All horse-oriented organizations are invited to send representatives to an organizational and information meeting on a rescue program for retired racehorses to be held August 15, 10 a.m., at the Office of Juvenile Justice, State Police Headquarters Building, 7919 Independence Blvd, Baton Rouge, LA 70806, in the Library (park and enter at the front of building, for directions call 225 287 7900.) RSVP to Rmclellan@groomelite.com or call 859-321-4377 for more information.
Anyone interested in providing life-changing opportunities for horses and for incarcerated youth is encouraged to attend. The discussion will center around a proposed rescue/retraining facility to be built at Jetson Center for Youth in Baker, near Baton Rouge, where incarcerated youth will care for the horses while taking vocational training and earn a national industry certification in equine care and grooming. Attend the Second Chances Louisiana meeting on August 15 and be a part of a program in which your participation can provide excellent care for retired racehorses and at the same time provide incarcerated youth an opportunity to learn marketable skills that will help them to become successful, law-abiding citizens upon their release.
The Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) has unused acreage at Jetson Center for Youth available for an equine retirement/retraining facility. OJJ staff and representatives of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s (TRF) Second Chances program have explored the possibility of using a portion of the Jetson acreage to provide a home for retired and or rescued former racehorses, while at the same time providing nationally-recognized vocational training for Jetson’s youthful offenders.
OJJ staff visited the St. Landry Alternative Transitional (SLATS) High School in Opelousas and observed administration of certifying exams to SLATS equine students in the Second Chances High School Groom Elite program, taught by Certified Groom Elite Instructor Brent Fontenot.
“We were impressed with how the curriculum used visual aids and was taught using hands-on practice,” said OJJ Deputy Secretary Dr. Mary L. Livers. “This is the type of program that will help our youth develop skills that will help them get jobs upon release.”
TRF will spearhead a major fund-raising effort to buy materials necessary to provide horse-safe fencing for the Jetson tract, a 10-stall teaching barn and other supplies necessary to make a horse (and people) safe environment. OJJ and Louisiana Department of Corrections crews will provide the labor to build the facility. TRF will then send 15-20 retired racehorses to the new facility and provide funds for their maintenance. First preference will be to Louisiana-bred horses and horses that have raced in Louisiana.
Aftercare is one of the most-discussed subjects in the racing and performance horse industries. One successful aftercare program is the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances program, where inmates incarcerated in prisons work with retired Thoroughbreds. Many of those Thoroughbreds find “forever homes” as a result of the daily care they receive at Second Chances facilities.
The Elite Program Inc., a 501(c3) nonprofit organization headquartered in Lexington, KY provides its Second Chances Groom Elite curriculum and instruction assistance at six TRF Second Chances programs. Inmate-grooms who complete Second Chances Groom Elite take a nationally-recognized certifying exam. Through both written and practical skills assessments, inmate-grooms demonstrate their knowledge and horse care abilities. SCGE graduates that have completed their sentence are working in the equine industry in Virginia, South Carolina Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, New York and beyond.
Statistics gathered by correctional agencies demonstrate that the men and women who work with these horses have a significantly greater likelihood of a prison being their “never again home” than the average prison population. A South Carolina Department of Corrections review in 2010 showed that only 4 of 48 graduates of Wateree River Correctional Institution’s Second Chances Groom Elite 5-year old program, who had been released from incarceration for at least six months, had returned to incarceration. The average for the general WRCI population was 33 of 48.
Dr. C. Reid McLellan, Executive Director of The Elite Program and a native of Louisiana with strong ties to the state said, “My mom still lives on the farm I grew up on in South Baton Rouge. I’m looking forward to providing young people in my home state with a vocational program that has changed people’s lives for the better.”
Diana Pikulski, TRF Vice President, Secretary and Director of External Affairs, plans to attend the August 15 meeting in Baton Rouge. “TRF has Second Chances programs in adult facilities in 10 states and we have seen the benefit to both horses and humans. We are excited about this opportunity to have the first such program in a juvenile facility. We know that retired Thoroughbreds will receive excellent care and the youthful offenders get vocational training and a recognized national certification that will help them become productive members of society.”
A graduate of the South Carolina program shared the benefit of the Second Chances program.
“Prison is a terrible place, a terrible place. I knew I never wanted to come back here. But, I also knew I was the same person. Every night for three years I went to bed with a knot in my stomach because I was afraid I might mess up when I got out and I’d be back in this terrible place. That was until the day I walked out of the round pen with “Ida” walking quietly by my side. I knew then I would never come back!”
Attend the Second Chances Louisiana meeting on August 15 and be a part of a program in which your participation will provide excellent care for racehorses and a young person an opportunity to say, “I will never come back.”