TRF Opens Second Chances Ranch in Illinois

VANDALIA, Ill. — The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) has announced an agreement with the State of Illinois to open its ninth correctional facility-based farm, the Second Chances Ranch at the Vandalia Correctional Facility in Vandalia, Ill.

A vocational training program in equine care and management for inmate students, Vandalia’s Second Chances Ranch will commence with a capacity for 30 to 40 horses with room to expand in the future. The TRF will be moving horses from non-correctional facility-based farms to the new center. The organization will also be working with the Illinois Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association on a plan for funding the retirement of horses in need from Illinois tracks.

At Second Chances Ranch, as at the TRF’s eight other corrections-based farms, inmate students will learn practical job skills and reap the proven therapeutic benefit of working with horses on a daily basis.

A fundraiser is underway for the TRF to raise the capital funds needed to build fencing and renovate barns at the facility. The organization is also looking for supply and equipment donations from the surrounding areas.

“We are truly excited about the Second Chances Ranch at Vandalia,” said Diana Pikulski, executive director of the TRF. “Nine of our 25 nationwide rehabilitation farms are located at correctional facilities, and all have proven track records of saving horses from slaughter, abuse and neglect and teaming them with deserving people who are trying to make the most of a second chance.”

The Vandalia Correctional Facility is a minimum security adult male correctional center with 1,650 inmates. There, Second Chances Ranch will provide a minimum six-month training program to approximately 25 inmates, with preference given to those within two years of being released. Inmates must apply to the program, and those convicted of sex crimes are not eligible. When completed, Second Chances Ranch at Vandalia will accommodate up to 50 horses at a time, while also providing rehabilitation and adoption services from an additional 100 horses annually.

“The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is thrilled to be a part of this unique program and I am so thankful for all of the efforts of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation,” said IDOC Chief of Program Services Deb Denning. “The resources that the TRF is providing will assist the department in offering this program to inmates at no cost to taxpayers. I believe the opportunities this program will provide to our inmates will greatly assist them in finding employment post-incarceration, which is a proven factor in lowering recidivism rates.”

The TRF first launched its Second Chances program in 1983 at the Wallkill Correctional Facility in Wallkill, N.Y. Since then, more than 4,000 horses have been retired or rehabilitated and retrained by the TRF. Currently, the TRF provides for just over 1,000 horses.