Providing second chances for retired Thoroughbred race horses and the men who care for them is the idea behind Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF). The James River chapter of the TRF was founded in 2007 at the James River Work Center in Goochland County, VA. It is one of the now ten "Second Chances" programs that TRF has at correctional facilities around the country.
|On left, Nikki Linaman assistant warden in charge of James River work center, Ann Tucker on right.|
The national organization was founded in 1983 with the mission to save retired Thoroughbreds from neglect, abuse and slaughter. Since then it has grown to 22 facilities located both at traditional farms and correctional facilities. At every TRF location the horses are assured a lifetime of care, and adoption to loving homes.
|Leading the horses through the obstacles|
At the James River TRF they've adopted out nearly 40 horses already. Horses who most likely had no promise of love and care in their future. Dozens of human lives have been changed in that time too.
|Waiting patiently with his horse in the obstacles|
Current President of The James River TRF, Anne Tucker says, "I joined the effort to take care of rescued racehorses that might otherwise not be cared for. I had no idea that working with these wonderful Thoroughbreds would have such an impact on the lives of these men, non-violent offenders who have much to offer if given a chance. We have certified over 50 men, many of whom have been released and are holding jobs both in and outside of the horse industry. Saving a life, how do you put a value on that?"
Offenders selected from a pool of applicants are assigned to the program for a specific period of training, during which they care for the horses on a daily basis – leading in and out, mucking stalls, grooming, feeding, doing round-pen work. This hands-on experience is complemented by classroom training in equine nutrition, physiology, tack and stable management. TRF uses the Groom Elite curriculum, developed by Reid McLellan, Ph.D., and taught at racetracks. Graduates become certified, and the Foundation assists them, upon their release, in finding jobs in the horse industry.
|A tender moment between horse & man|
"I am so wonderfully amazed at the impact this program has had on the men passing through the program." Anne says. "We are so grateful for our wonderful trainers, Jess Bowen and Brooks Clement, and the hard work of our adoption coordinators. We currently care for 22 horses, including Covert Action, a grandson of Secretariat, and Multiple Choice, a multiple graded stakes winner and great grandson of the big red horse born just up the road. Both of these horses will be at the Virginia State Fair on opening day, Sept. 27, to help celebrate the legacy of Secretariat at his birthplace."
This is truly a place where horses help men to learn how to give, accept and make the most of second chances. "Of the men in the program now, four new men will begin their course with Dr. McLellan this week, and three men who have been studying for six months will be tested. On Friday we expect to have another graduation, another cause for celebration." Anne explained.
|Mike (on left) adopted "Step" - Kevin (who cared for Step) hands the lead to Mike. Another happy moment.|
Thank you Anne and everyone at TRF for caring enough to help horses and men find new beginnings together.
You can visit James River chapter of Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation on the web (HERE) and on Facebook (HERE)
Gitty up ~ Dutch Henry