Writing about my racetrack birthday in an earlier blog post got me thinking about the horses’ lives after their race careers. One of the organizations I discovered was the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and their Second Chances program, which happens to operate a facility in the state of Maryland at the Central Maryland Correctional Facility in Sykesville. This summer I contacted Judi Coyne, Program Director at Maryland’s Second Chances Farm, and arranged a visit so I could learn about the program and meet the retired racehorses that now help people get back on their feet. Here’s an amazing video produced by National Geographic about the program.
Second Chances Farm runs a six-month program for inmates at the Central Maryland Correctional Facility. The inmates are trainees in the Groom Elite program which teaches the basics of horse care including grooming, communication, and first aid. Trainees have to pass a final exam at the end of the program to become certified. Some of the inmates go on to become grooms, farm hands, or even farriers when they are released. Ms. Coyne said “the inmates learn about themselves through the work with horses.”
Trainees in the Groom Elite program spend time in the classroom
as well as with the horses in the barn and fields (photos by Toni Koroye)
A sign in the classroom says “ ‘Character’ A man’s character is what he does when no one is watching”
and has a note that reads “JUST FOR TODAY: I choose to believe
that I can make the difference and that I’m in control of my world.”
A grooming station inside the barn and an obstacle course outside
All of the horses at Second Chances Farm come from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF). TRF rescues the horses from possible abuse, neglect, or slaughter and TRF is given unwanted horses as well. TRF then transitions the horses before sending them to places like their Second Chances program where they will have a forever home. There are currently six horses at the Maryland Correctional Facility’s Second Chances farm and they plan to add room for more. Two of the horses, Liang’s Dancer and Judge Luci, are Maryland-bred. Judge Luci is the great-granddaughter of Secretariat.
I met Secretariat's great grand-daughter, Judge Luci,
as well as the other Maryland-bred service horse, Liang’s Dancer
(photo by Toni Koroye)
Ms. Hillenbrand made headlines last year when she sponsored Quite Rightly at the farm. TRF has lots of information on their website about how you can help, including donating goods, funds, and services, as well as adopting or fostering retired race horses. There’s even a wish list for the Second Chances program here.
I got to meet Quite Rightly as well (photo by Toni Koroye)
I will continue to research the race run at my birthday party so I can share that story with you, and in future blogs I’ll talk about other ways race horses find new jobs after the track. Do any of you ride off-track thoroughbreds (OTTBs)? I will share the stories of the OTTBs and their riders at my barn, Dream Catcher Farm, in a future blog post as well.
ABOUT OUR BLOGGER:
My name is Holden Rafey, and I am honored to be serving as the Maryland Horse Council’s Youth Correspondent. As the MHC Youth Correspondent, I will be posting monthly to this blog about horse-related topics in the state of Maryland to give a youth perspective and share information on topics of interest to MHC youth members. I live in Montgomery County and attend Walter Johnson High School, where I play softball and field hockey. My equestrian trainer is Melinda Cohen, and I ride at her barn, Dream Catcher Farm, in Frederick County. In addition to being the Youth Correspondent for the MHC, I am also serving on the Washington International Horse Show Junior Committee and loved seeing lots of Maryland barns represented at Barn Night!