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Prison horse program changes lives

Updated: 06/19/2014 6:43 PM
Created: 06/19/2014 5:33 PM WNYT.com
By: Bill Lambdin

Prison officials marked a major anniversary today at Wallkill Correctional Facility.

For 30 years they've been rescuing thoroughbred horses and helping inmates develop better attitudes with a unique horse therapy program.

NewsChannel 13 went back to Wallkill to check on an inmate we've been following through the program.

A large number of prison inmates are return customers. They get out, offend again, get arrested and return behind bars.

A unique program carried out with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation often breaks that return cycle.

NewsChannel 13 first met Steven Emery six years ago. He was outside in the ice and snow at Wallkill Correctional Facility seven days a week, roughly six hours a day, tending to retired thoroughbred horses.

After getting out, Steven used the patience and respect he developed in the horse therapy program to work at low wage jobs, improving himself and staying out of the trouble he never managed to avoid in his earlier years.

Leaders of the Second Chances Farm program say that's frequently the case when inmates return to the outside world.

Working with these 1,200 pound horses lets prisoners find qualities in themselves that previously had been nowhere to be seen.

Steven Emery came back on Thursday, not as an inmate, but as a featured speaker at a 30th anniversary celebration.

Energy Flow, the thoroughbred he formed a special bond with, renaming him Boodles, was glad to see him. So were program leaders, who consider Steven one of their human victories.

"I used to take anything, anytime, anywhere I wanted but that horse showed me that we can't bully everybody," Steven said. "He was bigger than I was. And with the patience that I had with him, he gained my trust. I was able to bathe him and I was able to clean him up. As I was cleaning him up, I also was being cleaned up and didn't even realize it."

Steven is now working as a manager at a sporting goods store. It pays better than the starter jobs he held after leaving Wallkill.

It's not employment dealing with horses that he still hopes to find but it is a step in the right direction along life's path.

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