In a move to provide an alternative to rehabilitation services for probationers, Dependent Ranch, Unbridled Hope and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department have partnered to introduce the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s (TRF) Second Chances Vocational Program to the area. The emphasis of the Northern California initiative will be to provide EAGALA Model Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and the nationally accredited Groom Elite™ Horsemen’s Education Program. TRF will be moving retired Thoroughbred racehorses to the 10-acre facility in Modesto where probationers will learn how to care for and bond with the horses and receive mental health counseling. The Program will launch with a Ribbon Tying Ceremony December 1, 2012 at 2:00 p.m , 250 E. Hackett Road, Modesto.
Julie Baker, founder of Dependent Ranch (www.dependentranch.com ) and EAGALA Certified Equine Specialist, is spearheading the formation of Second Chances CA. A former exercise rider and California Horse Racing Board licensed Assistant Trainer, Baker will team with Unbridled Hope's founder Cindi J. Martin, LCSW to facilitate EAP sessions. “Utilizing the EAGALA Model will help to develop the emotional management and cognitive-behavioral skills necessary for finding and maintaining gainful employment,” states Martin.
“The unique part of this program is the focus on the mental health side of the problem. This is the first time that we can treat the offender, specifically California probationers, as a whole person and address the mental health issues by which he or she is challenged,” shared Lynn Thomas, Executive Director of EAGALA. The nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization was developed to address the need for resources, education and professionalism in the fields of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning. The association has set the standard for professional excellence in how horses and humans work together to improve the quality of life and mental health of individuals, families and groups worldwide. To learn more about EAGALA, visit www.eagala.org .
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) which advocates for services and treatment, from 2009 to 2012 California reduced mental health funding by $765 million, more than a fifth of its mental health budget. Additionally, as reported by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the number of state prison inmates with mental illnesses increased from 19 percent in 2007 to 25 percent in 2012.
Diana Pikulski, TRF’s Director of External Affairs added, “This is a fantastic opportunity to provide meaningful new careers for retired Thoroughbred racehorses, particularly those who raced in California. Thoroughbreds perform incredibly well in therapeutic programs. Bringing TRF’s Second Chances program to California will serve horses and humans alike.” Founded in 1983, TRF is the oldest and largest organization in the world dedicated to saving Thoroughbred horses, no longer able to compete on the racetrack, from possible neglect, abuse, and slaughter. Second Chances CA will mirror a specialized format of TRF’s nationwide correctional facility-based vocational training program which partners rescued Thoroughbreds with incarcerated men and women. The program provides offenders with tangible job skills as well as the mental and emotional benefits, while the horses receive the attentive care they deserve. Visit www.trfinc.org  for more information.
Sheriff Adam Christianson notes, “We recognize there are insufficient resources for mental health services. This program will support mental health care and help reduce recidivism. We welcome Second Chances to our team of Community Based Organizations who help us provide valuable services to the people of Stanislaus County.”