National Program Benefits Inmates, Horses
By BEN BAUGH Staff writer THE AIKEN STANDARD
The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation has helped thousands of retired racehorses nationwide and has made a positive influence on the lives of the horses and those individuals taking care of them. South Carolina has partnered with the national agency to provide a safe haven for these horses.
“The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation is the last hope for many horses, a great number of which are at the end of their lives,” said Tom Ludt, chairman of the TRF. “TRF has provided compassionate care to the horses for more than 25 years and proudly serves more than 1,100 horses at approximately 30 farms around the nation.”
The Second Chances program at Wateree River Correctional Institution in Rembert is included in that number. At Wateree, the inmates tend to the care and well-being of the horses stabled at Seabiscuit Stable.
The benefits of the Second Chances program and vocational school are symbiotic as the inmates help rehabilitate the horses and the retired racehorses play a role in helping the inmates in their recovery.
According to John Rainey, the national TRF treasurer, the recidivism rate for those inmates going through the program is markedly less (about 12 percent) than those who don’t take part (70 percent).
The program has received no money from the state since 2008 and relies on private donations. It has met the challenges despite a difficult economy.
“We’re in great shape,” said Rainey, who has played a critical role in the South Carolina Committee of the TRC (SCTRF), not only through his efforts but also by helping to support the Second Chances program financially and by adopting horses some which now reside at his farm. “The South Carolina TRF has about $110,000 in its investment account. All our bills are current. We’re making enough money to keep the program going every day. Financially, we’re in really good shape.”
There are 45 heads at the correctional facility, and the horses interact with the inmates. One of those inmates is Cleo Morrison, who has developed an intense passion and bond with the animals he cares for. Morrison had no previous experience with horses but intends to pursue a career in the equine industry when he is paroled.
“It’s been a wonderful job and learning experience,” said Morrison. “This is the best job that I’ve ever had in the Department of Corrections. You get to spend time with the horses and love and care for them. I’ve been reading about racing and learning about the different breeds. I’ve never ridden a horse, but maybe one day I will.”
Kip Elser, a Thoroughbred trainer at Kirkwood Stable in Camden, served previously as the SCTRF’s chairman. Although he’ has rotated off the board, he has seen the benefits of the program having been involved with it since its inception.
“It’s a wonderful organization doing a great job,” said Elser. “The Second Chances Program and the vocational school continue to do a top notch job. People don’t just donate money, they also donate their time and efforts. It’s still a cause I support with great enthusiasm.”
Aiken-based Dr. Keelin Redmond of Avoca Equine is a SCTRF board member and inspects the horses involved in the program.
For more information on the Second Chance program or on how to donate, contact Page Hodson, secretary of the SCTRF, call (803) 238-2848 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.