Equine Therapy

In Arizona, Inmates and Mustangs Build Futures Together


Most of the mustangs who become part of the Florence Prison Wild Horse Inmate Progam have never been touched by human hands before, at least not voluntarily. Their first interactions with people come from men who themselves are a bit wild; inmates who have been convicted of terrible crimes, even murder. Both horse and man must come to the exchange honestly, with an open mind and eventually, the desire to form a connection. When they do, magic can happen.

Randy Helm, a natural horseman and Supervisor for the Wild Horse and Burro Program at Florence sees a connection between the wild horses he trains and the prisoners he works with. The mustangs teach the men patience and self-control, while Helm instills horse training skills that they can take with them into the next chapter of their lives. “What happens over a period of time is that they begin to understand that they don’t have to go back out and live that way,” says Helm. “We let these horses prove themselves, why can’t we let these inmates prove themselves as well?”

In fact, the Florence Prison Wild Horse Inmate Progam is proving its own worth twofold—not just by adopting around 150 horses a year from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holding pens, but by giving the inmates who train them a reason to stay out of prison when they’re released. Photojournalist Pat Shannahan captured the men of Florence in a new video for The Arizona Republic, and it’s more than worth a watch.  So sit down, settle in, and prepare to be moved. This is what second chances are all about.