Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's Second Chances at Lowell Horse Show
The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances program provides a new chapter for equine athletes who are no longer competing and for incarcerated people who learn to care for them. The TRF farm at Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala, Florida, is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Fifty retired racehorses live at Lowell. They include Forbidden Apple, winner of the 2001 Manhattan H. (G1); multiple graded stakes winner Shake You Down, who finished third in the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1); and East Hall, who earned more than $800,000.
The women selected for this vocational training program learn horse anatomy, equine nutrition, and other aspects of horse care. After their release from prison, graduates have gone on to careers as farriers, vet assistants, and caretakers.
John Evans has been farm manager at Lowell’s Second Chances for 17 years.
“The reason I stay is, the program is changing people’s lives,” he said. “I don’t really do it. The horses do it. There’s a lot of satisfaction in seeing these girls succeed. They don’t come back to prison. Some of them are running farms, some of them are exercise riders. There’s quite a few who have good jobs in the industry. Their lives change forever. And even the ones who aren’t working in the industry, I think it made a lot of difference in the rest of their lives.”
Stacey Tosi, assistant warden at Lowell, said that one of the biggest gains for program participants is confidence. That was a recurring theme mentioned by participants themselves.
“I think it’s raised the self-worth of every one of us,” said Sylvia Renee Daniels, a program participant. “It has mine. The horses depend on us. And we don’t let them down. I think every one of us is going to walk out of here changed people.”
Corinda Collins agrees.
“I lost myself,” she said. “I didn’t know who I was any more until I came out here and rediscovered myself. It’s amazing to look in the mirror and actually like who you are.”
Some women never expected to work with horses.
“Two and a half years ago when I got into this program, you couldn’t tell me for a second that I would ever be out here doing anything with a horse,” Shawn Martell said. “Now, you can’t tell me there’s anything I’ll do besides it.”
Niall Brennan Stables employs several women who have graduated from the program.
“The day they started with me, they came to work with a purpose, happy, and ready to learn,” Niall Brennan said. “I am honored and privileged to have them work for me.”
Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse supports Second Chances.
“It was amazing to see how the horses and the ladies connect,” he said. “We have to continue this. It is great for the horses, and it is great for the ladies.”
TRF recently celebrated the program’s milestone by hosting a 20th anniversary horse show that was livestreamed worldwide. Hear the women discuss how the retired Thoroughbreds give them hope and have dramatically impacted their lives here.