Wallkill Correctional Facility
Photo by: Mim Adkins
Wallkill is where it all began.
In 1984, a gelding named Promised Road walked off a van and on to the grounds of the Wallkill Correctional Facility in upstate, New York, the first horse ever under the care of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. The TRF’s dream of providing homes for retired race horses who may otherwise be subject to abuse or slaughter was a reality.
All these years later, Wallkill is still going strong. It has been the home of hundreds of TRF retirees over the years and continues to provide the dual benefit of helping horses and people. Not only have the retired Thoroughbreds found a safe and caring home, but the inmates who tend to them have reaped tremendous benefits. The TRF developed a state-accredited vocational training course in horse care and management. This innovative approach has become the prototype for other TRF programs and a model for other organizations.
Even more importantly, the inmates develop a bond with another being, the value of which is immeasurable. For many, it is a lesson in trust and compassion that has helped make them better citizens upon their release.
“Working with the horses saved my life,” said Jay Schleifer, a former Wallkill inmate who is now an alcohol and substance abuse counselor with the New York Department of Correctional Services. “Around them I could let my guard down. I could be myself. I could also learn from them…about love, trust and caring. And I also realized how much in common we had. We were all in pretty bad shape and we might have been beaten down, but we were definitely not out. Together, we could all make it.”