A rescued OTTB helps female inmates to heal at TRF Lowell
by Susan Salk
A bright chestnut racehorse who was saved by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation from the clutches of starvation in early April has entered a bleak world and filled it with hope.
Nickering to women serving prison sentences at the Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala, Fla., Cannwyll spends his days sheltered from the blazing Florida sun enjoying the cool breeze of a barn fan, and the affection of inmates who to a one, say their lives are made better by the presence of the 4-year-old gelding.
“You can’t help but smile when you’re in his presence,” says Taylor Bond, an inmate assigned to groom and care for Cannwyll. “I know that horses are brought to this farm to get a second chance at life, but in reality we’re the ones who get the chance.”
Often found sitting outside his stall studying her equine material as she masters horsemanship skills taught through the Second Chances program, which pairs inmates with equines at prisons across the country, Cannwyll watches as Bond studies.
“He brightens our day, no matter what is going on in the world beyond the fence,” Bond adds.
And in was in that world beyond the prison fence that Cannwyll was rescued just one month after his last race at Gulfstream Park. Seized by a sergeant of the Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control unit who was acting on a tip, the 4-year-old gelding was discovered emaciated and friendless.
“His ribs and hips were clearly visible and there was a gap between his hind legs,” Sgt. Max Sharpe told Off-Track Thoroughbreds. “In my opinion he was a 1.5 on the Henneke Body Score System. He was emaciated.”
News of his rescue stunned former racing connections, including former trainer Sharon McGlinchey, who told Off-Track Thoroughbreds that she was sick to hear the details when the news broke.
“I couldn’t believe it when I heard … I sent him to a farm for a month layup and when I checked on him, I was told not to worry because they’d found him a great home with a 60-year-old lady,” McGlinchey said. “I’m just so shocked. I’m one of those people who takes their horses back if there’s ever a problem, no questions asked.”
Instead, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation stepped in with the perfect solution. As soon as he was ready, and using monies from the Adam Sigler Fund, which was specifically established to rescue horses, Cannwyll was sent to the Ocala facility to regain his health.
Farm Manager John D. Evans says that in short order he had the inmates wrapped around his hoof!
“It’s amazing the difference he makes, and the other horses make, for the women here,” he says. “They bond with these horses, and a lot of them won’t be incarcerated again after this,” in large part due to the healing experience of working with Thoroughbreds.
Inmates develop confidence and self worth in the presence of horses like Cannwyll— animals with an infinite capacity to forgive and trust.
“They help each other,” Evans says.