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Prison Inmates Training Wild Horses

Prison Inmates Training Wild Horses



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Amanda Butterfield Reporting A new prison inmate work program has prisoners doing something never before tried in Utah. The Utah correctional facility in Gunnison has partnered with the BLM to address the overpopulation of wild horses.

When a pack gets too big, horses are rounded up and taken to the Gunnison prison, where a new horse ranch has just been built. The goal is to tame the wild horses enough so they can be auctioned off.

Big Bob's wild days are over, that's why he's at the 40-acre ranch just behind the prison. Big Bob will be the first to tell you he doesn't know a thing about horses, but he's learning fast.

"Anything's better than inside those walls," he said.

The mustang is Norton, and Big Bob, also known as Robert Sanders, is his trainer.

"We all have horses, have to keep track of them and are responsible for them," he said.

The job isn't easy, the mustangs bite and kick. Just yesterday Norton bucked Sanders off.

Big Bob says he "landed flat on my back and couldn't breathe for a minute."

Kerry Despain heads the Wild Horse project and says, "Sometimes you have to have a school of hard knocks to learn some things."

He says the goal is get these wild mustangs used to humans and tame enough for someone to want to buy them. "Probably some of them never seen a person until they got rounded up."

An added bonus is what the inmates are learning from the horses.

"Teaching them responsibility, patience, life skills when they get out," Despain says.

Big Bob said, "Learned how to respect animals and just nature in general."

Inmate Robert Farrell said, "I feel like I'm doing something, getting something done."

The inmates picked for the program have earned the privilege to be there, and like Bob, most of them don't know much about horses, but they love it.

Big Bob only has 50 more days until his sentence is up. He'll have to leave Norton's training in the hands of a fellow inmate, but says he may continue working with horses once he's out.

Despain believes the hard work and patience Big Bob and the other inmates have learned from these horses will help them adjust.

"I think it will help them in life afterwards; they can't have everything all at once," he said.

The program has been in existence for only six weeks, so the inmates are still learning the ropes, but all have high hopes for its success.

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