s great as an employer because we’re not having to create a learning experience from ground up. There is a huge advantage for these women to come right out of this program and straight into the workforce, to enable them to create positive futures for their life residually,” said Tami Bobo.
“They will not only have a job a secure job they will have vocation, a place to live, a group they work with and know. And they have a little nest egg because we’re paying them,” said Jaqui De Meric, owner of De Meric Stables.
From feeding to grooming, these horses have given these women a purpose and a future.
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