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Prison auction provides new home for horses

POSTED: March 31, 2012 11:36 p.m.

Deanne Sims reaches out to touch Chaz, 15 year-old grey gelding, at the Lee Arrendale State Prison equine center during their first horse auction Saturday morning in Alto.

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Lee Arrendale State Prison’s equine facility held its first horse auction Saturday morning. Seven horses were up for bid with the proceeds going to benefit the Department of Agriculture’s horse rescue and rehabilitation program.

Mat Thompson, Equine Manager for the Department of Agriculture, wanted to get the community more involved with animal rescue and caretaking.

“We’re trying to make it a community sale. We want to expose the public to the Humane Society and other organizations,” Thompson said.

The horse impounds rely on donations in order to aid and shelter abused or neglected horses. The prison designed a program that would allow inmates to work with the animals, providing them with job experience and mutual rehabilitation.

Warden Kathy Seabolt was delighted with the success of the program, which launched last October.

“It’s been a very successful program. The women and horses work together to heal and grow and change over time. We’re so excited about it,” she said.

The inmates are responsible for the horses with overseers teaching them how to properly care of the animals.

“They’re learning transferable skills. They can go out and obtain a job and make a decent wage and reintegrate into the world,” Seabolt said. “We’re meeting our goals for the program. We want the program to continue to grow.”

Rhonda Carter and Sandra Gates, two women involved in the program, had nothing but positive words about their experience.

“I love it. They motivate us and we motivate them, too. I love taking care of things that can’t take care of themselves,” said Gates. “I used to be scared of them, but now I love it.”

Carter expressed similar feelings.

“We get these horses and they come from places where they’ve been neglected and starved. You can see their ribs and their bones and it makes me feel good to look at the horse now and see that it’s healthy and know I had something to do with it,” said Carter.

Carter recently had an accident when one of the horses bucked. Though she can’t ride, Carter still works with the animals. She plans on pursing a career as a veterinary technician.

“Everyone supports this program. It’s wonderful to see the community pulling together,” Carter said.

The auction raised almost $300 for the department. One of the horses, a 15-year-old gelding named Chaz, was purchased by the Deputy Warden of Security for the women in the program.

Chaz will stay at the impound as a mascot and a reminder of the positive work the women are doing for the horses and for themselves.


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