Vandalia Correctional Facility
TRF Second Chances Ranch at Vandalia opened in June 2013. Every 6 months, approximately 25 inmates at the minimum-security Vandalia Correctional Facility will participate in the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances vocational program.
“The Illinois Department of Corrections is thrilled to be a part of this unique program and I am so thankful for all of the efforts of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation,” said former Illinois DOC chief of program services Deb Denning. “The resources that the TRF is providing will assist the department in offering this program to inmates at no cost to taxpayers. I believe the opportunities this program will provide to our inmates will greatly assist them in finding employment post-incarceration which is a proven factor in lowering recidivism rates.”
Nicola Wheeler, who worked for some of Thoroughbred racing’s top trainers, was recently named Farm Manager/Instructor at the Second Chances Ranch at the Vandalia (Ill.) Correctional
Wheeler oversees 19 horses at Vandalia.
For eight years, Wheeler worked for Sir Henry Cecil, the late Champion Trainer who is, considered among Thoroughbred racing’s greatest trainers. Previously, Wheeler was a regular exercise rider for champion trainer John Gosden, as well as Harry Thomson Jones, a credited flat and jump trainer.
Wheeler, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, rode her first horse at age four, and held a jockey’s license while working for trainer Colin Dingwall.
Wheeler has also worked with Paso Fino horses and was a horse handler for the world famous Clydesdales.
The program is funded by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, the Illinois Department of Corrections Office of Adult Education & Vocational Services, and the Illinois Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association.