The Other Side Of The Fence

The saddle horse adoptions go on about three times a year at Stewart Conservation Camp next to Northern Nevada Correctional Center.

Buyers come from all over the west, sometimes farther, and bid on horses trained by Nevada inmates.

The horses can go for a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand.

And while they look perfectly tame...

It did not happen over night.

It all starts four months prior to the auction.

Hank Curry the main trainer at the camp, sorts the three to four year old geldings early on and matches each one of the horses to one of 15 inmates

"They are not trainers. They will tell the other inmates that are interviewing, don't go in there and lie to Hank. Cause he's going to know right away if you are lying. Be honest with him, and if he likes something about you he'll give you a chance. If you show a willingness to work and a desire to improve yourself, he may take you,” says Curry.

That willingness to work and desire to learn is underscored in this program.

The warden here says when the program first came about he was skeptical, but ten years into it, he's a believer

“When the inmate comes out to the program one of the first things they learn, and they are going to learn it real quick is they learn a work,” says NNCC Warden Jack Palmer

The inmates work out at the ranch five days a weeks up to seven hours a day, they must feed the more than a thousand horses every day, clean stalls, replace water in troughs , whether there's snow on the ground, or its a nice spring day.

And oh yes, there's the one wild horse they have to deal with.

“Secondary nature for a horse if he can't escape, he might try to take you out. He wants to level the playing field, if you are in the dirt, that's ok. They teach honesty for one thing, and that's not a real abundant thing in prison I don't think,” says Curry.

Besides not being trainers, the inmates are not riders either.

If they are willing then Hank and the horses will teach them how to do that too.

Through the hard work and persistence, inmates say they learn something about horse training, but they learn even more about themselves.

“They've picked out some of my flaws. Like I used to not talk to people, I used to not trust anybody, and now I can kind of trust people,” says Fred Winkler and inmate with the Mustang Training Program.

And they can take pride in their success after the end of four months when the horses are adopted to good homes.

But a couple of Mustangs are kept away from the bidding.

That's because they are destined for bigger things.

Like the U.S. Border Patrol.


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