New Starting Gate for Inmates, Retired Race Horses


For ex-racehorses, new life; for the inmates, new skills.

The newest residents at Putnamville Correctional Facility aren’t there for bad behavior.

Prison officials this week brought in the first six of 50 retired racehorses that will take up residence at a neighboring farm, sparing them from likely death.

The Thoroughbreds will be made available for adoption. They also will be trained so they can be placed in riding programs for the handicapped and other therapeutic programs.

“It’s a win-win situation for the state, the horses and the offenders,” prison Superintendent Al Parke said Friday.

“We’ll be providing a viable alternative for horses that would otherwise be ending up in the slaughterhouse.”

What’s more, prisoners will be trained in how to care for horses.


At least initially, about 20 inmates will work with the horses, learning how to groom them and spot health problems. Eventually, more will participate.

Because the farm is across the highway from the prison, only nonviolent offenders cleared for off-site work will be allowed to participate.

Other states that have created similar programs have seen the good it does for prisoners, many of whom have never had another creature that depends on them, said Barbara Holcomb, the prison’s equine instructor.

“It will, I’m sure, fill some voids,” she said. “It’s going to make them feel like they’re worth something.

They’re giving back to some animal that wasn’t going to have a chance at life. They know how it feels to be given a second chance.”

Two of the six horses that arrived this week had been slated to be killed, she said.

Prisoners and prison staff jointly built the barns that will house the horses, mostly from lumber milled from trees on the prison grounds.

Prisoners who go through the program will learn not only how to care for horses, but also business skills required to run a stable, which could be a viable occupation for them once they’re released, Holcomb said.

Indianapolis Star, Andy Gammill


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. what is the name of the horse in the picture with the man???????????????

  2. Hello
    I am writing for a french equestrian magazine.
    We wrote an article about inmates and horses saved from races … i am looking for a nice pic, maybe you could find one for us ?
    Best regards

    Elisabeth Rougevin-Baville
    “equ’idée” manager

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