Like most little girls, I loved horses and always wanted one of my own. Unlike most little girl, I was highly allergic to them. So I didn’t start riding until I was a teenager.
Since then I’ve ridden semi-competitively (as the captain of the Manhattanville College Equestrian Team), but mostly for fun. I’ve also volunteered as a “side walker” in therapeutic horseback riding programs for physically and emotionally challenged kids. And in all honesty, that’s what I miss the most. There’s just something about seeing a kid’s face light up while he or she is riding that’s really, really cool.
Recently, I read about a different kind of therapeutic program that benefits people and horses. This one is based at a women’s prison in Niantic, Connecticut. Co-sponsored by the state Department of Agriculture, it allows the inmates to help care for horses that were confiscated during animal cruelty investigations.
“[The inmates] do everything from help feeding, cleaning out the stalls, moving them around from pen to pen,” Damian Doran, a Supervisor at the York Correctional Facility told a New Haven television station. “The animals have had hard lives, and in some ways the inmates can relate to that because they have had their own struggles, too,” he added.
The inmates learn about responsibility, learn skills they can use after they’ve been released. Most importantly, they learn (or relearn) what it’s like to care for another living creature.
The horses learn (or relearn) to trust people while waiting to be adopted.
Any way you look at it, everyone gets a second chance. And in my book, that’s pretty damned cool.