What Are Thoroughbreds Doing at a Prison?

Since 1985, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation has been a home for retired thoroughbred racehorses, for those that may have nowhere else to go. At the Wallkill, NY farm, those horses are teachers to the inmates in the TRF Second Chances Program. These horses teach the men not only the vocational skills required for horse care and farm management, but also soft skills including patience, respect, and nonverbal communication.

How 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.

OTTB "Tame" (20 years old)

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.”

A sunny day at Wallkill Horse Farm, looking east towards the geldings' field

Poulin Helps Make it Possible

The start of the relationship came years ago when TRF took advantage of the personalized service offered by Poulin Grain. Feed specialist Dan Wright visited the farm, pulled complimentary hay samples, and used the analysis results along with an evaluation of the horses’ condition to customize balanced diets for the herd. There are 50 retired racehorses living at the Wallkill Correctional Facility, with an average age of 18. “To keep these thoroughbreds healthy and well, we feed them Decade® Challenger and E-TEC® Fibre- Max. The TRF team at Wallkill couldn't be more proud of our NY herd, and want to extend a big thanks to our Poulin Grain suppliers at Hudson Valley Feed Service!”

Farm Manager Kelsey Kober & OTTB "More Influence" (22 years old)

You Can Help!

As a 501(c)3 non-profit, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation relies solely upon private charitable donations.

If you would like to learn more, or help support the care of horses at the TRF Second Chances Facility at Wallkill   Correctional, click HERE for more information.

OTTB "Brickbat" (13 years old)

Photos courtesy of Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation


If you would like to learn more about Poulin Grain's complimentary forage analysis and diet balancing services, visit www.poulingrain.com or call 800-334-6731.