A Second Chance For Horses and Humans

Sunday, May 9, 2021
Posted by Mary Phelps



One of the biggest dilemmas facing the equine industry today is the need for qualified, dedicated, and knowledgeable help. The need for caring for and managing equine athletes, farms, breeding, and training operations has reached a critical level. Throughout the country, there have been programs in the prison systems, some in existence for years, where horses and humans are connected and where the healing for both begins.

Second Chances Farm, at the Lowell Correctional Institute, in Ocala, Florida, is the first and currently the only program for women. Many of the horses are donated thoroughbreds, some injured for life, others being rehabilitated for a new life, just like the women who care for them each day.

It's not just about the second chances the horses get who come there, but the second chances the women get in their lives. A chance at a career where they are needed.

Andrea Gotwalls, of Brook Ledge Inc, is an Advisory Member of the Ocala Committee, and is admittedly "hooked". "Any of us who has had horses in their life do not need to be told of the wonders, the skills, the life lessons which horses can shape us into for the rest of our lives," said Andrea. "Horses can teach people to give and receive love—and probably many of the people who are in prison could use that kind of relationship," she added.  

Many of the women have never worked with horses before their internment. To be one of the 15 plus women who can work on the farm each day, they have been through the system to reach this level. The program begins with comprehensive safety and academic equine education program. They learn horse anatomy, conformation, and about potential illnesses, injuries, and how to care for and prevent them.

They are then are transitioned into "hands-on" work on the farm: grooming, general physical care, farrier skills, nutrition, rehabilitation, training, and riding skills. With an average of 50 horses in the program at any given time, each of the women is given four or five horses to care for, plus assisting with the rest of the herd.

Graduates earn a certificate of equine competency and care upon completion of the course. The certificate is recognized as an important occupational qualification by the State of Florida. 

Director John Evans was deeply immersed in the thoroughbred industry before finding his calling at Lowell and has a large network of contacts across the country for placing graduates in the workplace. 

The program is funded through the Florida Thoroughbred Charities, The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, and individual donors, in a 501C3 program. For Kim Weir, Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving this has been her life's calling, and passion. A passion shared with all involved. 

"These women can leave prison with new skills that may help them either land a job in the industry or give them the life skills they need to keep moving forward in a positive direction," adds Gotwalls. "If you have a passion for helping people and horses, Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation hits the sweet spot on both of these.  We need to get the word out about this program. I believe once the world knows about it, they will feel the same way I do." 

Important Links
Kim Weir - Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving
Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation
Second Chances Farm, at the Lowell Correctional Institute
Adopt, Retire or Rescue