Farrah Ward has not had an easy life. Although she was once a respected member of a Florida county’s sheriff department and her local church, Ward strayed off her path and into the drug scene. Eventually, she was caught and incarcerated and forced to spend her days in a desolate prison, all of the prestige she once had suddenly gone. In prison, Ward did not feel comfortable openly practicing her religion in front of the other inmates. Without the emotion release, Ward bottled up her feelings and carried them around silently. Until she met Frosty, the horse.

Frosty is part of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances program, which teaches inmates horsemanship skills by caring for retired racehorses. Frosty’s gentle and loving nature made Ward feel at peace enough to pray and helped her well-being tremendously. In addition to providing therapeutic comfort to the inmate, Frosty gave Ward a sense of purpose. During the eight months that Ward took care of Frosty, she was responsible for grooming him and feeding him, a privilege she was only granted after studying and taking tests.

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 “It may sound a little weird to say this about a horse program, but the experience has taught me that just because I’ve made a mistake, I’m a better person than the poor choices I’ve made in my past,” Ward says, “Having to study materials and take tests and pass them gave me back my self-esteem.”

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Ward has been out of prison for a year now, but she still looks back at her time in the Thoroughbred Retirement Program as a pivotal moment for her self-esteem and self-worth. She realized that if she could be productive in prison and care for these horses who depended on her, she could certainly do the same thing once free.

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The Thoroughbred Retirement Program is the perfect example of the profound impact animals can have on a person’s life. Horses are not usually seen as the same category as companion animals like dogs, but they provide just as much comfort, love, and kindness. This program not only provides the beautiful catharsis that often happens when people in tough situations are able to experience unconditional love from an animal, but it teaches inmates valuable skills and gives them a sense of responsibility. To learn more about the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances program, click here.

All image source: Offtrack Thoroughbreds