Nevada inmates working with wild horses - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Nevada inmates working with wild horses

CARSON CITY, NV (CNN) - A recent government round-up of wild horses has animal rights activists up in arms, but at the same time it's providing a chance at a better life for both man and beast.

It's at a Nevada prison where inmates and horses live and learn from each other.

Two inmates, Thomas Smittle and James Redom, are both serving time in a Nevada prison, but not behind bars. They're in the saddle.

"This program has forced me to look at myself, and I really had to grow up to be able to be successful at it," Smittle said.

The program takes a dozen inmates, some with little to no experience with horses, and teaches them the ropes of riding and breaking mustangs.

The inmates are paired with an animal that, until it was caught in a Bureau of Land Management round-up, had never been exposed to human interaction.

Program leaders say there is a near instant bond between man and mustang.

"You can see they were so wild a month ago and now they're like kids," Smittle said.

Hank Curry, who runs the program, picks about 80 horses out of the 1,000 housed there at the facility to be trained by the inmates.

He hand picks the inmates, too.

"If you're going to trick me, you're going to lie to me, you're going to hide from me, we're going to part ways, and it's just that simple," Curry said.

An unbroken mustang can sell at an auction for $125. These trained horses are selling at auction for a premium, anywhere from $1,000 to $1,600. At the most recent auction one horse sold for $8,500.

For eight hours a day, the inmates work with the horses.

"They're doing me a lot of good, and I'm doing them a little bit of good," said one of the inmate workers, James Redmon.

This program puts barely a dent in the number of horses rounded up every year. Most of the 12,000 rounded up this year alone will end up in long-term facilities in Texas and Oklahoma.

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