Second Chance Horseman

In this unique program, off-track Thoroughbreds are changing the lives of inmates.

Tyler Murray discovered his passion for horses in a rather unorthodox way—in prison, through the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) Second Chances Program. 

TRF was founded in 1983 with the mission of saving Thoroughbred ex-racehorses from possible neglect, abuse, and slaughter. Since then, hundreds of horses have found lifelong sanctuary at eight correctional facility farms across the country. TRF covers the horses’ upkeep costs, and the prisons provide the land and horse care. Through the program’s curriculum, Second Chances inmate participants receive a comprehensive education on how to care for horses. The course covers everything from first aid to feed to farriery.  

Photo courtesy of Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation 

But the inmates who graduate from Second Chances learn far more than practical horsekeeping skills; they learn invaluable lessons about empathy, trust, responsibility, and more. It’s these lessons that radically reduce recidivism rates among Second Chances graduates. 

“The horses don’t judge,” says Kim Weir, TRF’s director of major gifts and planned giving. “They don’t see an inmate. They see someone to trust. And that’s a huge mental shift for men and women who often believe the worst about themselves. Horses teach them they can be trusted again.”

Murray had absolutely no interest in horses when he started the program. But then he was assigned a horse to groom—a lanky bay named Greek Ruler—and everything changed. 

“He just had kind eyes,” says Murray. “Something about him made me want to hug him, kiss him, and talk to him. And I did. He didn’t judge. He didn’t interrupt. He just let me be with him. He trusted me and I trusted him. That was the moment I fell in love with horses. 

“Going through this program was the best thing I could have done,” he continues. “I learned so much not only about horses, but also myself and my worth. I learned how capable I am.”

Today, Murray manages 47 horses at Coexist Stables, a multidisciplinary training barn in Maryland. Murray is also a member of the Arabian Horse Association and the Maryland Horse Council.

“Horses and this program changed my life,” says Murray. “These days, my goal is to be the best horseman I can be. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) Second Chances Program is a unique and pioneering program where inmates build life skills while participating in a vocational training program as they provide supervised care to retired racehorses. Located at correctional facilities in eight states, inmates from every imaginable background take part in a rigorous training program where they learn horse anatomy, how to care for injuries, equine nutrition, and other aspects of horse care. Learn more at trfinc.org.

TRF was a 2021 grant recipient from Feed it Forward™, Nutrena’s giving program that provides support for organizations promoting the life-changing bond between animals and people. Learn more at feeditforward.org

Hope in the Saddle

This content is provided by Hope in the Saddle, a program dedicated to sharing some of the most meaningful and important stories to emerge from the equestrian world: stories of how our relationships with horses can help us overcome life’s toughest challenges. Read more stories of hope and healing through horses at hopeinthesaddle.com.

Hope in the Saddle would not be possible without the support of Nutrena Feed and Tractor Supply Co. Thank you for helping our horses feel their best so they can help us feel our best. 

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