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Death-farm horse heals the hurt of an inmateThoroughbred Retirement Foundation

Death-farm horse heals the hurt of an inmate

By on September 16, 2016


A year after his rescue from Peaceable Farms in Orange, Va., Ollie has blossomed at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Photo by Officer Shane Clarke

About a year after Ollie (JC: Oligopolist) was pulled off a Virginia farm with 80 other endangered and starving equines, the chestnut Thoroughbred ex-racehorse whose future was so uncertain then now brings comfort to a prisoner who relates to the animal’s struggle and triumph.

“He’s been through a lot,” says James River Work Center inmate William (last name withheld), an avid participant in a horse/inmate program offered by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF, Inc.). “He had a hard life; he got the wrong end of the stick, but he turned out to be an awesome horse.”

So inspirational is the friendly OTTB who has blossomed into the “prettiest horse we have,” and who shares a tight bond with the inmate, that the simple routines, a head lifted and turned to acknowledge the prisoner’s presence in his paddock, and a gentle nuzzle, is a bright spot giving William hope for better days when his prison term ends this January.

“I’ve never had anything like him in my life,” says William, who notes that the quite moments together have made prison life far better. “He’s like a reward.”

When he walks out to the field to retrieve the horse, William sees the horse Ollie has become: well rounded, shiny and happy. A horse who is a far cry from the ribby, dusty animal seized by authorities last October from Peaceable Farms in Orange, Va.


William, an inmate participating in the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances program for horses and inmates, has found comfort working with Ollie. Photo by Officer Shane Clarke

In one of the largest animal rescues in the history of the area, the Orange County Sheriff led a massive effort to save sick, dying and malnourished horses from the nonprofit charity farm. Horse farms, charities, and good Samaritans converged on the property with trailers to remove dozens upon dozens of equines. And as charges were brought against the farm’s owner Anne Goland, who was brought up on 27 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, Ollie and fellow OTTB To Clem made their way from a foster facility to the TRF last December.

James River TRF founder Anne Tucker said at the time that finding room at the TRF for two more needy horses was “the right thing to do.” Though the country’s oldest and largest Thoroughbred charity cares for nearly 900 horses in farms throughout the country, Ollie and To Clem were special cases who deserved a helping hand, Tucker said at the time.

Since arriving last December, Ollie has filled out and is being trained as a riding horse, says Officer Shane Clarke. And in his quiet way, Ollie has inspired inmates like William with his quiet, friendly manner, and his perseverance in troubled times.

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