If ever there was a picture-perfect day for transporting several hundred bales of hay, Friday, Feb. 25, was it.
That sunny day, as part of a greater effort to clear and calm the minds of inmates at the Wateree River Correctional Institution in Rembert, Arrowhead Farms in Cassatt donated more than 400 bales of hay to the South Carolina Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (SCTRF).
Inmates transferred the hay for the SCTRF’s Second Chances program, which aims to instill equine and social skills in the prisoners. The hope is that they are better prepared for society once released from confinement.
“It’s a perfect scenario for both men and horses,” said William Cox, president of the SCTRF. “We provide a learning environment instilling both horse-related skills and human nature skill sets.
The donation from Arrowhead is worth nearly $3,000 on the retail market. Cox said this donation follows a similar gift last August of more than 600 bales from SCTRF supporters Vic and EJ Pascal. Those thousands of dollars are now freed up for other services such as purchasing feed grain, vet and blacksmithing services and farm maintenance, Cox added.
“The value of this kind of gift, both financially and motivationally, cannot be understated,” he said.
Page Hobson, a SCRTF board member, visits the grounds in Rembert several times a month and said watching the inmates interact is a special experience.
“The inmates realize they’re responsible for these creatures, and they know the horses better than anyone. They begin to understand their behavior and see that they need to treat them certain ways,” Hobson said.
Hobson also commented on the impression the program has had on the participants.
“I see the change in the inmates -- all for the better,” said Hobson.
According to Cox, the recidivism rate for Second Chances graduates is 12 percent. He indicated the state’s general population recidivism rate is “exceptionally higher” than that.
“We have horses that teach these men the requirement to communicate through gentleness and respect,” Cox said. “Horses teach you that you must cooperate and work together to achieve a result, and force and domination are not the answer to difficult issues.”
The SCTRF will also have its hand in the Downtown Camden Guild’s jockey silk aluminum signs project, as well as the Boykin Spring Fling Trail Ride in May.
Cox pointed out that his organization is funded entirely through private means, which is why donations of any type are immensely appreciated.
“For our local supporters to donate this much of their personal resources that could otherwise be sold on the open market speaks volumes to their support of the mission of our foundation,” Cox said of Arrowhead.